How “19 Kids and Counting” Harms Women

by Women’s Center Ambassador Sarah Westoby

When flicking through the channels at my boyfriend’s house (I don’t have full cable at my house), I came upon “19 Kids and Counting” on TLC. While I had seen the show before and passed it off as a crazy woman who must enjoy being pregnant, I took some time to watch it. The episode was about Jill Duggar getting married. The family has very strict rules for marriage. Some of these rules are not kissing until the wedding day, not dating- only courting where there is a chaperone, and nothing premarital but hand holding. These seem truly archaic, but the Duggars have been making headlines for a while now.

My issue with these ideas of courting is that they show no trust in either their daughter or her “suitor.” They don’t trust them to be alone together. Either the boyfriend will “pull a move” on the daughter or vice versa. This assumes that the boyfriend is sex crazed and can’t control himself. It also assumes that a woman cannot protect herself either. This reinforces traditional gender roles and could negatively affect the children that watch the program.

Another issue with these rules involves the ideas of domestic violence. I can’t imagine even dating someone who I haven’t seen mad and upset. If you are constantly chaperoned by someone while dating, how would you know how they act with you alone. The odds are against the Duggars. They have 9 daughters and research suggests 1 in 4 women will become victim to domestic violence. Because people act differently around chaperones, no one may see the signs of violence that could escalate after marriage in this situation. This could lead to violent situations.

There is no way to avoid the influence of television and media. So I worry about how the Duggars’ archaic view on marriage will affect children and women in years to come. Marriage involves making sure that you know the person that you want to spend the rest of your life with. If the media contradicts that, women and teens could be taken advantage of.

19 kids


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