On some occasions I find myself typing in the url for Stacy McDonald’s response to Hillary McFarland’s Quivering Daughters. It may not be on of the wisest decisions I’ve ever made, but, nevertheless, it provides food for thought at the very least. I was reading Christy Stouffer’s review of the book today, and one segment in particular jumped out at me:
In one of her diary entries, Hillary says, “I wish I was perfect.” She wishes their bills were paid, that her dad’s back didn’t hurt, and finally, she wishes that she were in heaven. These are the writings from her journal at age 12. But, I couldn’t help thinking, isn’t this life? I could not fathom how daily trials could be considered abuse.
Back pain, bills needing to be paid… yes, these can be considered “daily trials” as Christy puts it. Yes, they are a part of life. That said, Hillary was 12. She was still a child. This is one of the hypocrisies of the fundamentalist movement. Children are mature enough to be faced with certain “daily trials,” but they are not mature enough to make their own decisions.
According to Quivering Daughters, although the intentions of patriarchal parents are noble, and although they do the best they can, in the end, they damage their children (specifically their daughters) and send them into a dark pit of depression, hopelessness, and despair that leads to suicidal tendencies.
Why is it okay for a 12 year old to worry about whether her parents can pay the bills, but not okay for an 18 year old to decide if she wants to go out with someone before finding out if Daddy says yes? Why is it okay for a 12 year old to feel stressed to the point where she wishes she was in heaven (let’s face it – wishing you were in heaven was the fundamentalist equivalent of being suicidal… only it was painted in a “pretty” light to make it more acceptable), but if she wanted to go outside the home to work (in most cases, admittedly not all), she couldn’t, because it’s not her highest calling?
Our family has homeschooled for over 15 years. Throughout the years, we have known many homeschooling families and are still in contact with them. We see strong families who thrive. The oppressive environment that Hillary paints in Quivering Daughters is foreign to the families I know.
I come from one of those “strong families who thrive.” I was one of those girls who talked the talk and “walked the walk.” I argued vociferously on subjects such as women wearing headcoverings and the practice of courtship as opposed to dating (as if I had ever dated and knew from personal experience!). As far as those around me knew, I wanted to write my own curriculum and raise and homeschool my children.
Fundamentalism is all about appearances. Whatever happens behind closed doors stays there… as long as the face you present to the world looks good, you can pretend it is good, and there are no problems. We’re all masters of the mask; we’re all terrified of seeming weak. Besides, it’s okay to wish you were in heaven.