The Vagina Clown Car Movement is apparently picking up steam. It’s certainly getting a lot of mainstream coverage. This article in Newsweek says a lot of the things I was too aggravated to say when I wrote my previous blog on the subject. Forgive me for doing a lot of quoting, but I think there’s a lot here that you, gentle readers, need to know, and I can’t really hope to improve on the words straight from the horse’s mouth.
At the heart of this reality-show depiction of “extreme motherhood” is a growing conservative Christian emphasis on the importance of women submitting to their husbands and fathers, an antifeminist backlash that holds that gender equality is contrary to God’s law and that women’s highest calling is as wives and “prolific” mothers.
There you have it, folks. At the heart of the vagina clown car movement is a blatantly sexist agenda. This is about men, not women. Should we be surprised that people who are trying to return to the roots of a misogynist Bronze Age mythology should rediscover the idea that the best way to keep women quiet is to keep them barefoot and pregnant?
Mary Pride, an early homeschooling leader whose 1985 book “The Way Home: Beyond Feminism, Back to Reality” is a founding text of Quiverfull, convinced many readers that regulating one’s fertility is a slippery slope. “Family planning is the mother of abortion,” she writes. “A generation had to be indoctrinated in the ideal of planning children around personal convenience before abortion could be popular.” Instead, Pride and her peers argue, Christians should leave family planning in God’s hands, and become “maternal missionaries”: birthing as many children as He gives them as both a demonstration of radical faith and obedience, as well as a plan to effect Christian revival in the culture through demographic means—that is, by having more children than their political opponents.
Honestly, you couldn’t ask for more. The woman who wrote the book on the subject admits — nay, brags — that this is about controlling politics. We should not take this too lightly. Maybe it’s a fringe element now, but we should never discount the power of large groups of delusional zealots.
Often, children of the movement are also called “arrows.” Quiverfull takes its name from Psalm 127: “Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their enemies in the gate.” A wealth of military metaphors follows from this namesake, as Pride and her fellow advocates urge women toward militant fecundity in the service of religious rebirth: creating what they bluntly refer to as an army of devout children to wage spiritual battle against God’s enemies. As Quiverfull author Rachel Scott writes in her 2004 movement book, “Birthing God’s Mighty Warriors,” “Children are our ammunition in the spiritual realm to whip the enemy! These special arrows were handcrafted by the warrior himself and were carefully fashioned to achieve the purpose of annihilating the enemy.”
I’m actually finding it hard to think of anything to say about this. If you don’t read this and feel a twinge of fear, something is wrong with you. These people are ambitious, zealous, delusional, and growing in power.
Quiverfull advocates Rick and Jan Hess, authors of 1990’s “A Full Quiver: Family Planning and the Lordship of Christ,” envision the worldly gains such a method could bring, if more Christians began producing “full quivers” of “arrows for the war”: control of both houses of Congress, the “reclamation” of sinful cities like San Francisco and massive boycotts of companies that do not comply with conservative Christian mores. “If the body of Christ had been reproducing as we were designed to do,” the Hesses write, “we would not be in the mess we are today.” Nancy Campbell, author of another movement book from 2003 called “Be Fruitful and Multiply,” exhorts Christian women to do just that with promises of spiritual glory. “Oh what a vision,” she writes, “to invade the earth with mighty sons and daughters who have been trained and prepared for God’s divine purposes.”
I mean, hell’s bells, folks! These people think they’re building an army for Jesus! And somebody thinks this is ok? We’re ok with people having seventeen kids and training them all to believe that women are subservient to men, and then getting them to take over Congress? Really? This is ok?
Quiverfull doesn’t follow from any particular church’s teachings but rather is a conviction shared by evangelical and fundamentalist Christians across denominational lines, often spread through the burgeoning conservative homeschooling community, which the U.S. Department of Education estimates has more than 1 million school-age children, and which homeschooling groups say easily has twice that number.
Two million! I wasn’t kidding when I said this movement is dangerous, and that it’s growing. You think eight years of Bushie-Jesus was bad? Wait until Congress is filled with these nut-jobs and they get a president who sees things their way.
Quiverfull’s pronatalist emphasis is linked to a companion doctrine of strident antifeminism among conservative Christians who see the women’s liberation movement as the origin of a host of social ills, from abortion to divorce, women working and teen sex.
If I was a woman, I’m pretty sure I would be absolutely outraged. No more divorce? No working women? And tell me, please, how feminism leads to teen sex. That’s just baffling.
At the forefront of evangelical opposition to feminism is a group of self-described “patriarchy” advocates, who have reclaimed the term from women’s studies curricula to advocate a strict “complementarian” theology of wives and daughters being submissive to their husbands and fathers.
You see? I’m not making this shit up, and I’m not exaggerating.
This resurgent emphasis on women’s submissiveness takes many forms, from the statement by the 16 million member Southern Baptist Convention that wives must “graciously submit” to their husband’s “loving headship” and the theological works being written by the SBC-affiliated Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, to far more severe interpretations that claim women’s absolute obedience to their husbands is the first, necessary step toward Christians reclaiming the culture.
Sixteen million. Yeah, I know, the Southern Baptists aren’t the same as the Quiverfulls, but I can tell you from my own upbringing that anti-feminism and patriarchy are very near the surface in a lot of Baptist churches. I’ve been to a lot of churches, and it’s not hard to spot the sentiment. Trust me. These two groups are allies in the making, and we should not underestimate the power of the SBC in politics.
Some of the next generation of daughters is responding. Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin, two young women in the Quiverfull movement who authored a book encouraging daughters to follow in their mothers’ footsteps, “So Much More: The Remarkable Influence of Visionary Daughters on the Kingdom of God,” instruct their young peers to view motherhood to as women’s “final secret weapon in the battle for progressive dominion.”
Gentle readers, please do not let yourself be lulled into complacency by the reassurance that this is a fringe group, or that they are just a nutty group of extremists who could never hold sway over a whole country. They have two very powerful weapons — religion and motherhood — both of which elicit vitriolic gut level reactions when they are publicly criticized in any way. The people leading this movement know very well what they are doing. They are literally trying to outbreed dissenters and take over the country. It doesn’t take much math to realize that what they’re doing is not only possible, but relatively easy, given a few generations.