Skepchick Quickies, 12.8


Jen is a writer and web designer/developer in Columbus, Ohio. She spends too much time on Twitter at @antiheroine.

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  1. Re: the stay-at-home-daughters thing: how do you convince a girl, who sees what her peers are doing (going to college, getting out of the house, living their lives), that staying home and taking care of daddy is a good choice? I’m trying to get inside the heads of people who think like this. It’s not working.

  2. @sylvan.nak: You do it by raising her in a such a way that she never actually considers doing such things.

    You start by cutting off as much interaction with the outside world as possible. Homeschool her, and allow her no access to tv, the internet or any means of transportation (or at least, restrict the last three as much as possible). In such an environment the unfortunate young girl would meet no one outside of church and her parents’ social circle. And to be on the safe side, the parents would also feed her stories about how awful the world outside is, and how college perverts young women and leads them away from God.

    Basically, it’s about teaching the daughter to be terrified of the outside world, and it’s about extinguishing any bit of curiosity she has about that world as early as possible.

    But it’s no surprise that you’re having trouble getting inside the heads of people who think like this. Their heads are already full. No new information is allowed in.

  3. Regarding the stay-at-home daughters thing: I suspect this is what my uncle and aunt are doing in their family to some degree. Their oldest daughter is doing approved missionary work in a city, but their younger daughters aren’t really allowed out to do anything at all, which was also the case for the older girl when she was a teenager. I haven’t had a conversation with my own cousins in over 10 years.

  4. Hmmm…stay at home daughters…that reminds me of something…

    “Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof.” — Genesis 19:8

    Oh yeah, and Judges 11:39

    “And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed: and she knew no man. And it was a custom in Israel, that the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year.”

    It’s 2010, right?

  5. Stay-at-home daughters… Can’t we have futuristic societies soon where people who don’t like civilisation can be put somewhere where there’s none?

  6. Yup, you folks above have it essentially covered.
    These people suck – they want to make their daughters good little Christian Stepford Wives.
    Did I say these people suck? Just making sure.

    Am I the only one that thinks that daughters should be “dedicated to their fathers” sounds especially creepy?

  7. Amazing how the stay at home daughter movement understands that forsaking education will be necessary if the movement is to provide optimal opportunities for successful social regression.

  8. From the math/sex article:

    But I would like to believe that, by and large, you don’t find sexy mathematicians like those in Numb3rs, The Oxford Murders, or Rites of Love and Math, because mathematicians don’t need sex: our holy enterprise of sorting truth from error, of dealing with what is at the foundation not only of what is, but of what must be, doesn’t leave time for romance.

    Ahh! I finally understand why I flunked out of a math PhD program.

  9. I feel a little sick right now. I don’t mean that in any metophorical sense. Reading the stay at home daughters article actually has me feeling sick to my stomach. The whole thing stinks of abuse. I can’t imagine doing something like this to my kids. You are abusing your children both your daughters and your sons. And this sounds so fucking creepy. My first thought is that this is all about sex. This is about grooming your daughter to be a sex provider for the husband that you will eventually sell her too. This makes my skin crawl. I, oh, I this is so, so wrong.

  10. @Imrryr:

    The isolated-from-birth hypothesis makes sense and probably explains most of it. I wonder about those cases where the girl has access to outside information and ideas, and still clings to an ideology that’s ignorant and best and enslaving at worst. I know women who did go through college and came out still believing women are inferior, weak, needing of protection, etc. And who believe associated nonsense (ideologically speaking) like young Earth. Why do people insist on believing in things that are clearly false *and* against their own interest?

  11. The whole Quiverfull/Patriarchy movement is really scary. Check out the No Longer Quivering blog that is conveniently linked on this site’s blogroll.

    The horror goes far, far beyond stay-at-home daughters. Women are expected to have as many babies as possible, while homeschooling all of them. This ensures that nobody gets a good education. Most of the families live in desperate poverty, except the ones who name all their kids with the same letter so they get TLC to pay them for a show. And a huge portion of the burden is placed on the daughters, who often raise their own siblings and can cook an entire meal for 20 people by the time they are 8, all while wearing long, confining, “modest” dresses and having very long hair that might never be cut in their lifetime.

    Many families practice “obedience training” on infants as young as six months. They believe that babies cry to get attention and that tendency needs to be beaten out of them. There’s all kinds of rape apologism, and little girls as young as six are taught not to “defraud” men by doing anything to make them have a sexual thought. Girls have been punished for straddling a fence (a man might imagine himself as the fence) and for wearing a sweatshirt unzipped (a man might imagine unzipping her other clothes). Fathers track their daughters’ menstrual cycles on calendars that are in view of the entire family.

    And as for the Botkin sisters in the Jezebel article, they are in their mid 20s and still not married. Their father is a major control freak and there has been a lot of speculation about why he won’t let them leave.

  12. @Gabrielbrawley:

    We had an infamous cult here in New Mexico led by a guy who called himself Michael Travesser. With all the associated patriarchal yuckiness you can imagine. If you want to be put off your tea for days, watch “The End of the World Cult” on YouTube (British documentary on the cult). It ties into my question about how people can voluntarily do this to themselves … teenagers convincing themselves that sleeping with an old man is God’s will — and maybe even worse, the mothers giving their children over to that? What? The Fuck?

    I feel like we have to understand what motivates this … easy to condemn it, but what enables a woman voluntarily to choose such a life? And to inflict the same life on her daughters?

  13. @catgirl:

    Ick, ick, ick. Geoffrey Botkin reminded me of Michael Travesser (see above) but after reading your post I’m thinking he also reminds me of Josef Fritzl — the Austrian monster who kept his daughter in a basement for decades. Obviously it’s not nearly as dramatic, but … yuck. Even Elizabeth Smart was brainwashed into believing she belonged with her captor. Brainwashing is a weirdly resilient thing.

  14. The stay-at-home daughters thing gives me the heebie jeebies too. Luckily, the homeschooling groups I was involved in as a kid were not this crazy town. They were heavily Xtian, yes, but they encouraged education for everyone and sought to provide the homeschooled kids with some socialization – craft clubs, talent shows, roller skating parties, spelling bees, countries-of-the-world showcases, etc.

  15. There’s more than just indoctrination involved. Fear is a significant motivator for toeing daddy’s wishes. If a girl tries to live her own life, she’s guaranteed that bad things will happen, up to and including the occasional murder.

    The girls don’t have to buy into it at all to be victims of it, but life is a little more tolerable if they at least pretend to.

  16. @sylvan.nak:

    I feel like we have to understand what motivates this … easy to condemn it, but what enables a woman voluntarily to choose such a life?

    The reason that anyone would choose this life is that it happens very slowly. First it starts with finding others who have a big family like you. Then this group convinces you to become Christian. Then they convince you that the Christian thing to do is homeschool your kids and also have more kids. All this time they promise wonderful prizes if you comply: a loving, nurturing husband, freedom from decision-making, protection from God no matter what happens, and wonderful, perfect children. The men are promised outright power over their families, and women are promised a weird kind of power where they can get what they want if they just act submissive enough. And pretty soon their older children are raising the younger ones, they’re all crammed into a tiny house with inadequate food and medical care, and they’re too stressed out to think anymore. And it’s really hard to leave because anything bad happens because you didn’t please God enough, so admitting unhappiness means you’re not good enough to have God’s blessings.

    I think the cult mentality is actually pretty well studied and understood.

  17. @sylvan.nak: I’ve read a little about these types of groups but I don’t know how I go about understanding them. Their world view is very foreign to me. I think a lot of it may be driven by fear of a world they can’t understand and a desire for control. The only thing they can control is their wives and children. This is done through abuse. The mothers go along for similar reasons. They have been debased so much that the only power they can exercise is by furthering the abuse. Or I could be completly wrong.

  18. It’s actually pretty clear how Michelle Duggar got sucked into this cult. It starts with both she and her husband being uneducated and somewhat conservative. So after she had her first kid, she used the pill, got pregnant, and had a miscarriage. Miscarriages can be devastating to begin with, and it doesn’t help that she believed the propaganda that life begins at conception and that an embryo is basically a tiny baby.

    So somehow a cult member convinced her that the BC pills caused her miscarriage. Since she knew little about biology, this was easy for her to believe. The same person (apparently a doctor) also convinced her that she might not be able to have any more children (or she misinterpreted what the doctor said). This made her feel many things. First, she felt extreme guilt about killing her baby. I’m sure that every subsequent pregnancy felt like atonement for her, and the more unpleasant ones especially helped to ease her guilt.

    She probably also felt terrified and saddened that she might not have another baby. So of course every baby helps to ease that fear. I think it also made her feel powerful because she could overcome this alleged infertility but just following all the rules.

    Fast forward a few years and she has 5 kids under 5 years old. She’s overwhelmed and has no time or energy to think. She can’t complain because each child is an unmitigated blessing. She can’t use birth control because she truly believes that her lack of faith in God will make him harm her. She believes that if she just has enough faith, things will get better. And she’s in a group of people who are doing the same thing. They reinforce each other. It’s also likely that she really wanted several children back-to-back and this group supports that one decision she made on her own.

    And in her case, they do. She had a lot of daughters up front and they get old enough to do most of the real work. Then she gets some tv specials, then a whole series. By now, she has to keep having babies because she knows that people will stop throwing money at her if she stops. And it’s not as bad now anyway that she has all those slaves and a gigantic mansion to live in. And every other woman who is following her see this as an example of success. They think they can become rich and famous if they just remain faithful and keep having babies. The slightest doubt could make God take everything away, so they won’t even think about it.

    In the case of cults, it really is a slippery slope. If they can just get people in the door, it’s much easier to make them stay.

  19. @scribe999: Wow, the story of Jephthah’s daughter. That’s a pretty obscure one to pull out. Sadly, it is relevant to the idea of stay at home daughters. Being willing to sacrifice themselves for what they see as their father’s duty to YHVH is seen as a merit in some Christian circles.

    I’ll stand behind the idea that studying math precludes romance. It makes the paucity of action I saw in college seem noble.

  20. Okay…..as a female mathematician, I’m a bit ticked off at the original article about sex and mathematicians. Frankly, I found math events some of the best places to hook up with guys as they weren’t intimidated by the fact that I did math too. Please believe me when I say there was plenty of interest in and opportunity for sex there. :)

  21. @Imrryr
    And to be on the safe side, the parents would also feed her stories about how awful the world outside is, and how college perverts young women and leads them away from God.

    I don’t know about the perversion part (at least not enough ;)) but the leading them from God part is often true. Funny how knowledge can have that effect on people.

  22. So religion has the ability to make us feel good.


    But it also can produce stupid shit like the stay-at-home-daughters movement.

    Excuse me for seeing more harm than good.

  23. Re: SAHD

    I should have read that before I ate.

    Re: sex ≠ math

    The hottest/sexiest boyfriend I had in college was a double Physics/Math major. My roommate told me that she was considering changing majors after she laid eyes on him – between him (6’2″, black hair, cobalt eyes, soccer player), a second male friend of mine in the Math Department (an insanely accomplished guitar player with a killer smile), and a good friend in my Geology department (who could have doubled for Brad Pitt, had Brad Pitt been famous in the late 80’s) , she said the stereotype of unsexy science guys was blown for her forever.

    If Jonathan Farley wants to claim that math and sex don’t go together, then he obviously never spent time after-hours in a lab. Working out a problem on a blackboard with boxes of various covered chalk at his disposal. Because colored chalk inspired putting colored handprints all over the room and each other one rather memorable evening…

    Intelligent ≠ unsexy. So tired of hearing it.

  24. @Trotter Jelly: The story of Jephthah really stood out for me as an example of doctrinaire misogyny in that book. It further stands out for me because when confronted with that story, many apologists appear to do the verbal equivalent of playing ‘Twister’ in order to somehow make it fit their current worldview.

    These people are a half-a-step removed from putting burkhas on or binding the feet of their daughters. To quote Dr. Farnsworth, “I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.”

  25. @catgirl

    Two things:
    – first post, if we’re talking people who don’t live in a compound, not so much.
    – second two posts, frighteningly accurate.

    ” [homeschooling]…ensures that nobody gets a good education.”

    Um…depends. I was home schooled and I got a frighteningly detailed education…in many ways, that’s the appeal of home schooling. It isn’t the breadth or depth of the primary school education, it’s the ideological filters imposed. My complaints about being homeschooled have nothing to do with the content, but rather the social and ideological aspects.

    People on the Left of the political spectrum seem to vastly underestimate just how much people on the Right value education and vice versa (if Left and Right are even useful constructs :P). This is not helpful to any argument.

    Also, I’m male…but I was a primary caregiver/educator for most of my siblings simply by virtue of birthorder. Dishes, housecleaning, teaching…if there’s a large family with the “as many as god gives” paradigm, it isn’t a male/female thing…it’s whatever works.

    At least in my experience.

  26. The Quivering daughters makes me sick to my stomach too… because I was part of a Quiver (#3 of 7 kids – 7 is biblical quiver – no tv, country girl, but public school education – though younger siblings got a cross between home and church education). I see how strong the movement has become and am so thankful that I made it out before it got this big. But it makes me sick to my stomach because that is the visceral reaction one gets when they recognize abuse, and I recognize this all too well. These girls need so much more than judgment. Empathy is a good place to start. I do what I do, blog and organize a Former Fundamentalist support group, in hopes that girls and boys leaving those cults will know that others know what its like to step out into the big, secular world… easier said than done. I know what is like to be gawked at. Let’s show them what it is like to be loved and accepted beyond the seclusion of their families!

  27. @Josh K: It occurs to me that, while homeschooling COULD be a good thing, much of the time it’s doing little more than sheltering kids from critical thinking, as if anything other than the belief system of the parents is feared to be a ‘corrupting influence’. I don’t doubt that many children who are homeschooled had a wonderful experience, and received excellent college prep. But on the whole, I think it’s an absurdly smothering concept.

    Public schools give experiences that one simply won’t have being homeschooled. Not only will you meet people and learn how to interact with others socially and culturally, but there is potential to learn from others NOT of your own culture, be opened to new ideas and ways of thinking, and even those ‘corrupting’ influences can help frame the world in a larger context. The more ideas, and points of view one is exposed to, the better IMO.

    Mostly, I’m just against homeschooling. I think in general, while the kids may test well, it smothers them socially and only reinforces the ideology of the parents, without any attempt to question it, or see things from a different perspective. That so many homeschooled children are the sons and daughters of evangelicals only increases my distaste.

  28. @scribe999: I could easily see Jephthah’s daughter (who isn’t considered to be important enough to be named) being held up as a role model in that community. At least among the few that know the story. Faith in all authority is a hugely popular idea among the regressive Christians.

    If the story of Onan can interpreted to be about masturbation, then most Bible stories can be about anything you damn well please.

  29. @catgirl, et al.
    Don’t worry if you can’t understand them. I think they only way you could unedrstand them would be to be one of them. Obviously not the most desirable outcome.

    Yes, they are all about control of everyone and everything. This is why the Christian Dominionist movement scares the Hell out of me. They want to make The Handmaiden’s Tale a documentary. I have come to firmly believe that this kind of ‘religious’ authoritatianism is a mental illness.

  30. @kjellohhh:

    “The more ideas, and points of view one is exposed to, the better IMO.”


    Having been homeschooled, I wouldn’t recommend it.

    There are plenty of criticisms for homeschooling, but I don’t think “homeschooling ensures you’re uneducated”, by itself, is a valid one.

    No point in giving traction to the opposition by including an invalid criticism for them to focus on, if you follow me.

  31. @Josh K:

    I didn’t mean to imply that all home schooling is bad. But in QF families, it’s intentionally bad. They often can’t afford enough materials for all the kids, and they especially don’t have the time for all of them. And it’s pretty common for children 10 and older to teach younger ones in these families. Then education is even shorter for women, who are then the ones responsible for educating the next generation. It spirals out of control pretty fast when you have kids whose grandparents never had a good education. The QF version of home schooling is very different than the ideal version of it, and it’s mostly done to prevent them from getting in trouble with the law.


    I understand them completely. I guess it’s sort of a weird hobby, but I’ve spent a lot of time studying cults.

  32. @catgirl:

    I’m glad it’s well understood generally — I don’t understand it myself, at all, but I’m glad someone does. Thanks to you (and the others) for giving me some insight.

  33. @kjellohhh:

    I homeschooled my daughter for half a year. She was in a public school situation with a teacher who told the kids penguins were extinct, who didn’t know basic math, and who “corrected” her spelling with misspellings. The school wouldn’t switch her to another class, so I pulled her out. It was a great experience for us both, and I joined a secular homeschooling co-op — there was also a religious homeschool group, and this group had recently split off from them. Homeschooling shouldn’t be entirely confused with religiosity … there’s a greater percentage of secular homeschoolers now than ever.

    Mine was such a good experience that I could have kept it up for longer — my kid was flourishing, educationally, under my tutelage. And she had plenty of social interaction. But she felt “abnormal” (her words) by not being in “regular school” so she asked to go back. And we honored that … the next year, with a different teacher.

  34. @Chasmosaur:

    Re: sexy geeks. I’m married to the single hottest scientist on the planet, who could easily win out over Brian Cox in a sexy scientists calendar contest. (Which a] is saying something and b] really needs to happen.) Mathematician, physicist, smokin’. It happens!

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