‘Today is a Good Day to Deny': The American Right Wing Refusal to Face Facts

I hope it’s only in America that a young white man can walk into a historic black church, tell the black people inside he’s there to kill them because they’re black, murder nine black people, tell the police he murdered them because they’re black, and publish a manifesto explaining he’s killing black people because they’re black… and end up with right wing blowhards claiming the crime has nothing to do with racism. People, if racism can’t be defined in part as “murdering a bunch of people because they’re black,” it’s time we strike the sapiens from our species’ name. We’re in no way wise if we can’t recognize the blatant racism that drove this horrific crime.

Image is nine photographs of the idividuals murdered in Charleston. The women are on the sides, the men down the middle.

The nine people murdered in Emmanuel AME Church. Via Ophelia Benson.

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Fleeing Marriage – Escape Chapter 5: “Linda’s Flight to Freedom”

I informed you last week, after that relatively light chapter of Escape, that we’d be right back into the horror show. People, it’s bad. You might want to grab a mouth guard, because you’re going to be spitting nails and gnashing your teeth to nubs. Content notice for emotional abuse, creepy old men, stalking, spiritual abuse, and coerced marriage.

We’re plunged eyebrow-deep in awful right from the first paragraph, when we learn that a creep in his fifties has been stalking Carolyn’s seventeen year-old sister, Linda. He reports to her father things he disapproves of: her skirt’s too short one day, her heels too high another, and why did she comb her hair differently today?

The girls’ mother, Nurylon, is incensed enough to tell her husband “that she didn’t trust this man.” This does zero good: [Read more…]

Really Terrible Bible Inspirations: Craven Hubbies Edition

I’m about a third of the way through Really Terrible Bible Stories vol. 2: Exodus, and I am already longing for the days of Genesis. I mean, God was still a complete asshole, and the people were mostly awful, but at least God wasn’t quite so sadistic. He was still a complete bully who delights in others’ pain, but in Exodus, he’s really refined his tormenting technique. And yet, for all the blood and gore and evil, it’s a hideously boring book in a lot of places. So I’ve got a job o’ work ahead of me, not merely stripping off God’s mask to reveal the shitlord beneath, but also stripping out the boring bits.

One thing Exodus is mercifully free of is cowardly husbands. You know the ones. Remember Abraham, who tried to pass Sarah off as his sister? Twice? And then it turns out that she is his sister! He married his half-sister. Ew. And then he was too much of a coward to stand up to other men, but made her pretend to be unmarried so the horny dudes would creep on her without trying to kill him. What a mensch. [Read more…]

Teenagers Stampede to Avoid Marriage – Escape Chapter 4: “New Wife, New Mother”

This chapter of Escape is a welcome break from the last. It’s practically sunshine and puppies in comparison, although there’s still plenty to be horrified by.

When you hear the words “new wife, new mother,” do you immediately think of a newlywed who’s just had her first child? Then you’re probably not FLDS. In this chapter title, Carolyn’s talking about her dad, Arthur, getting another wife, who will become Carolyn and her siblings’ new mother. Fortunately, the FLDS prophet has paired her dad with a woman everyone already likes: their mom’s niece Rosie.

Yep. Niece. Carolyn tells us that it’s “not at all unusual for sisters to be married to the same husband, and it was certainly not unusual for a niece to share a husband with her aunt.” Oof. We also learn that some men never get a second wife. Those who do generally wait 10-15 years after their first one. The more wives a man has, the more powerful he is.

Lovely. [Read more…]

“Scripture and Whip” – Escape Chapter 3: School Days

This is one of the worst chapters in Escape. Considering how much abuse we’ve seen already, and how bad it gets later on, that’s saying something. Needless to say: Content Notice for severe child physical, sexual, verbal, and emotional abuse.

Carolyn starts the chapter with her excitement at finally being old enough to start school. She’s now six and a half. We learn that FLDS kids don’t attend kindergarten; supposedly home is better. But Carolyn’s home is one without books, without even fairy tales. I can’t even stand this. My mom filled my childhood with books. I started to read a bit on my own by age 3, and some of my best memories are of afternoon reading time with my mom. I became a writer because she’d told me every fairy tale she knew and run out of ideas for new ones by the time I was six, so she encouraged me to make up my own. My thirst to learn and imagine was never quenched – that would be impossible – but Mom gave me bottomless springs to drink from. Carolyn was just as thirsty, and was only given a few pitiful drops to drink.

There wasn’t even a public library, in a town of several thousand people, overflowing with children. That’s practically criminal. And no, I’m not being sarcastic.

Just before Carolyn starts school, they have one of those magnificent southwestern summer downpours that turns the desert into an instant wetland. [Read more…]

Please, Please, Read These Stories Before You Choose a Midwife-Assisted Birth

I’ve spent part of the night reading about babies who didn’t have to die. And I don’t want their stories to be yours. If you’re pregnant or planning, and considering giving birth outside of a hospital, please stop right now and read Grant’s story. His mother Rachel had to tell it. He didn’t live. He didn’t have to die.

Let me remind you that when I first arrived at the birth center for the second time that evening I was offered a transfer for not being able to handle my labor. Why, now with my baby dying were they not offering us a transfer? Why were they trying to make me push when I wasn’t dilated?

I was moved from the birthing stool to the bed… still not 100% dilated. I was told that I needed to get this baby out now. I’m still trying to push. I’ve never pushed so hard in my life. The pain is so bad that my vision is becoming blurry. I was given oxygen. When I look back at this scene I still wonder why no one has called for help. The baby has been in trouble and I’m having a hard time… why?

My husband and I were so focused on pushing this baby out as fast as possible and so focused on what we were doing that we couldn’t stop and tell her to call 911. We weren’t sane. We were relying on all of those midwives to do that for us if need be. We were counting on them to make the decisions that would need to be made when necessary. We were still all on our own as our baby was losing his struggle to breathe.

Read her whole story. Read about her having to leave the body of her perfect baby boy in the arms of crying nurses. If your heart didn’t shatter into atoms, you had no heart to begin with.

People, I have read far too many stories about dead babies. [Read more…]

To The Victims of Josh Duggar and Predators Like Him

The girls who were abused by Josh Duggar, and other kids in the Duggar family who need to escape, will probably never see this post. But if by some miracle they do, I want them to know: there are avenues of escape, should you want them. I’m pretty sure many of your fans would leap to provide you financial assistance through a GoFundMe campaign. Even those of us who aren’t fans would chip in – we care about your safety and well-being. You can hear other survivors’ stories and reach out for advice through No Longer Quivering and the Spiritual Abuse Survivors Network. I’m pretty sure the Free Jinger folks would lend a hand. If you need resources to help you deal with what Josh did to you, reach out to the good folks at RAINN [Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network] for information on where you can get proper counseling. You don’t have to wear a mask forever. You can overcome this, and you can live a life you were never allowed to dream of. And those resources will be available whether you need them today or decades from now. Someone on the outside will always be here for you.

That goes for all victims of sexual assault, and everyone trapped within the Christian Patriarchy movement. You don’t have to face this alone. The abuse you suffered does not define you. [Read more…]

#TLC – Cancel the Duggars Immediately: Links to Horrifying News and Incisive Opinion

So, it seems (as I write this on Saturday evening) that TLC is having a hard time deciding whether to take the Duggars’ wretched show off the air, or continue right on, just quietly shuffling Josh off to the side. When they found out one of their stars was a serial child molester who’d not only victimized young girls, but his own sisters, that show should’ve come down so fast it left a sucking void in the programming. Instead, they let a whole marathon run before reluctantly pulling episodes off the air, without even cancelling the damned show.

Judging from TLC’s recent shows – things like Sister Wives, and that submissive wife shit, and the asinine and exploitative My Husband’s Not Gay, they’ve either got people up top who love to parade religious fanatics around for the S & Gs, or they’ve got people at the top who are rabid Christians hoping their programming will program viewers into proper little godbots. I don’t care what the reason is. It just needs to stop. And the first thing they need to end is the program that features a serial child molester, the victims who were forced to forgive him, and the parents who did everything they could to bury it.

Since TLC is having a difficult time deciding to do the right thing, I’d like to invite advertisers to follow General Mills’s lead and pull their advertising completely. Money is the kind of talk they’ll listen to, probably, since common decency isn’t getting through.

But maybe a few people there still have a shred of decency tucked away. Maybe a few people there can push to do the right thing.

Image is a promotional shot of 19 Kids and Counting with the word CANCEL stamped across it.

Whether they’re moneygrubbers or possibly decent people, all of the execs at TLC should read these links, preferrably after cancelling 19 Kids forever, but at the very least immediately afterward. [Read more…]

Josh Duggar Molested Children, Then Made a Career Claiming Gays Dangerous to Children

It’s not shocking that the Duggar family’s bright, smiling Good Christian™ Image hid some terrible things. It was obvious to anyone who knows anything about the Christian patriarchy movement that all those shiny happy faces concealed some pretty harsh truths. I figured the wheels would come off eventually, but I didn’t anticipate Josh Duggar being outed as a child molester. Needless to say: content note for child sexual abuse. [Read more…]

Escape Chapter 1: Early Childhood (Part One)

In the preface of Escape, Carolyn Jessop gave a brief, body-clenching account of the night she and her eight children fled her polygamous arranged marriage and the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints cult. Now she takes us back in time to her childhood. For the next several chapters, she’ll immerse us in her early life and the FLDS, showing us how a harsh fundamentalist doctrine enmeshes the mind, and leads to the awful abuses many people, especially women and children, suffer in such sects.

Carolyn very nearly wasn’t born into it at all:

Aunt Lydia couldn’t believe I’d survived. She was the midwife who had delivered babies for two generations, including my mother. When she saw the placenta, she realized that my mother had chronic placental abruption. Mom had hemorrhaged throughout her pregnancy and thought she was miscarrying. But when the bleeding stopped, she shrugged it off, assuming she was still pregnant. Aunt Lydia, the midwife, said that by the time I was born, the placenta was almost completely detached from the uterus. My mother could have bled to death and I could have been born prematurely or, worse, stillborn.

It appalls me that a woman could hemorrhage during pregnancy and just disregard it. But this is what can come of fundamentalist philosophy. Many of these very controlling sects prefer using midwives to OBs. The gynecological care for women is poor or non-existent. You frequently end up with pregnant women choosing – or being forced – to take enormous risks with their health. You get women “shrugging off” dire emergencies like maternal hemorrhage. You too often end up with injured or dead mothers and babies. Carolyn and her mom Nurylon were extremely fortunate. (Oh, and if you’re tempted to paint this gamble as the beautiful result of trusting “natural birth,” please go read the Skeptical OB. There’s a reason poor women in other countries go so far as to swim raging rivers so they can give birth in a hospital. It’s because “natural” childbirth is wildly dangerous.

Carolyn’s father Arthur gave her mom a choice of two names. That’s the extent of egalitarian parenting in their world. Carolyn’s mom was sixth generation FLDS. She knew her place was to submit, the man’s to decide.

When Carolyn was born, her father had only one wife. The family moved from Colorado City, Arizona to Salt Lake City, Utah when Carolyn was five. Her mother thrived there, where her husband could come home from work nightly and they had enough money to feed their growing family. They could even afford toys for the kids. Nurylon loved taking her kids to the zoo and the park. And she was “thrilled,” after three daughters, “to finally have a son, because in our culture, boys have more value than girls.”

The fact that her father favored Carolyn over the other kids caused tension, but despite that, the year they spent in Salt Lake City was good. But then her father decided to move the family back to Colorado City, because his eldest child, Lydia, was about to start school, and he wanted her taught in the FLDS-soaked (nominally) public schools. Couldn’t have her learning real stuff, of course!

Image shows an empty desert lot. Beyond it is a jumbled collection of modest houses of various sizes. In the distance, the cliffs of El Capitan rise over the town.

Colorado City, Arizona. Photo courtesy Ken Lund via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0).

The move back to their cramped little home and the dusty, claustophobic little FLDS town caused Nurylon to sink into a deep depression, one so severe she couldn’t even try to hide it from the kids. She would talk constantly about wanting to die, “having nothing to live for,” and sometimes would inform her children over their late-morning breakfast that she planned to kill herself that day. She assured her terrified kids that the Church would assign their dad a new wife, so they’d have a new mom to take care of them. She beat her children almost daily, sometimes bruising them so severely the marks would linger for over a week. The kids had to become experts in her behavior to survive, going so far as to provoke her into spanking them every morning once Carolyn had figured out she only spanked once per day, and the morning spankings weren’t as severe. She then wondered why her children were so bad in the mornings…

Many fundamentalists advocate spanking, relying on the Bible for justification. They have entire rituals dedicated to it, including spanking from love and hugging the child afterward. Carolyn’s experience shows why this doesn’t work:

When my mother beat me, she would always say she was doing it because she loved me. So I used to wish she didn’t love me. I was afraid of her, but I would also get angry at her when she hit me. After she beat me she insisted on giving me a hug. I hated that. The hug didn’t make the spanking stop hurting. It didn’t fix anything.

This was considered good discipline in the FLDS community. But it’s not discipline. Spanking is abuse.

Abuse was rife in the FLDS community. Carolyn remembers seeing women in dark glasses, hiding black eyes and other bruises, quite often as a child. Her mother wouldn’t explain that those bruises came from battering husbands.

On the outside, Carolyn’s family looked perfect. Her mother kept them dressed in beautiful handmade clothes, and they were exquisitely well-behaved. Everyone thought their family was perfect. Keep that in mind when you see the Duggars playing happy huge family on teevee.

In Salt Lake City, Carolyn’s mother had been happy, engaged with the world around her. “In Colorado City, she was locked into a world of constant pregnancies, a loveless marriage, and a rural community strung together with dirt roads.” She and her husband fought constantly when he was home. She had to put on a facade of perfection with him, but it was never perfect enough. He complained about dust atop the refrigerator when the rest of the house gleamed. He complained about the children’s behavior, no matter how well they behaved. He wanted his already-thin wife to be thinner, despite keeping her almost continually pregnant.

There were flashes of the person she could have been, had she not been crushed by the FLDS lifestyle and her husband’s abuse. She loved playing games with her kids, and read them fairytales. She delighted in Christmas, even going so far as to smuggle in an FLDS-forbidden Christmas tree one year. She and her kids had a wonderful night decorating it, and a joyous Christmas morning opening their presents and eating candy.

My father let us have candy once a year – no more. My mother was clearly disobeying our father in giving us sugary treats…. Linda and I were old enough to realize that Mama was going to have to pay for her disobedience, but we loved feeling so spoiled.

Carolyn’s father came home the following night, and blew up. He and his wife fought at top volume long into the night. When Carolyn woke the next morning, the tree was gone, and her mother wept as she cooked breakfast. Their first Christmas was their last. Her mother’s depression grew so severe she couldn’t get out of bed or take care of the house. Her spirit was crushed.

After a few days, the friend who had been her Christmas co-conspirator came over and told her to stop feeling bad about herself. If her husband didn’t want her to have fun with her kids, that was his problem. Mother rallied, but she never again did something with us in defiance of our religion. I did notice that she became more demanding of us and insisted on more perfection after the Christmas episode. I’m sure she would have preferred to play games with us instead of spanking us, but her own mental slavery prevented her from being who she was.

It’s unbearably tragic when religion and/or ideology confines people in strait jackets so tight they’re strangled. I wish Carolyn’s mother could have broken those bonds, but it’s nearly impossible for women with no power and resources to do. And next week, we’ll see how the FLDS church kept its members in chains. We’ll also see what happened when they were almost set free.

For now, all I can say is, fuck religion. Yes, I’m aware that families can have abusive and controlling dynamics without it. But at least those abusers don’t have a mandate from God for their abuse. At least they can’t so easily claim that what they do is holy. And good people aren’t turned bad against their will, believing they must do what God wants, even if it means harming themselves and their kids. At least they don’t believe their salvation depends upon it.

Image is the cover of Escape, which is photo of Carolyn Jessop on a black background. She cradles a framed picture of herself as an FLDS teenager in her hands. She is a woman in her thirties with chestnut hair and blue eyes.

I’m reviewing Escape chapter-by-chapter. Pick yourself up a copy if you’d like to follow along.