Or rather, what’s masquerading under the banner of feminism in this Washington Post article which dubs Michelle Duggar a feminist. For those of you unaware, Michelle Duggar is the star of sorts of a tv show of sorts called 19 Kids & Counting, which follows her and her husband’s life as they raise 19 kids in accordance with the Quiverfull ideology, which is a form of conservative evangelical Christianity. It was one of those shows that was on TV a lot when I was unemployed and depressed, and it was so bad that I just flat out refused to watch it after one episode, and I watched a lot of junk TV during that time, from My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding to Say Yes To The Dress and World’s Strictest Parents. That should give you an idea of how absurdly awful I found it, considering how low my standards are.
Anyways, Michelle announced recently that she is expecting her 20th child. I found this out because my friends posted links to the story groaning, “Please, can someone introduce her to the pill?” or some variation of. I’m indifferent to how many kids Michelle Duggar has, as long as nobody forces me to watch her awful TV show, so my reaction was essentially, “Blech, I’ve got a job now, no more bad TV.”
But I’m coming out of my silence to say that if Michelle Duggar is a feminist, I’m the reincarnation of Sidhartha Gotama. Feminism, and the term “feminist” covers a lot of ground, but the argument presented by the author, that because Duggar “chose” to stay at home and have 20 kids, she’s somehow a representative of what feminism should be, “respect for a women’s decision to break out of the box that society would otherwise cage her in” is a deliberate misunderstanding of feminism.
It reminds me of articles celebrating banal decisions as being “earth shattering” and “rebellious”, which crop up all the freaking time now. It seems nothing is worth doing these days unless there’s some revolutionary potential behind it that you can crow about and write long articles in dedication to this rebellion. If we want to play a little Reductio ad absurdum, my decision to not flush the toilet was a radical feminist decision, because it showed I was unashamed of my bodily functions as a woman, even though society tells me that my body is a shameful thing.
Not all choices made by women are feminist choices by the virtue of them being choices made by women. They do not occur in a vacuum, and are not free of strings and implications. Michelle Duggar’s ideology and lifestyle are not feminist because of how deeply ingrained they are into supporting a structure which seeks to permanently enfeeble women’s intellectual, spiritual, and personal development, and create and hold up a hierarchy in which one and only one choice alone is considered legitimate. There is no room for queer people, singles, trans* people, polyamory, or childless/free lifestyles in the Quiverfull movement, it has a singular mission which leaves no room for creative interpretation into “feminism”.
There’s nothing stopping Michelle Duggar from using the word “feminist” if she wished (I doubt she does) There was no law barring Sarah Palin from using it, after all. But don’t expect me to go along with it without pointing out the serious flaws in that reasoning, or think that I will roll over and let a movement I strongly believe in for the long-term healing of these ridiculous inequalities and norms we’ve come to expect be diluted and made irrelevant, for whatever agenda. Feminism doesn’t need to be made more palatable to conservatives if part of that process would be elevating one choice above all others in the wild quest to reduce feminism to “choice” ideology.