Not Oprah’s Book Club: Quiverfull

Model daughters of the patriarchy movement, the Botkin girls express a hatred of feminism that is pure, and they hate it in a variety of flavors most feminists wouldn’t recognize as their cause. To the Botkins, all bad women–from the seductress hoping to “subdue masculinity” with her womanly wiles and charms to vain pageant queens to career women to even conservative Christian wives who aren’t fervent enough about spiritual war–are feministic, seeking to ‘weaken and dominate men.’

Reading Kathryn Joyce’s exhaustively researched and fascinating new book, Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement, sometimes feels like a science fiction experience. The Christian patriarchy movement is aimed at raising dutiful daughters and obedient wives who will populate the world with strong Christian stock. They make spreadsheets of their future spawn and, like big brother himself, try to manipulate women into feelings like there is profound power in relinquishing all autonomy, opinion, and agency. The most dearly held ideology of this small but growing group of Americans is not necessarily godliness, but severely traditional gender roles. As such, feminism is the enemy.
Joyce is a young feminist schooled in an old-school journalistic style: report, report, report. She enters this world with absolute dedication to getting as much material as possible. She’s not an inflamer or a polemicist, but a dispassionate observer, an information-gatherer, a witness. As such, if you’re looking for some snark (ala Jessica V.) or some poetry then you’ll be disappointed. Joyce is writing a book that is meant to wow you with its comprehensive breadth and depth, not its rhetorical flourishes or narrative personality. It’s quite refreshing actually, if not sometimes a bit overwhelming.
What’s most exciting to me is that Joyce is breaking truly new ground here. Much has been written about evangelic Christianity or cultish religious subcultures. It’s a fascinating and important subject. But Joyce has entered a different sort of landscape, one that is uncharted and completely critical to our understanding of how far we’ve come, and how far we’ve got to go if we are going to bring ALL women (and men) along. She’s uncovered a horrifying and very real trend in contemporary America. Next time someone asks you, “Is feminism really so necessary anymore?” just hand them Joyce’s book and say “Read up, my friend.”
Check out this riveting NPR story on the subject as well.
Thanks to Laura for the heads up.

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