As a queer woman, I have long disliked the Duggars for using fame to push an agenda of intolerance. The family stars in one of TLC’s most successful shows. Their Instagram account has one million followers, their Facebook page over 700K, and their Twitter account nearly 135k. The social media accounts of each individual Duggar boast similar numbers; Josh Duggar alone has nearly 120k Twitter followers and over half a million on Instagram. To say this is an influential American family is something of an understatement.
I recognize the allure of a conservative family that preaches a life of religious servitude and wholesome values. I realize the dichotomy of our Kardashonian society and the viewers who crave something virtuous, a television family they can relate to, for instance. But I would pledge a lifetime allegiance to the Kardashian clan before uttering a single supportive word to the Duggar family. They are bigots masquerading as altruists.
The family’s conservative leanings are no secret. As reported in Us Weekly, the Duggars came under fire from LGBT groups last year when they donated $10,000 to repeal anti-discrimination legislation in their hometown of Fayetteville, Arkansas. In the face of backlash they posted a bible verse to the family’s Facebook page that also included this excerpt: “We will always stand for truth and the values we hold dear without compromise …” Also last year, Radar online unearthed footage of Michelle Duggar’s lesbian sister, Evelyn, from a family reunion filmed during the first season 19 Kids and Counting. The article reports that the sisters have a frosty relationship and that Evelyn never again appeared on the show.
The Advocate then reported that Change.org collected over 200,000 signatures in a petition to have 19 Kids and Counting pulled from the air when Michelle Duggar recorded a transphobic robocall in opposition to the ordinance. Michelle compared transgender people to pedophiles, and in what is now eerily ironic language claimed her doubts that “parents would stand for a law that would endanger their daughters or allow them to be traumatized by a man.”
Before their account went silent in the aftermath of scandal, one of the @Duggarfam’s final tweets rallied support for pro-life legislation. They used this hashtag: #theyfeelpain.
I took issue with them before this highly publicized scandal because I see no greater insult to humanity than those who spread hate and intolerance in the name of God. The Duggar family abuses the privilege of their fame to endorse hate. They preach bigotry under the guise of love, forgiveness and prayer. They promote female servitude while judging what they deem to be the sins of others as they arrogantly excuse their own misdeeds.
I take some satisfaction in the gay community’s involvement in outing the Duggar’s hypocrisy. Earlier this year, a woman named Tandra Barnfield posted a photo on Instagram of she and her wife kissing in front of the Duggar home in Arkansas. When her post went viral Barnfield was contacted by a reporter from InTouch, and during their exchange she mentioned the Josh Duggar police report.
The West Coast Editor of InTouch, an openly gay male, was one of the reporters who then did the journalistic digging to break the story. He spoke to The Advocate last week and appeared pleased with his involvement.
The Duggars interviewed exclusively with Fox News for an obvious shot at public redemption. Even Sarah Palin weighed in—for no reason I can think of—saying “… with our family, too, like the Duggars is that people actually make their living by digging and poking and prodding, trying to find something on conservative families and trying to destroy them and their reputations.” Palin failed to mention that it is not only conservative families that come under media scrutiny, or that there is public vitriol toward the Duggar family because of their public message of prejudice.
Our culture is in the middle of a divide. I am envious of the Kardashians and their private jets, waist-trainers and empire of luxury brands, but I also want for something else, something relatable. I believe, however, in the transparency of imperfection. I believe in a message of inclusion and freedom, and I know that to stand upon a pedestal is to beg a loss of balance, as the Duggar family has so publicly proven. I want to believe this is Karma, but it isn’t, because their children do not deserve public humiliation. Their daughters did not deserve physical abuse nor did they deserve to be silenced and brainwashed into compliance.
I am not a mother yet, but as my wife and I move forward with starting a family, I worry about how I will protect my own children from others like the Duggars who dare cast their family as better than my own or any other. I cannot imagine that, having been raised to believe in their own self-worth, their daughters would excuse Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar for the atrocities committed against them.
There is a responsibility to being in the public eye, and I encourage more families to promote love, equality, and the camaraderie of human values. A platform is a privilege, and a following as vast as the Duggars’ presents a chance to make the world a better place for everyone, even families different than our own. In the aftermath of their public condemnation, I hope the Duggars have learned this.