Before my previous computer died, I arranged an inter–library loan for a book I had been badly wanting to read. The book is Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement by American journalist Kathryn Joyce. The book is available from Beacon Press. I promised a review and a summary of its contents, and here they are.
The book is divided into three sections. The first part of the book isn’t really about Quiverfull specifically, so much as conservative and fundamentalist Christianity. It covers women in various churches and denominations. This part in no way distracts from the rest of the book, as it provides a necessary background and context. The second and third sections cover Quiverfull and other natalist movements more specifically. Throughout the book, Joyce focuses on specific people/organizations within the QF/P movements, such as Vision Forum or the Botkin sisters. She also covers several people who escaped from Quiverfull. Some Lastly, a few parts of the book began as magazine articles, and can be found online.
Being a journalist, Joyce sticks only to objective language and point–of–view, and avoids judging the people she discusses, even though she strongly disagrees with the QF lifestyle. In some sense, this sticking only to reportage detracts from the book, as more analysis and discussion would have been better. Another issue is the lack of footnotes or endnotes. Although Joyce mentions sources inline, it is easier to find the exact spot of a quotation with a note rather than something like “said X, in their book____”. This prevents having to read straight through some other book until the fact or quotation is found.
The is well–written, and excellently researched. There is no need for the book to tell how bad the QF/P subculture is, as it does an excellent job showing it instead. The followers and adherents of this disturbing lifestyle chillingly speak in their own words. Being a long–time lurker and reader of anti–QF/P blogs, and having read some of the online excerpts, I already knew the general gist about Quiverfull, so the book was less informative than it will be for someone who knows nothing about QF/P.
Overall, this was a really necessary and eye–opening book. I recommend it.
As for Quiverfull, it is inextricably connected with the movements called Biblical Patriarchy or Biblical Family Values. These are all movements within Protestant Christianity. One does not need have all of the characteristics of QF/P, or meet them completely, to be a Quiverfuller, so the following characteristics should be interpreted as indicative of a spectrum stretching from ordinary conservative Christianity at one end, through fundamentalism, with QF/P at the other end.
The traits of Quiverfull/Biblical Patriarchy are (sources are the Joyce book and various websites and blogs by those who left QF/P):
- Abstaining from all forms of birth control and contraception, including natural family planning and fertility awareness. Frequently, followers forgo maternal health or the services of an ob–gyn. The end result is that women are expected to bear children until they keel over and expire.
- Restricted gender roles, or “Biblical manhood and womanhood”. Men are providers, breadwinners, and always in charge. Women are submissive doormats and helpmeets, doing housework and homemaking. If the position of a marriage is not going well or if troubles and difficulties happen to a family, then it is blamed on the woman. Her marriage advice is mostly summed up by the sentence, “Shut up and submit more.”
- Isolationism. QF/P families often live in rural areas. They often reject any form of government assistance, even it if means living in appalling, over–crowded or substandard conditions. Parents restrict access to outside or “worldly” influences. This usually leads to home–churching and homeschooling, as well as claiming total owner over one’s children, under the guise of “parental rights”. In the context of QF/P, “parental rights” usually means some combination of: (1) the right to beat the shit out of your kid; (2) the right to deny education; (3) the right to deny healthcare; and (4) the right to raise your daughter to be a doormat.
- Treating women little better than chattel. Daughters are kept isolated, and are denied any chance to be able to support themselves should they leave, and are denied any real “control” over their own lives. Daughters are kept at home doing chores and housework (the “Stay–at–Home Daughters Movement”) as a helpmeet for their fathers and a future helpmeet for their husbands. They undergo “courtship” (instead of dating) and a given away (the same way you give away a coat) to men in what are essentially arranged marriages. In addition, this controlling treatment of women leads to an obsession with female sexuality and a focus on “purity” (leading to things like purity balls) and modesty rules (like dresses only).
Disturbingly, some of these sentiments (like purity balls) have become more mainstream amongst ordinary evangelical Christianity.
In any event, “patriarchy” seems to be the wrong word for this movement; “patriarchy” is too weak and certainly is not strong enough.
And lastly, a mini link farm to more sites providing additional information on QF/P:
- No Longer Qivering is a blog run by QF/P escapee Vyckie Garrison. It tells the story of her escape from QF/P, and likewise for several other people, and also serves as an information source on QF/P movements.
- A Quiver Full of Information is run by Hopewell, and serves a link directory to most websites/blogs concerning QF/P. Hopewell is a self–described “campaigner against abusive religion”, but her page links to QF/P sites in a neutral manner. It includes a page of links to survivor/escapee websites.
- Rethinking Vision Forum by Libby Anne is a website compiling responses to and exposés of one of the biggest promoters of QF/P, Vision Forum.