Jill Filipovic has a brilliant piece on the Duggars’ interview.
What viewers got was a long defense of the Duggar parents, a minimization of Josh’s crimes, and a fuller illustration of why a misogynist “purity culture” is bad for girls, boys, and sexual assault victims in particular. What the Duggars proved is that their own self-interest in gaining status, influence, and money outweighed the needs of their own daughters — and that Michelle and Jim Bob aren’t just kooky religious extremists, but parents capable of remarkable manipulation and cruelty.
Nobody’s a kooky religious extremist; that’s not a thing. Religious extremism is too destructive and terrible to be kooky.
Josh comes to his parents to say he’s molested his sisters in their bedroom. They don’t do much beyond feel “devastated” (that word comes up a lot in the interview), watch him closely, and tell him not to do it again. He does it again, this time on the couch. They feel devastated. They watch him closely and tell him not to do it again. He does it again, this time under their clothes. At some point he also molests a babysitter. They feel devastated.
After the third time, they decide to get Josh “help” — which doesn’t involve actual trained professionals or licensed therapists, but rather a Christian friend who needed some help with home repairs. Josh goes there, he comes home, his parents take him to the police station, a cop (who is now serving a 56-year sentence for child pornography) gives him a stern talking-to, Josh asks for forgiveness, and everyone moves on. To a reality TV show where the family makes thousands with every episode.
I had to follow that link. The 2009 estimate:
Networks usually won’t disclose the deals they make with individual families. But according to reality producer Terence Michael, the general rule of thumb is that reality-show families earn about 10 percent of a show’s per-episode budget. So, if TLC budgets about $250,000 to $400,000 per episode—and Michael suspects it does—that would mean $25,000 to $40,000 in the Duggars’ pockets for four or five days’ work, which is roughly how long it takes to film a typical episode.
2009. It seems safe to assume it’s a good deal more than that now.
Perhaps the most disturbing part of the story, though, isn’t that the Duggar parents gave Josh three strikes against his sisters before taking any action; it wasn’t that they never actually got him (or, it seems, the girls he molested) professional help from a licensed therapist. The most disturbing part of the story wasn’t even captured on Fox at all. What should disgust us the most — and permanently remove the Duggars from both television and their gilded moral high horse — is how they raised their kids in the aftermath of the abuse.
Key to the Duggar philosophy is sexual purity. In order to be a good, desirable, moral, and honorable person, you must remain “pure” until marriage. Purity is especially important for girls. To not be “pure” is to be, obviously, soiled, dirty, undesirable. While girls have the responsibility to guard their purity, men, who are always authority figures over women, are in charge of controlling and surveilling the girls to make sure they stay in line.
That’s what Josh was doing, but his hand kept slipping.
Compounding the sexual abuse and then the raising of their girls to believe that sexual touch sullies them was the Duggar parents’ decision to put the whole family on TV and turn their then 16 kids into a cash cow.
“They’ve been victimized more by what has happened in these last couple weeks than they were 12 years ago,” Michelle Duggar told Megyn Kelly about her daughters, “because they honestly they didn’t even understand or know that anything had happened until after the fact when they were told about it. In our hearts before God, we haven’t been keeping secrets. We have been protecting those who honestly should be protected. And now what’s happened is they’ve been victimized.”
Now, Michelle says, the Duggar daughters have been victimized — not when their brother was sneaking into their bedrooms to molest them or when he was molesting them on the couch or when their parents never actually got him professional help. It’s now that the story is public. And surely this is awful and traumatizing for them. Surely they do feel victimized.
But who put them on TV in the first place? Who turned them into public figures? Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar invited cameras into their home to put their family in the public eye, both so they could make money and so they could spread their religious beliefs…
Yes but they didn’t have an agenda. The media have an agenda, and the gay people and the liberals and the trans people who want to invade all the rest rooms – they have an agenda, but the Duggars don’t, so it turns out the Duggars are still Great Christian Examples.