The Duggar family - stars of the TLC reality show 19 Kids and Counting - is in the news again and not because they added a 20th child to their brood. No, an internet petition on Change.org is calling for TLC to cancel 19 Kids and Counting because of the family's recent opposition to an anti-discrimination ordinance in Arkansas.
The ordinance - which passed by the way - prohibits businesses and public accomodations from discrimination against people based on the person's sexual orientation or gender identity.
I signed the petition.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I have never supported the Duggar's particular brand of conservative family values. I watched several of their specials before the family's reality show began and was always struck by how limited the roles for women were within their ideology.
The family belongs to the Quiverful Movement - an evangelical Christian movement that eschews birth control and believes that heterosexual married couples should welcome as many children as God sees fit to give them.
Now, I do not subscribe to that belief. I believe children are a blessing - a blessing that should be CHOSEN because of the huge psychological, emotional, financial, and physical investment they require. I have children because I want to be fully experience raising them myself. For me, that does not mean a buddy system in which older siblings raise the younger siblings - a system Michelle Duggar has openly endorsed.
I also believe that there is room at the table for every form of family - from homosexual families to single parents to unmarried couples raising children from other partnerships. In fact, I think there is room for people who chose more conservative versions for themselves.
Let me be clear - I have no problem with conservative Chirstians who chose to have large families.
That is not what this is about. For example, my love for the Brown family of TLC Sister Wives fame is well-documented. These are conservative people who believe in a VERY different version of family than I practice in my own life.
However, unlike the Duggars, the Browns do not use their celebrity to limit the choices of other families AND do not proscribe the choices of their own children - especially their daughters.
I remember one scene in particular during the first season of Sister Wives. Cody Brown was sitting with his eldest daugther with his first wife. The daughter wanted to go to the Air Force Academy after graduation. Currently, she was attending a private conservative Mormon high school. Cody was encouraging her to leave the religious high school and attend a secular public high school, which was accredited, to increase her chances of attending the Air Force Academy.
Let's contrast this with one of the few episodes I've seen of 19 Kids and Counting. Michelle Duggar was sharing how blessed she felt that God had given her all these daughters first to take care of all these little boys. While I'm as big a fan of sibling responsibility as the next person, what if the daughters had other plans. What if they didn't want to spend all their free time caring for younger siblings? What if they want to attend college?
I know the Duggar children have been afforded great opportunity thanks to their family's reality show but what if they'd also like the opportunity to take a different path? What if they don't want to get married at 18? What if they don't want to have as many children as God blesses them with? What if one of those 19 children is gay?
There seems to be very little room for belief systems outside their own - inside their family and without. And that's what I can't stomach. I am a proud feminist. If you want to vacuum every day in high heels and pearls, GO FOR IT! If you want to have 25 children and let your husband run your life, more power to you!
BUT don't tell me or your daughters or other families they have to follow in your footsteps because God says so. And don't use your considerable celebrity to promote dangerous stereotypes that limit the freedom of choice among others.
With great power - which celebrity is - comes great responsiblity, it is my opinion that the Duggar family abuses that power.
That's why I signed the petition.