19 Kids and Questioning Why This Show Was Ever on TV

So TLC has finally (finally!) announced that they are taking 19 Kids and Counting off TV. I have been waiting for the day they would make that long overdue decision.

Why? Because the parents featured in this show, Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar, are scary scary people who should not have a national forum to spout their ridiculousness and hatred.

I admit it, I have watched this show. I've seen quite a bit of actually. I'm a fan of bad reality TV. When I first saw it, I thought that, although they made a lot of decisions I wouldn't make, and I didn't relate to their conservative religious outlook, it was harmless. I thought that they were teaching their multitudes of children some decent values about work ethics and giving back to friends and family. It seemed a bit freakish but no big deal. After watching for awhile though I realized there is something pretty twisted going on. Jim Bob Duggar is all smiles and happy-go-lucky poppa but he rules that family with an iron fist. What he says goes - right down to dictating how his wife and children dress and how they do their hair. The gender roles are very clear and very strictly enforced. The girls stay in the house and clean, cook, do laundry and take care of the kids. The boys - well, I'm not sure what the boys do. I do know that when the boys reach 18ish, they are given support to start their own businesses so that they'll be able to get a wife and have kids. The girls, not so much. They stay there until some guy (seems like any guy if recent developments are any indication) of similar mind, asks them to marry.

The children have no opportunities to learn anything or meet anyone that their parents have not expressly vetted beforehand. Dancing is prohibited. Expression of any 'negative' emotion if frowned upon. Physical contact is strictly controlled. Hugs, even between parents and children, are limited to 'side hugs' because you can't take the risk of pressing genitals together (but you don't say specifically, that that's why you side hug). Modest dress is enforced - necklines are high and shoulders are never bare. Skirts and pants must come past the knee. The Duggars believe that showing your body to anyone who is not your legal spouse, is 'defrauding'. Defrauding is provoking sexual desire that cannot be righteously fulfilled. They never expressly say it, but it's pretty clear that females defraud men, not the other way around. The Duggars do not date, they court. Courting involves getting to know someone with the intention of marrying them. They are not allowed to ever be alone or to even have private phone calls or messages with someone they are courting. Their parents look s at their text messages and listen in on their phone calls and skype sessions. This takes place even if the courting person is well over 18. They cannot have any physical contact when they are courting. When they get engaged, they are allowed to hold hands. They must have an escort on every date until they are legally married. They do not kiss until they are legally married. The first time they kiss at their wedding, hundreds of people watch them do it.

All this is disturbing enough but hey, everybody has their own beliefs and values. However, when they expect everyone else to hold their values and work actively to prevent the religious freedom and human rights of others, then I've got a problem. And that's exactly what the Duggars do. They are active supports of Rick Santorum, who is a notorious homophobe. They have contributed financially and lent their enormous celebrity cred to his bid for the republican nomination. They have been vocal in their opposition to marriage equality. Michelle Duggar recorded a robocall asking people in Arkansas to vote AGAINST an ordinance that would prohibit businesses from discriminating against people based on gender and sexual orientation. In the recording she essentially called transwomen sexual predators dressed up as men and said that the ordinance would expose people's children to dangerous child molesters in public bathrooms. Their oldest son, Josh, was the director of the Family Research Council - a high-profile lobby group that actively campaigns against gay rights. These people spew hatred and ignorance and they have been active in trying to convince others that gays and trans people should not be treated as human beings like any other human beings.

There have been petitions to TLC to take these people off the air because of their nasty hatred - all of which is thinly veiled on their tv show but is apparent to anyone who wants to see it. TLC had, until recently refused to budge.

It was only when the fact that their oldest son, Josh, had molested at least five children when he was a teenager, became widely public knowledge, that TLC relented and pulled the show. It seems it's okay to actively hate people but when it becomes knowledge that someone in your family molested children, that's a bridge too far.

And that's the thing, it's not really the child abuse that caused them to pull it. If that was the case, the Duggars never would have gotten the show in the first place. Josh's abusive past has been essentially public knowledge for close to 10 years. When I first watched the show, I did some reading on the family and my tiny little google search produced a number of articles and blog posts about this issue. Josh's crimes were reported to the police. There is a record of that. A lot of people found out about it. It's pretty clear that very little, other than praying for forgiveness, was ever done for him or the victims of his abuse, but it was reported.

I found out about this from a quick google search. It's hard to believe that TLC was not aware of it. So it's not the abuse that makes them not want to associate with the Duggars because they probably knew, tt's the fact this is now an embarrassing, horrifying public scandal that makes them look bad.

It's sort of the same thing as the Duck Dynasty debacle. There's no way they didn't know that guy was a homophobic jackass. That was okay with them as long as they could edit that part out of their show. It was only when he actually said it out loud to the media where it could not be contained and controlled that it was a problem.

It's truly awful that it had to come to this for them to take these people off the air, but I am glad they are off the air. These are not people to look to as role models. It's sad that this is what becomes celebrity in our culture.

Let me be clear about the sexual abuse issue. I think there are a lot of reasons that Josh might have done what he did. That guy grew up in a household that was seriously messed up about sex and gender roles. He would have never ever had the chance to talk to anyone about his sexual feelings, to express any feelings at all really, or to learn what appropriate boundaries are. The Duggars are disciples of a guy who has also had accusations of child sexual abuse against. Who knows what happened to Josh before he molested those children. I am not going to demonize a 14 year old child. The problems here are that he grew up in a situation in which something like this was more likely to happen and that it happened in a household where it is not okay to talk about the fact that it happened. Sure, they reported it, but it looks like they reported it to someone that they knew would do next to nothing about it, and that it was never taken seriously. In everything the Duggars have said about this issue, they have not once mentioned any type of support or help offered to the victims of Josh's actions. Did the Duggar girls get any counselling? I doubt it. The Duggar way of thinking is a victim-blaming mentality. Women are told, very clearly, that their bodies are temptations to men and it is their job not to defraud them. I cannot imagine that the girls would have received anything other than a perfunctory apology and a suggestion that they forgive and trust God.

My guess would be that, with the numbers of people who watch this show and who will follow this story, there will be a lot of people who will reach out to the Duggar girls to give them some actual help and support. I hope that happens and I hope that they are not so controlled by Jim Bob and Michelle that they will not be able to find out about and accept that help. There have to be some very serious emotional scars among all of those children. I hope somehow they can find some help to heal.

It's so depressing that so many of these types of stories end this way. How many times have we found out that these supposed heroes of family values are hiding some pretty awful things behind the facade they put on for the camera?

I am not the least bit surprised by any of this. I am very sad for all of those children. It's a horrible thing to deal with sexual abuse in your family. I think it's that much more horrible when a TV network and your parents have made you unwitting celebrities. Not only do they have to deal with the abuse they've suffered, they have to deal with the media's response to it and the fact that the entire country knows about it. There will be a public record of this for a long, long time, meaning there will be triggers for them everywhere for who knows how many years. TLC didn't commit the crimes against these children but they made it so much worse by making them public figures. They knew what this family was about and they chose to ignore it and put them on TV anyway. Given that this is not the first time something like this has happened, it's unlikely that it will be the last.