I don’t know about anyone else, but I am having a hard time feeling sorry for Anna Duggar.
Okay, maybe I sympathize with her a little bit. After all, it is no easy task dealing with the reality that your husband – and pretty much your life – is a big fat lie.
If you haven’t read by now Josh Duggar, one of the “kid” stars of 19 Kids and Counting, is a bit of a freak. Oh, and a hypocrite.
It was discovered earlier this week that Duggar, who is the former executive director of the Family Research Council, a pro-traditional marriage lobbying group, is not only an admitted child molester (he confessed to molesting several of his younger sisters and other young girls back when he was a teenager), but he’s also a paid and active member of Ashley Madison, a dating service site for married people.
Someone using a credit card belonging to a Joshua J. Duggar, with a billing address that matches the home in Fayetteville, Arkansas owned by his grandmother Mary—a home that was consistently shown on their now-cancelled TV show, and in which Anna Duggar gave birth to her first child—paid a total of $986.76 for two different monthly Ashley Madison subscriptions from February of 2013 until May of 2015.
The website also reported that Duggar actually had two accounts with the site, which were linked to his home in Oxon Hill, Maryland, where he spent his time lobbying against causes like same-sex marriage.
Of course, none of this is surprising. The truth is, after years of watching conservative and fundamental religious folks fall on the very swords with which they try to smite others, you kind of expect it to happen – one day.
Still, every time one of these moral leaders get caught with their hands in the cookie jar (or eggplant patch), people want to victimize the wife. And in some instances, it makes sense. Women do not cause their husbands to go out and have affairs. That is old-timey sexist thinking. Likewise, abuse runs thick in some Christian fundamentalist circles. As noted by Libby Anne in this piece entitled “Anna Duggar and the Silencing Power of Forgiveness“:
Anna Duggar (Josh’s wife) is an example of what many women coming out of the Duggar’s fundamentalist Christian subculture go through. They get married young after a brief courtship. (Because of family pressure and perhaps a desperate need to get out of their parents’ home.) They don’t really know the person they are marrying, and they are too inexperienced (having no sex ed, previous boyfriends, or real-world experience) to recognize any red flags that might have risen by this point. They can’t use birth control (because sinful) so they start having children right away.
Anna now has three, with a fourth on the way. She is 26 years old. She was homeschooled her whole life and never went to college. She now claims that she knew when the courtship began that Josh was a child molester. But I very much doubt that Josh used those words — it is far more likely that he said he had “temptations” to which he “succumbed” but “God is good” and he has “asked for forgiveness.” And, in that culture, she would have had no choice but to accept that for face value, because to do otherwise would be to call Josh a liar and to doubt God’s ability to save. Now she’s found out the truth, she has a few more years of experience, and she’s more trapped than she’s ever been.
It is a salient point. But I also do not believe that Anna is as trapped and helpless as many other women who find themselves in her circumstances. For one, there is not a court in this land that would not award Anna Duggar handsomely if she decided to leave. But that’s the thing, isn’t it. If.
I know we don’t like to think about these things, but there is a very real possibility that Anna does not want to leave. And it has less to do with God’s supposed laws, but her own ego.
If she is trapped, it is by cognitive dissonance. The kind of cognitive dissonance which sees the inconsistencies in the belief system played out over and over again in her household but willfully turns a blind eye out of self-interest and preservation. The kind of cognitive dissonance which comes with creature comforts like fame, power, and prestige.
Sort of like Camille Cosby. As the sexual accusations swirled around her husband Bill, folks also wanted to see her as innocent in all of it. That was until she said this:
“We all followed the story of the article in the “Rolling Stone” concerning allegations of rape at the University of Virginia. The story was heart-breaking, but ultimately appears to be proved to be untrue. Many in the media were quick to link that story to stories about my husband – until that story unwound.
None of us will ever want to be in the position of attacking a victim. But the question should be asked – who is the victim?”
Then we were like, nope. And for many of us, that is when we realized that some women can be as willfully misogynistic as men. And that Camille was just as shrill as her husband…
I don’t want to totally discredit Anna or even Camille and other women like them as victims in all of this. But I also believe that their victimization is problematic. And in some respects, I see Anna as a co-conspirator. Particularly when she is dutifully standing beside Josh through all of his dangerous contradictions. (I make the distinction because we are all a bit contradictory.) She gives him cover. From the media. From their detractors. And from their followers. And from folks in the LGBTQ community. But, perhaps most detrimentally, from women just like herself.