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I Blame the Patriarchs, Part 3: Quiverfull Mom Pays, Patriarchs Walk

In November of 2006 I wrote a blog post entitled I Blame the Patriarchs, Part I: The Truth About Full Quiver Families. I wrote this post in part in response to a horrifying series of events in my area in which Kimberly Forder, who had subscribed to my magazine when I was publishing, had been charged with killing her 8-year-old son, Christopher. The Forders lived about 20 miles away from me on a 2.8 acre farm. They had three adult children and had adopted or were foster parents to eight more. They homeschooled, home churched, gardened, lived and dressed “simply.” Forder had been charged with homicide by abuse and neglect, was jailed and her bail was set at $1 million.

Christopher Forder

Christopher actually died in 2002 but charges were not filed against Kimberly Forder until 2006. There had not been enough evidence before that time. What changed was, one of the Forders’ adult daughters went to authorities alleging that her brother, the Forders’ grown son, had raped her. This son, Michael V. Forder, was also arrested. In the course of investigating the rape charges, the two adult daughters told authorities their mother abused and neglected Christopher and that she was responsible for his death because she did not seek medical attention for Christopher when he was sick with pneumonia. Rapist Michael Forder’s attorney then cut a deal with the prosecutor in Kimberly Forder’s case: In exchange for recommending a shorter jail sentence for the rapist, the rapist would testify against his mother and would confirm that what his sisters said about her were true.

Michael V. Forder

These events unfolded in 2006. When I read about it, so much about it seemed wrong, wrong, wrong. It wasn’t true that Kimberly Forder had failed to seek medical attention for Christopher; she had sought the attention of alternative medical practitioners instead of M.D.s. Important, to me, was something that had happened after Christopher’s death. The family patriarch, Robert Forder, assembled the family in the living room as the little boy lay dead in his bedroom. On that evening:

…Robert, told his seven children they had a choice: They could bury their brother in the backyard, or call 911 and risk having the state snatch all of the children away because of Christopher’s obvious bruising.

Robert Forder, according to this account, then told the kids the decision was theirs and he went to bed. Later that night, the parents tried unsuccessfully to revive Christopher with CPR, and a son called 911. The Sheriff’s Department investigated as did Child Protective Agencies. Christopher had died of pneumonia. Though Christopher’s body was bruised and he was very small, no conclusive evidence of abuse was found.

The family then moved to Liberia to be missionaries. Kimberly Forder wrote of wanting to create gardens and a medical center there. She served for a while as a midwife.

At some point after the adult daughter went to authorities to report that she had been raped by her brother, and as the plea bargaining on behalf of the rapist brother was taking place, Kimberly Forder returned home from Liberia to get medical treatment for a debilitating infection. She was then arrested.

Photo of Kimberly Forder from Kitsap Sun.

Kimberly Forder was in jail from August of 2006 until mid-2008. This is what happened during those years of her imprisonment on $1 million bond:

And where was the family patriarch all this time? You know, the priest of the home, the guy who led the Forder’s home church, the one who assembled all the kids that night and told them to either bury their little brother or call 911, it was up to them, either way, he was tired and going to bed. He was these children’s father, after all. Where was he, home-centered dude that he was, when Christopher was being abused all those years? Where was he when his son was deathly ill, other than waiting around for someone else to deal with it? Nobody seems to have cared that for all of those years, Robert Forder was right there in the house and did nothing. Somehow as pertained to him, this was not “neglect.” This was not “abuse.” This was not “murder,” not even “manslaughter,” not even “second-degree manslaughter,” not even being an accessory or negligent. He isn’t even censured. All of it, all of it, all of it falls on the shoulders of his wife.

And why was there no interest in investigating Michael Forder’s recent statement that actually he was responsible for the bruises on Christopher’s body? Why is that dismissed by attorneys and officials as “dishonesty”? The mind boggles. Forder knew if he recanted his earlier statements, he’d do at least twice the amount of jail time. Nevertheless he recanted. Why was that simply blown off? What did he have to gain by recanting?

Robert Forder stayed in Liberia after Christopher’s death, and he’s still there. He got tired of taking care of the seven kids, and dropped them off at a Liberian orphanage. They were returned to Washington and are now in foster homes. According to Kimberly Forder’s father, Joel Park, Robert Forder is ill and may never be back in the U.S.

Which brings me to Kimberly Forder’s father, Joel Park. Park is on the pastoral staff at Harvest Baptist Temple in Medford, Oregon. Harvest Baptist Church is an Independent Baptist Church. Independent Baptists are fundamentalists qua fundamentalists. I noted there was no mention of Joel Park, Forder’s dad and Christopher’s grandfather, in Christopher Forder’s obituary. Her mother and her stepfather are mentioned as Christopher’s “maternal grandparents,” but not her father.

Kimberly Forder

When I read all I could about this three years ago, I came on a comment to a blog entry written by a woman who said that Kimberly Forder had been abused as a child or young woman but had never reported it.

Any number of fundamentalists along the way might have abused her. Most little girls raised in fundamentalist communities are, have been, will be abused. And, more likely than not, Forder never would have gone to authorities, church or civil. As she was groomed to do, as she was taught to do as a little fundamentalist girl, all of her life, she would have “forgiven” her abusers and perpetrators, she would have reminded herself that “Jesus” came first and then “Others,” and only THEN would it be acceptable for her to think about herself, this being the path to godliness and God-fearing Christian womanhood. She would have been taught reverence for church authority — entirely male — and would have been instructed to respect her “authorities”, civil, church and family– even if they were abusing her. If she did somehow, sometime manage to tell someone she had been abused, she might have been blamed for it, told she brought it on herself by her disobedience, or her failure to pray or that God had a reason for her abuse and she should find out what that was. She’d have been told she should forgive. In other words, she would not have had opportunity to make sense of what she’d suffered. She would not have received justice.

All of that and all of the other messages she received as a girl and woman in that community were what brought her to those years in which she took in all of those children, then taught them as she had been taught. I have no doubt she abused and neglected her children by the lights of the mainstream. Most dedicated Quiverfull mothers do. Sometimes they do not recognize that what they are doing — what they have been taught to do, what they understand to be God’s will and mandate, what has been done to them — is, in fact, abuse. Other times what they are doing is cast as “neglect” or even abuse, but it really isn’t, things like avoiding allopathic medical practitioners. Things like keeping children out of schools. Allopathic medical doctors are OFTEN abusive and neglectful, as are schools, school systems, and school officials. When doctors hurt people, though, it’s either cast as an accident or blamed on patients. When schools hurt children, it is also cast as an accident or blamed on students or parents. That doesn’t change the fact that allopathic medicine and traditional educational structures and systems have always been and still are, quite often, both abusive and neglectful themselves. But people go to doctors and hospitals everyday, people send their kids to school everyday, and nobody calls them negligent or abusive and why? Because they are complicit with the system. Because they are behaving as dutiful cogs in the patriarchal machine. Abuses suffered in those institutions are sanctioned by the surrounding culture.

Kimberly Forder paid, at least to some extent, for having abused and neglected her children. Her husband? He walks. No charges were ever brought against him. There he is, free of responsibility for anybody but himself, thousands and thousands of miles away where undoubtedly he is viewed as some great guy because he is a missionary. The rapist son? He is serving time for rape, but evidently, his confession that he abused his brother is going to be ignored as unimportant. Whoever might have abused Kimberly Forder as a child? They’ll never pay. They walk. Those responsible for the abusive teachings, practices and community that groomed Kimberly Forder to be who she was, and to allow and do what she did? They’re going on about their business, living their lives in freedom and relative safety, sending their misogynist, abusive teachings into the world, creating more and more disciples just like themselves, destroying the lives of more and more women and girls, creating more and more patriarchal men out of little boys who, under different circumstances, might not grow up to be quite so patriarchal. These guys will never, ever pay. Heck, they won’t ever even be criticized! The dots, as to them, will NEVER be connected.

It’s just the Kimberly Forders of the world who are going to pay in situations like this one. What the world sees and cares about, what the world denounces, feminists included, the weight of their judgments will always fall on women like Forder, everyone will be outraged and horrified and so on. They will not spend one hot minute considering the reasons and causes and acts and abuses and abject misogyny that resulted in that horrible, horrible night when a sweet little boy died, inexcusably, outrageously, horribly. As Forder’s attorney says, and I believe he may be right, Forder’s only real crime was not calling authorities. Yes, that was a crime. And yes, she should have been called to account for it. But for god’s sake, she should not have been the only one.

Heart

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Discussion

18 thoughts on “I Blame the Patriarchs, Part 3: Quiverfull Mom Pays, Patriarchs Walk

  1. Thank you.

    Posted by Alexandrea | March 31, 2009, 5:40 am
  2. I personally have no way of knowing what Kimberly Forder did or did not do to physically contribute to her son’s death.

    But if it was demonstrated in a court of law that she did, she ought to be fully punished, as any other perpetrator would be.

    I don’t say that out of insensitivity to what abused and dominated women go through in situations like this. Actually, I have survived it myself. But I think that, however tragic it may seem in the individual case, society MUST continue to treat them as free moral agents as fully responsible for their own actions as any other adult. This potential consequence may be their only point of contact with the mainstream understanding of equality. Tough love, as it were – no compromise on the fact that no matter how much their religion says that they are bound to obey men at the expense of their personal conscience, the rest of us WILL NOT play along. Imagine how many potential cases like this are avoided each year because the woman is not so far gone in the fundamentalist mentality that she can’t realize “no matter what Debi Pearl, Doug Phillips and the Apostle Paul have to say about it, the legal system doesn’t acknowledge blind obedience to my husband as valid, and what help will all their books and tapes be when I am called – individually – to account?”

    I understand that there are many cases where a woman’s free will is seriously compromised. To punish them isn’t quite fair. But it’s by far the lesser of two evils if the alternative is to tell them that society isn’t interested in providing an alternative to their diminished understanding of their own responsibility and power. And ultimately, of their full human potential; I have no doubt that Kimberly Forder will be better off in the long run because the state forcibly ended her mental enslavement. If prison time and a criminal record is what it takes to snap her out of it, so be it. Especially if losing a child in the first place didn’t do it!

    I hope this doesn’t look like victim-blaming on my part but we just can’t have society patting these women on the head and saying “there there dear, you were being abused, of course it’s not your fault,” because that will only increase the moral confusion, and diminish the courage, of other women who are faced with the dilemma of whether to follow their patriarchs over a cliff. Plus, wouldn’t the fundamentalist patriarchs just LOVE it if they could get female subordination within the family re-enshrined in legal policy?

    Posted by Elizabeth | April 5, 2009, 10:44 pm
  3. I think I see your point, Elizabeth, when you say that women have to be treated as fully responsible people. And I don’t know what really happened in this case, either. But it seems to me that Heart made a good point when she said that no one seems to have tried to bring the men to justice here. Why is the father not responsible for what happened in his house? I think courts find it easier to go after the women, especially if men bring false testimony against them. Forder was brought to trial partly on evidence given by her son Michael, and then he recanted his testimony and said he was the abuser. So why were the prosecutors not interested in that? So often, if a man kills a child, the mother will be implicated as co-defendant, just because she was there. Forder’s husband was present and in charge when Christopher died, so why was he not at least a co-defendant? That doesn’t make any sense at all. Also, abusers often use law as a threat against mothers to stop them from doing anything. As in, “If you report me, I’ll say you are a bad mother, and then you’ll lose your kids and they won’t have either of us.”

    This made me think about my own parents. Our situation was never this bad. But I remember things like my father slapping and cuffing my little sisters, while they screamed, and my mother standing by wringing her hands and saying things like, “Oh, S.! Not on the head! Don’t hit them on the head!” But she never stopped him. She never reported him to anyone. So I guess a court would have found her equally guilty, if abuse charges had ever been brought. They didn’t take us to the doctor and dentist when they should have, when we were crying with pain from the holes in our teeth. So was that her fault? She didn’t have a job or a car. He had all the money. So she would have had to obtain some money somehow, and then call a taxi to drive us to the dentist. And by the time she’d arranged all that, he’d probably have found out, gone into a screaming rage, and browbeaten her until she was hysterical. So was she guilty of neglect? I just don’t know how to answer that. We were her children. She should have protected us. But, in a patriarchal context, she was doing what she was supposed to do. We were under his authority. I don’t think the courts or society can impose patriarchy on women until something goes wrong, and then try to blank the slate and say that condition never existed and they should have known better. Diminished capacity is a legal defense, and the patriarchy sure as hell diminishes your capacity.

    Posted by anuna | April 9, 2009, 1:45 pm
  4. I don’t think the courts or society can impose patriarchy on women until something goes wrong, and then try to blank the slate and say that condition never existed and they should have known better.

    So true. And, that’s what patriarchy does every single day to women. That right there, you’ve got it.

    What would justice for Christopher Forder look like, I wonder? Was prosecuting and jailing Kimberly Forder justice for Christopher Forder?

    What about this guy? When the son recanted, why wasn’t the father extradited? Then again, what did the son, Michael Forder, recanting even mean, really? Young men in these families grow up having it drilled into them that they are next in command to the fathers, and if their fathers renege and abdicate their responsibilities, it’s up to them to step up. It’s very possible that someone — like his preacher grandpa — got to Michael Forder and told him to “do the right thing,” recant, and take his licks like a man, take responsibility for what his mother did (and his father did since his father has reneged) be his mother’s and younger siblings’ “covering.”

    There are so many tragedies underneath tragedies here. When it was clear Christopher was dying, Kimberly Forder did what she thought God wanted her to do– she turned to her husband, the “priest of the home.” Dude wasn’t up to it. He assembles the family and puts it all on them, as these men OFTEN do in underhanded, cowardly, abusive ways. In this world, there are legions of women told they have to “look to their covering/husband/authority for spiritual leadership,” and when he’s a guy like this guy, they’re supposed to buck up, pray for him, and hope that he will be “won without the word” by their “chaste conversation, coupled with fear.” What kind of man just stays away, remains in Liberia, “serving God” (!), while his wife is jailed, his son is jailed, his family torn apart, lives destroyed? I’ll tell you what kind of men: QUIVERFULL MEN! I have seen these men do things like this OVER AND OVER AGAIN. As soon as things go wrong, as soon as things go sideways, a wife breaks, a child leaves the fold, or “falls into sin,” these guys BAIL in some way. I’m recalling one guy, a leader in this movement, who, when his adult age daughter married an adult age young man in a fundamentalist/anabaptist community (that had different views in some ways), without his permission, without courting first, against his advice, had a nervous breakdown and had to be taken care of by a family in the church. Meanwhile his wife is running the farm, running the home business, caring for all the kids (they had nine), and everybody is feeling sorry for the guy. If a woman divorces one of these guys, they invariably just bail on their kids, find some other woman or get a mail order bride from a developing country, then wander around like sodden victims with tales of woe, completely unconcerned about the lives they were supposedly responsible for as an “authority” and “covering.” Poor me, I was married to a jezebel. And they get plenty of sympathy and support. You never hear about these guys unless you talk to someone like me. They are always PROTECTED by other men and by the patriarchal system they are part of. The women though? The women pay. They have no choice but to pay because they care and they will not bail on their kids.

    anuna, my heart breaks for you and your mom, your kids, mine, all of us. You know, if your mom had borrowed money to take you to the doctor or dentist, called a cab, the other risk she’d have taken was being reported by medical professionals for neglect for not getting you in sooner, or not getting you vaccinated, or not getting this, that or the other thing done that patriarchy thinks mothers should make sure is done to kids (even if it’s destructive, lethal, harmful, you name it). And, she’d have been the one to pay for that, too, not your dad. Our society holds mothers responsible in situations like this. Fathers usually walk.

    Posted by womensspace | April 9, 2009, 4:58 pm
  5. Heart I love your “sodden victims” line. This is SO true. Every single family I have known where the woman divorced the patriarch the patriarch has reneged on caring for his children. I am 10 years out of my abusive marriage and people still think he is a “poor poor man, so hurt”. He still has the sympathies of church and homeschooling folks. What they don’t see is that he has never paid child support except during a brief court case. What they don’t see is that he has continued his reign of terror on his children and only the youngest still speaks to him, albeit only a couple times a year. Every other child has renounced him completely from their lives because of his continued abuse of them. I am sure he has some fine story about how I have turned them against him that he can trot out if this fact becomes known.

    It’s just repeated over and over, the uselessness and immaturity of these men. You don’t automatically see this outside of the patrio christians with divorced men. I think a man who wants to rule over his household and another adult and his children like that is going to have a control freak breakdown when that is taken away from him, as in your story about the man’s inability to deal with his daughter marrying outside of his control.

    Posted by Arietty | April 10, 2009, 1:03 am
  6. You cant take a sad miserable family and hold them up as the norm for QF families. These people dont represent the movement.

    Why dont we see gay couples who kill each other and molest their kids featured in the news as the stereotypical gay couple. Now that is a group whos *divorce rate* is in the high 90s. Child molestation is rampant. Physical and sexual abuse is common and yet we dont ever hear about those horror stories.

    Yes there are problems in the QF movement as there is in any and every group, but c’mon the problem is the people not the movement.

    Posted by GT | April 10, 2009, 5:18 pm
  7. GT, kinda like you can’t take a shiny, glimmering family with their countenances all nicely highlighted by their navy blue and white clothing and the “brightness of the eyes” all in synch and hold them up as the norm for QF families.

    As I’m guessing you know, in the Christian community, all anyone ever sees is depictions of QF families with smiling faces, everybody looks really happy and healthy. But that imagery hides all sorts of horrors and I know them very well, as do the women who read and comment here. Writing about the horrors is not holding them up as the norm. It’s being honest about what Quiverfull movement spokespersons are not honest about– the abuse that goes on in the name of God.

    As to the “problem being the people and not the movement,” how funny. The movement IS the people. There is no abstract movement off on cloud nine somewhere that does not include the people.

    Reminds me of the joke we used to tell in my old world, “I love the church, it’s all the people I can’t stand.”

    As to your lesbophobic, homophobic paragraph there, that is pure hate speech. Do your homework. (Note: This cannot be done by searching fundamentalist/evangelical websites.) The “divorce rate” of gay people cannot be in the high 90s because, hello, for the most part lesbian and gay people are not permitted to marry in the first place. Where have you been? The HIGHEST rates of child molestation ANYWHERE are in patriarchal, fundamentalist communities. The rate of incest, for example, in Amish families is off the charts. We don’t hear about that very much because victims do not report their abusers to police and perpetrators sure don’t report themselves. But women know. Ask any woman who has left fundamentalism and can therefore speak freely. She will tell you about ALL the MANY women and girls raped and sexually abused in her old community. If she was married, she was probably maritally raped by her spouse. Marital rape in fundamentalist families is likewise OFF the chart because men believe they are entitled to women’s sexual services by biblical mandate.

    For the record: the group that has the highest percentage of long-term monogamous relationships is GAY MEN. Bet you never heard that before, did you? You heard the exact opposite, because that’s the lie that is told in evangelicalism, fundamentalism.

    It’s also not true that nobody “hears” about “horror stories” of physical and sexual abuse among gay and lesbian people. James Dobson made a career out of disseminating those horror stories — which were not true. Homophobes tell those horror stories every day. That doesn’t make they any less a lie.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | April 10, 2009, 5:37 pm
  8. Abuse in the name of God? Huh? I dont know what you are talking about.

    When I said the problem is the people I meant the Forders and others like them, but thats a cute little saying about “I love the church, it’s all the people I can’t stand.”…Im gonna use that.;-)

    I said *divorce rate* with little astericks on either side because I know many gays (generally)dont have legal marriages. I lived and partied in the gay communities for many years.

    Gay men have the highest rate of long term monogomous relationship? Thats just crap. I am not getting my facts from evangilistic fundementalist I lived amongst them. Pure crap…there is very little commitment in that community.It is based on lust,s*x.

    I wonder if what you say about the Amish is true …hard to say isnt it? Since we are not Amish and we dont really know. Seems harsh to slander a whole group of people like that though. Very harsh.

    I used to get your magazine years ago and am sorry for all you have been through. Sorry you have been hurt and hope you can move on from this. You went from hating one side to hating the other. Either way its hate. I dont see or feel any peace in your words.Your an angry bitter woman. I hope you can find healing.

    You were indeed at one time a very very gentle person. I always felt that. It conveyed in your writings. I dont feel that anymore. Perhaps life has hurt you terribly and I am sorry for that. Again, I hope you can move on.

    Posted by GT | April 10, 2009, 6:18 pm
  9. GT, up there at the top of my blog under “Quiverfull” it says “Women making knowledge…”

    Are you a woman? No. So why are you here, commenting? Why aren’t you respecting this space?

    You do know about abuse in the name of God, GT, so don’t play dumb, you aren’t. You’ve read about abuse in the name of God right here on this blog. You are very aware of it.

    Do your research about gay men. I do not care that you “lived among them,” that tells me nothing, and in particular, it tells me nothing about gay men’s level of commitment or whether their relationships are based on lust or sex. (You can spell “sex” out here, it isn’t a dirty word.) I’d be a rich woman if I had a penny for all the fundamentalist men I’ve known who married a woman because they lusted after her. In rigidly moralistic communities like these, that’s what happens: people marry to avoid “burning” with lust (“It’s better to marry than to burn…”), meaning marriage is all ABOUT sex and lust for them. People marry for sex and lust every single day of the year. So speak for yourself, thanks.

    I have never “hated” either “side” at any time, and I don’t now. I’m not strung together that way, never have been. Hate’s not something I’ve ever felt much of, or been good at. Of course you do not feel peace in my words– you feel indicted. As you should. It’s entirely appropriate. If you’re a Quiverfull man, I DO indict you and I do, unapologetically, accuse you.

    I’m as gentle as I ever was, bro– just not when it comes to abusers. There, I am as fierce and unrelenting as I want to be and proud of it. How entirely bizarre it would be for me to continue to be gentle with those who have caused me great harm. I’m not a masochist, though I once tried to be because I believed God and men required it of me. I got better. I know better. And when we get better, and know better, we do better.

    You bet I’m angry. And I am appropriately bitter towards those who continue to abuse women and children in the name of God and who fail to make amends to all the many people they have harmed. In fact, being appropriately angry and bitter have been central and crucial to the healing and moving on you’re talking about.

    I’m doing just fine. I have finally learned, after all these years, that one big error I have made in my life is, I have turned to the wrong people, time after time, for support and community. There are reasons for that, and learning what those reasons are has been a turn in the road for me, quite healing indeed.

    Since you’ve failed to honor the purpose for this blog, I will have to moderate all comments now. Please don’t comment here again. This blog is for women only.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | April 10, 2009, 6:48 pm
  10. P.S. If you subscribed to my magazine “years ago,” your first sentence here, commenting to my blog (even though you were not supposed to be commenting because you are a man and not a woman) should have been, “I’m sorry for what happened to you. That was wrong.”

    The arrogance of you guys. It stuns.

    Posted by womensspace | April 10, 2009, 6:59 pm
  11. I’m a woman. I dont feel indicted. I feel sorry and scared. I know how people can fail us and I am sorry that you have been hurt so. Scared because I fear life may hit me hard like it has you.

    I do however glean that you are a very strong-willed woman so it is hard for me to believe that you were ever a victim of the QF movement.

    You were a pioneer who helped build the foundation of that movement, how can you now claim to be a poor helpless victim of something you helped create?C’mon if anything wouldnt you have to admit that you were a perp, not a victim.

    Again, I remember your writings as being so kind and full of love and patience for new moms. Truly gentle. Not anymore.

    Posted by GT | April 10, 2009, 7:01 pm
  12. GT, re your most recent post now in moderation.

    You say you are a woman; your e-mail address bears a man’s name. I know women in your world do this, so maybe you are a woman.

    Before I approve any more comments from you, go read this:

    http://www.unattributable.com/2009/02/a-brief-squint-at-the-altogether-fascinating-quiverfull-movement/

    Read what happened to me. I do not know the people who wrote this, or who wrote this, but they did a really good job.

    After you have read, come back and comment again.

    You bet I’m a strong willed woman. I’m 15 years out of that movement and barely survived my years IN it. I’ve had to be strong in order to live and not die. I’ve given birth to and raised 11 children, nine of them to adulthood, while working my ass off to support them. I have survived decades of physical, emotional, spiritual and sexual abuse. To do that, I had to be strong. But that movement can (and has and does) BREAK WOMEN. It can break the strongest woman there is.

    I do not intend to make you afraid. I intend to tell the truth, my truth, as I have lived it and know it.

    It appears that despite the fact you subscribed to my magazine, you don’t know what happened to me (or don’t want to know). So learn. Then come back and comment, if you want to. (However, if I continue to have this idea you’re a man, I won’t approve your comments.)

    Remember: this is a blog for women making knowledge out of our experiences in the Quiverfull movement. If, GT (or any other woman) that’s what you want to do, then good. If you want to do something else, you’ll have to do it elsewhere.

    Posted by womensspace | April 10, 2009, 7:12 pm
  13. That “angry bitter woman” comment from GT certainly took me back to some memories. This accusation has been used against every woman who ever dared criticize the patriarchy, I think. In my world, as I see things now, “angry” is just a descriptive term. It is neutral. It describes someone having an emotion. That could be good or bad, depending on how it is expressed and what the causes are. But when it’s used of women, by those guys, it is always bad, bad, bad. Women evidently are not allowed to be angry, no matter how great the causes.

    They bring this accusation so triumphantly–“look at you, you’re ANGRY!”–as if the fact that a woman is justifiably angry nullifies any responsibility on their part to deal with the causes of that anger. So a simple human emotion is not only forbidden to us, but is used as justification to attack us some more. It’s very similar to the patriarchal way of “disciplining” children. If the child cries and shows evidence of distress, that is just a reason to spank more. Spank till they stop crying. Bully women until they don’t dare express any more anger. Both of these techniques on the part of the patriarchy are dehumanizing.

    I’ve found that men expect me to react with shame when they call attention to the fact that I’m angry. Sometimes they seem genuinely baffled when I respond “Damn right I’m angry!” I no longer apologize for my indignation. There are many things in the world that should be vigorously rejected as unacceptable. That is what anger means to me. I do not allow it to be destructive in my life, but I welcome its energy to help me speak out against things that should never be meekly accepted!

    I also detest being told that I seem “hurt” and that they hope I’ll “move on.” That is just their way of wishing that I will shut up soon. It’s also a way for them to make themselves feel better, and assure themselves of their continued superiority to me. Pfui, I say! Fiddle dee dee, and other less ladylike exclamations.

    One of the saddest things I ever saw in my group was the way that women who expressed legitimate concerns were marginalized. Yes, “angry” and “bitter” were used as weapons against them. They were also said to be mentally ill, or emotionally disturbed. This happened to a very wonderful woman I knew, whom I will call Martha. She was very close to my best friend. Martha was wise, spiritual, compassionate, and very down to earth. She had been in the movement from the beginning, and when she saw the bad turn it was taking, she didn’t hesitate to speak up. She had great faith in God and the power of prayer, and she believed that she would be heard. Instead, she was hounded out of the community she had helped to build, isolated, shunned, slandered.

    And then she got cancer. For other people who were ill, the group would rally around and help with child care, cooking, intense prayer. Not for Martha. She was no longer a sister in their eyes. Even her husband cheated on her as she got sicker. At that point, I had already been kicked out of the group, but I was still in contact with my friend. She loved Martha dearly and was completely torn up by what was happening to her. She begged me to visit Martha in the hospital, so of course I went. The last time I ever saw her, she was in ICU. I asked her if there was anything at all that I could do to help–if I could pray with her, bring her anything, do anything. She said, so very wearily, “Just tell the nurses to turn off the lights so I can sleep.”

    This wasn’t just one instance of mistreatment by misguided individuals. It was POLICY. Isolate women and silence them. The problem is the people AND the movement. And yes, I am angry!

    Posted by anuna | April 10, 2009, 9:38 pm
  14. Another nail, hammer, bang from anuna!

    Reminds me of this from Lundy Bancroft’s book:

    “One of the basic human rights [an abuser] tries to take away from you is the right to be angry with him. No matter how badly he treats you, he believes that your voice shouldn’t rise and your blood shouldn’t boil. The privilege of rage is reserved for him alone.”

    We’re supposed to buck up and put a smile on our faces and say nothing to prove we have “moved on” and “healed.” All the while, the abuse of women and children continues.

    Posted by womensspace | April 10, 2009, 9:59 pm
  15. Thank you for this space. I did not come from a background of Quiverfull, but I was raised in the fundamentalist movement. Reading these posts have been entirely liberating for me…to see that I was not alone in feeling marginalized, abused, ignored, and mistreated by those who would mistake holiness for harm. To the women who post: thank you for your voices.

    Posted by LiLi | April 13, 2009, 6:02 pm
  16. Heart,

    I too eagerly read Gentle Spirit Magazine years ago when I was an idealistic teenage daughter in an Anabaptist homeschooling family, so I was thrilled to find your blogs recently.

    I have so much admiration for your strength and your never-say-die spirit! I’m so sorry for the pain and suffering you have experienced along the way–and as a public figure, it must be maximized in so many ways.

    In response to the issue of abuse among Amish(/ Mennonites) (my background), I can say it absolutely exists. Even those who might verbally denounce sexual abuse still give the benefit of the doubt to the abuser and definitely use the “But she’s angry/bitter/unforgiving” to attack the victim.

    I don’t remember the stats, but they are shockingly high. IMO, whether it is more or less frequent than in the mainstream is beside the point (at the moment)–the crucial issue is that women and children have no equitable way to confront the abuse. All they can do is “forgive.” The powers that be are so invested in “restoration” (aka, covering up, waiting for the problem go away, pretending there aren’t profound issues to address, giving the abuser time to “repent,” etc.) that they will sacrifice any number of women and children in order to maintain an image of “purity.”

    It seems to me that in these conservative, patriarchal circles, the line that divides the “sins” that are addressed from those that aren’t is whether or not they challenge the patriarchy. If it does–“Rebellion! Witchcraft! Jezebel!” If it doesn’t–“Mercy! Restoration! Forgiveness!”

    Thankfully, there is some indication that this issue is being given more attention in some Anabaptist circles. But it has a long, long way to go in making necessary systemic, cultural changes among the Amish and conservative Mennonites.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for connecting the dots as you are doing here! There is so much work to be done in addressing hyper-patriarchy from a theoretical, scholarly perspective.

    BTW, I’m now a graduate student in Rhetoric and Composition with a secondary area in Women’s & Gender Studies. Just watch and see how many feminists the hyper-patriarchy/Quiverfull movement produces! 🙂

    Posted by Naomi | June 7, 2009, 6:09 pm
  17. “I’m not a masochist, though I once tried to be because I believed God and men required it of me.”

    I absolutely LOVE this that you wrote, Heart. I know you don’t know me… and I just found you all… but I am so thankful I found you. I wrote in another comment that I don’t have experience with the QF movement. But I do have experience with sexual abuse. The only man I was ever engaged to used date rape as a means to keep me, he thought. He said that I told him once that if we had sex that we had to get married. What I *actually* said was if we are going to have sex, I would like us to be married. I was at a very pivotal point in my walk (with God) and I wanted to “do right” by that. I didn’t mean what he twisted it to be. And as it stood, I used to get terrible, terrible migraines. One day, I took some medicine that a Male doctor gave me (who, i to this day think, thought i wanted something narcotic??) and it made me loopy. That’s when he asked me if I wanted to have sex and I said yes. But it was like a dream or like I wasn’t all there. AND I KNOW HE KNEW THAT. Because that’s when he told me that I said if we ever did have sex we would have to get married. It had been a year and a half and we were engaged. He knew my past, and how I wanted us to wait until we were actually married.

    This all happened 14 years ago. Reading your stories makes me realize just how lucky I was when he screwed me over… I mean, I wasn’t lucky at the time. It sucked. He took advantage of me, and I was told that it was “MY” fault. That he did nothing wrong. But I know it wasn’t my fault. It was his. He felt this RIGHT to do something to me because it would get him the ‘marriage’ he wanted. And I wanted SO MUCH TO BE LOVED. But when that happened… I knew it was wrong. I just knew. Not just by what he did at that moment, but all the moments afterward… with him and his family. Blaming me. Um… no. And don’t get me wrong, I have (in the past) felt like it was maybe partly my fault. But, then I realize that ‘fault’ wasn’t mine… to trusting, yes. I tried to give them all more power than they deserved. And then they took advantage.

    Frankly, if he would have owned up to his mistake, then I would have thought him a better man. But he didn’t.

    And, it only takes one time, btw, to get pregnant. For which I found out all too soon… he, of course, didn’t use protection… and I had stopped birth control when we started dating… and it doesn’t seem the place where you all will judge, but the worst day in my entire life was when I did decide to not move forward with that. 😦 Tears my whole heart out to this day. But I just could not, could not, could not allow that family to take a child away from me. And blame me. Shoot me now.

    For those reasons, and many more, I have never married. I do have my own daughter by way of adoption. I wouldn’t change my life for the world. I am still a practicing Christian, but most would consider me way far from the right.

    This whole Patriarchal crap just makes me want to hurl. Thank you for reading my story. I know you have comments moderated and you might not want to post it. But, for some reason, I just felt like I needed to share. Thank you for that. It is so hard sometimes to realize what these people can do to us and our lives. And I thank God that I did not allow myself to give up on my own life for the sake of that one man.

    I love your blog. LOVE it. And, I hope yo don’t mind, but I’m going to steal that quote I posted above. SO TRUE.

    Peace.
    Melissa

    Posted by Melissa | July 29, 2009, 8:25 pm
  18. PS. Oh, I really started to post on this because I whole-heartedly agree with you regarding women taking all the blame. WTH. I mean, really, where was that FATHER, MAN, Robert Forder who was supposed to be *all that* anyway?!!! Oh, that’s right… he ran away. I think we can still hear him oinking.

    Good God. 😦

    Peace.
    Melissa

    Posted by Melissa | July 29, 2009, 8:35 pm

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