Thursday, March 12, 2009


Via Talk to Action, I've just been reading "Victory Through Daughters," a chilling excerpt from Kathryn Joyce's new book Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement.

Is "patriarchy" too strong a word? If anything, it's not strong enough -- this is a movement that believes women and girls have absolutely one purpose in life, and that is to do the most basic of household chores. Do they need to function in the larger world? Hell, they don't even need to know how to read -- and I mean that literally. Joyce quotes a book by the homeschooling advocate R.C. Sproul, Jr., who

tells the story of a family friend whose homeschooled nine-year-old daughter still cannot read. "Does that make you uncomfortable?" he asks.

Are you thinking, "Mercy, what would the superintendent say if he knew?" ... But my friend went on to explain, "She doesn't know how to read, but every morning she gets up and gets ready for the day. Then she takes care of her three youngest siblings. She takes them to potty, she cleans and dresses them, makes their breakfasts, brushes their teeth, clears their dishes, and makes their beds." Now I saw her, rightly, as an overachiever. If she didn't know how to read but did know all the Looney Tunes characters, that would be a problem. But here is a young girl being trained to be a keeper at home. Do I want her to read? Of course I do.... But this little girl was learning what God requires, to be a help in the family business, with a focus on tending the garden.

Joyce writes about the community's propaganda:

Vision Forum gears its entire Beautiful Girlhood catalogue collection -- replete with tea sets, white gloves, "modesty slips," and Victorian manners books -- to the proper raising of daughters in the faith. Both Vision Forum and Reconstructionism's Chalcedon Foundation sponsor girls' essay contests on subjects such as fulfilling one's vocation as a daughter and the enduring appeal of Elsie Dinsmore -- a heroine in Martha Finley's Victorian-era children's book series, an obedient and priggishly pious daughter of the Antebellum South who aspired to be a submissive daughter and wife. (Dinsmore, as one contest winner wrote, shows daughters how "to rise up by stepping down.")

(You can see that Beautiful Girlhood catalog here. Its male counterpart is the All-American Boy's Adventure Catalog, which is full of pre-Vietnam-style war toys, while girls get to bake and play with baby dolls. Adults can check out a DVD of the film Demographic Winter: The Decline of the Human Family.)

One of Joyce's more disturbing anecdotes concerns Vision Forum's Geoffrey Botkin, a top figure in the movement:

One day, while father Botkin was entertaining a "very important political leader," he called to his daughter. Anna Sofia, then five or six, came into the room to untie and remove her father's shoes, and she then asked the guest if she could untie his shoes as well. Years later, Geoffrey Botkin says, the politician brought the evening up, telling Botkin, "'You know when I decided we should have more children? It was that night your sweet little daughter helped me with my shoes.' One simple act of hospitality had eternal consequences."

I'm speechless.

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