Review: Quiverfull, Kathryn Joyce

Eurgh.  Recommended by Stephanie of Open Mind, Insert Book, Quiverfull is all about the Christian patriarchy movement, where women embrace “complementarian” gender roles and submit to their husbands/fathers in everything.  Apparently it is very liberating not to have to bother about making decisions; unless, of course, the decision-maker for your household (your husband or father) has decided to hit you, in which case your spiritual community will assure you it is your fault that he’s behaving that way.

From my (strongly feminist, semi-lapsed Catholic) perspective, Joyce manages to steer clear of judgment calls about this to a remarkable degree, though she doesn’t provide a lot of historical and societal context for the movements.  She interviews a number of key figures in the Quiverfull movement and other, similarly-minded Christian movements; she attends several events intended to promote complementarian values; and it appears that she manages to avoid getting into quarrels.  Which is more than I would be able to do, and here, in a nutshell, is why:

Michael and Debi Pearl of the No Greater Joy ministry caution against women developing close friends with other women.  “There is a grave danger of becoming emotionally dependent on other women,” writes Debi.  “Too many times I have seen this lead to something abnormal and sick.  Your husband and God should be the ones to whom you turn for emotional support and intimacy.”

So it’s the kind of relationship where the woman should really be completely dependent on her husband for everything, and not have any interest in friends outside of her husband.  And also he’s in control of all decisions for the household.  I feel like I’ve heard that kind of relationship described another way, but I just can’t think where.  In short, I don’t like this.  I mean the book was fine, but the movement is disturbing, and after a while I got upset reading about women who opt out of exercising their moral choice.  I think I will find my book about the Christian youth movement far less disturbing and fringe-y.

Other reviews:

Open Mind, Insert Book
Peace of Brain

Tell me if I missed yours!

21 thoughts on “Review: Quiverfull, Kathryn Joyce

  1. Ugh, I think I’ve heard about this book, and while I’m all for learning about new things I think this would make me want to tear my hair out. And since I’m trying to keep from giving myself stress headaches– I think I’ll skip this. :/

    • Haha, can’t blame you. And actually, it reminds me of abusive spouses, but yes! The Duggers too! I can’t remember whether this book mentions them, but I know I’ve heard them referenced in relation to this movement.

    • Yeah, I believe I read the Salon article that post links to, but I couldn’t find it to link to it when I was writing this post. It’s terrible the things they teach; I know the Pearls always claim in public it’s the parents’ fault, but I wonder if they feel a personal sense of culpability at all. I would be eaten up with guilt if I were them.

  2. Sigh. This sort of stuff makes me so frustrated. I am a Christian and I find it so difficult when these sorts of extremist views get attention and publicity, making people think that all Christians are these crazy, brainless, reactionary people who hate non Christians and ‘normal’ lifestyles. It really skews people’s perceptions of Christianity and Christians, and makes it seem like being a Christian means signing your life away to a ton of old fashioned and restrictive regulations. It’s not like that at all, otherwise I wouldn’t be one!

    Personally, I hate this woman must stay in the home and raise perfect children and submit entirely to her husband on everything set of beliefs. I think it’s a dangerous gospel to preach. Limiting women to being housekeepers and care givers is highly offensive and negates the intelligence and talents so many women have and use highly effectively in the workplace. Not every woman dreams of being a housewife and women should be able to pursue their dreams just as much as men should be. Also – what happens if your husband cheats on you, beats you, leaves you, or dies? What if he loses his job and can’t get another? Having no work experience or ability to do anything practical for themselves makes these women completely helpless if they ever find themselves alone. And what child admires a mother who has never had a life of her own and is incapable of making any decisions? What kind of a role model is that for a child? And don’t even get me started on not using contraception – that’s right, God WANTS us to overpopulate the globe, ruin our internal organs, struggle financially and have our children constantly compete with each other for parental attention by having 20 kids each.

    Ugh! These people! And the sad thing is, they brainwash others into thinking they are right, and you end up with people living the kind of guilt filled, restriction filled, miserable lives Christianity is meant to free people from. All in the name of ‘religion’. That’s why I never call myself religious – I’m not. I love Jesus. There’s a difference.

    • God, me too. I’ve been feeling this frustration more than ever lately, as the Catholic Church seems to be getting crazier and crazier. I always wish there were more good, intelligent Catholics doing good, intelligent things, instead of its being all jerky cardinals circling the wagons and denying anyone knew anything about all the child sex abuse.

      What gets me is that a lot of these groups subscribe to that whole “in the world but not of the world” thing, and they interpret it to mean that they should maintain minimal involvement with the secular world. And what a mistake! I don’t see how a faith that refuses to ask questions or experience situations that challenge its assumptions is valuable. I mean, I remember believing in God far less complicatedly as a kid, but I think my beliefs now are more valuable and important to my life, because I’ve challenged them and thought about them so much more.

      • I love Stephen Colbert. I really do. It would be impossible to overestimate my love for him. Every time he talks about being Catholic and then goes on doing his witty, biting satire, I want to give him a hug.

    • And I could have said SO MUCH MORE! My brain was saying eeek eewwwww the whole time I was reading this book, and I didn’t even quote some of the worst stuff in this review. Because it was too gross and I couldn’t make myself copy it out.

  3. the Pearl’s that you mention here also (amongst all the other stuff) actually promote (not just condone) the use of corporal punishment as a childrearing philosophy. These people are women’s worse enemies and their attitudes actually frighten me.
    thanks for sharing this review

    • I know, they’re terrible. It scares me that anyone would listen to their insane philosophy of childrearing in the first place (it’s apparently designed to make kids behave by breaking their spirits), let alone continue to listen to it after more than one kid has died from the kind of corporal punishment they advocate.

  4. Your religious reading is fascinating! This one is disturbing, though. UGH. I HATE that it’s a woman writing this book, too. Actually, it really makes me ache that a woman wrote this book. Is she ok? Does she feel happy and fulfilled?

    • Oh, I may not have been clear. The woman writing the book isn’t a member of the Quiverfull movement. I don’t think I’d have made it through the book if she was. I just meant to say that she manages to be surprisingly un-judgmental of the movement.

      A lot of women in the movement do write about how proper women are supposed to behave. Joyce quoted several of them, and she also touched briefly on spousal abuse in the movement. I wanted to know more about that. Apparently when husbands are abusing their wives, everyone in the religious community wants the wife to examine what she’s doing wrong to provoke him into hitting her. So scary.

  5. WOW! That was fast for you- I had to wait SEVEN MONTHS for a copy to come in at my library. Jealous! 🙂

    This was definitely a disturbing one. (But don’t mind me, I kind of enjoy disturbing things.) A few years ago, I actually read Debi Pearl’s “Created to Be His Help Meet.” It reads like something out of the Onion, but it’s 100% serious. It’s truly horrifying.

    I’m so glad that I didn’t grow up in this movement. Books like this make me want to open a shelter for girls who want to escape this kind of life. 😦

    • Seven months, seriously? Your parish must be madly interested in gender roles on the religious fringe! (And by parish of course I mean county.)

      I’m amazed you were able to make it through a whole book by Debi Pearl. The short paragraphs excerpted from her writings in this book made me feel slightly nauseated, and I know I couldn’t stomach a whole book.

  6. This kind of thing makes me really, really sad. I, too, think it sounds disturbingly like an abusive relationship, and it frightens me that these sorts of religious movements are becoming more widespread in North America.

    • What’s even more frightening was this article I read recently about birth rates in secular households and birthrates in Quiverfull households. Secular and less fundamentalist families are having fewer children, and families that subscribe to this sort of doctrine are having more. Do not like.

  7. I really feel someone should speak up for Quiverfull, here. And as a woman who looks to my husband for guidance in all things, because he is the head of our house, I’m going to do it. Because he tole me to.

    Ha. Just kidding!

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