But who put them on TV in the first place?

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.


  1. says

    BTW: according to Libby Anne’s post of today (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2015/06/jim-bob-and-michelle-duggars-interview-with-megyn-kelly.html), the guy they sent Josh to was almost certainly “touchy feely” Bill Gothard (who is a sort of “counselor” inasmuch as he enjoys the status of an Official Advice-Giver among that end of evangelical culture — or did until last year when it came out that he tended to get a bit toooo friendly with teenage interns).

    IOW: Probably *worse* than just some random friend who’s renovating his house.

    So consider the score:
    – Teenage boy takes out his adolescent experimentation on his sisters.
    – First outside help they seek turns out to be a creepazoid.
    – First cop they contact (also in-culture) turns out to be a kiddy-porn fan.

    One is just a bad thing that happened. Two could be bad luck. Three is a pattern that says the whole sub-culture is putrid with this kind of thing.

  2. says

    Josh comes to his parents to say he’s molested his sisters in their bedroom.

    Call me cynical, but I don’t believe this. I don’t believe that Josh confessed all on his own to his parents. There is absolutely no proof of that. In fact, the “Josh got right with god” bit occurred AFTER he was sent away for “counseling” (aka helping a friend remodel houses).

    I suspect, rather, that one of the victims—probably the non-sister—was the one that brought it to light, and that Michelle and Jim Bob (god that name makes me laugh every time) confronted him.

  3. says

    Francisco @2 and @3:
    For one, the things you’re saying are not even alleged. I may dislike the Duggars quite a bit, but I am not interested in accusing Josh Duggar of things that he never did. For two, the “rod” is not specified in the bible. Do you think that the ancients had fiberglass? The Duggars themselves described much less harmful things than “a fiberglass rod”. For three, it was the *parent’s* job to punish with “the rod”, not the son’s, so it’s pretty unlikely that Josh was involved with that. For four: fuck you for making me defend the goddamn Duggars. I try to be intellectually honest; you should try it on for size yourself. For five: Jesus fucking christ on a raft, were you masturbating while typing? Because that is coarse language and imagery, and not exactly fit for general consumption.

  4. PatrickG says

    @ Francisco Bacopa:

    [obnoxiously graphic quoted passage deleted]

    I guarantee you people here would be absolutely furious if this is proven. Livid. Aghast. Howling for prosecution. As MrFancyPants says, this isn’t even alleged. Do you have sources people here don’t?

    I don’t doubt that this shit happens. We’ve got lots of evidence against the Christian Dominion* type of “household discipline”. But the fact that something can happen, and does happen doesn’t mean we can automatically assume it happened here. Again, people here would be outraged if such evidence surfaces.

    If it does turn out to be the case, I would not be surprised, but I don’t think the evidence at hand warrants the “Fuck y’all’s” and the like.

    * I think I have the name of this “Family Values” disciplining slightly wrong, but it’s late and I’m really in the mood to go look it up right now.

  5. PatrickG says

    One other thing:

    Really the whole thing that Josh diddled his sisters shouldn’t really be that big a deal

    Uh, yeah, it should.

  6. says

    Well, I’m sure the whole thing was terribly ‘devastating’ for them…

    I mean, I’m sure it’s a lot of stress, covering it all up, shaming the victims into silence. Then you’ve got to live with that nagging suspicion your twisted monstrosity of a religion just makes for a sick, nasty way to live, after all, squash all that down and chase it away, tuck it all away behind your cloying, hypocritical smile on camera, somehow… And damn, then there’s all that TV money on the line…

    Poor bastards. Bet it was all pretty tough…

    What? Who?

    Oh. Right. The daughters. The whole ‘life as a silent, compliant, bullied slave’ thing, I’m sure it’s a drag, totally. So them, too.

  7. says

    Francisco, I don’t know what you’re trying to do, but stop trying to do it here. I deleted a foul comment of yours yesterday without comment. Now I’m commenting: stop that.

  8. says

    Thanks for that, I wasn’t aware. That does reduce one of my five objections. I feel that the others stand, although now that the original comments have thankfully been removed, it doesn’t matter so much.

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