Michelle Duggar, the mother of the Duggar family featured in TLC's 19 Kids and Counting, is in hot water because of a transphobic robocall she narrated this month. The Duggars are no stranger to controversy, having drawn criticism for their Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull ideology and their ties to scandal-ridden religious leaders. However, this latest development has put Michelle Duggar's true attitudes on public display.
Earlier this week, the City Council of Fayetteville, Arkansas passed Ordinance 119, an anti-discrimination measure banning housing and employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression, reports the Fayetteville Flyer. Given Arkansas' lack of legal protections for LGBTQ people, as well as the high rates of discrimination and harassment reported by Arkansas' LGBTQ community, the Fayetteville ordinance is a positive step forward on the local level.
Before its approval, the ordinance came under fire from local Religious Right voices, including a Baptist pastor who insisted the ordinance would lead to free speech obstacles, topless women at public pools, people using the wrong restroom, and sexual predators targeting children in dressing rooms. The Arkansas Family Council also condemned the ordinance, claiming that it would infringe on the rights of churches and render business vulnerable to unfair prosecution.
The Fayetteville Flyer reports that on August 18th, a robocall went out to area residents urging them to condemn the ordinance. Narrated by Michelle Duggar, the robocall was paid for by freefayetteville[dot]org, which directs visitors to the Arkansas Family Council website.
In her robocall message, Michelle Duggar refers to transgender women as "men" who "claim they are female" and lumps them together with sexual predators. She demonizes transgender equality as a movement that would allegedly give predatory men access to women and children. (Anita Bryant comes to mind.)
"Hello. This is Michelle Duggar. I’m calling to inform you of some shocking news that would affect the safety of northwest Arkansas women and children. The Fayetteville City Council is voting on an ordinance this Tuesday night that would allow men – yes, I said men – to use women's and girls' restrooms, locker rooms, showers, sleeping areas, and other areas that are designated for females only. I don’t believe the citizens of Fayetteville would want males with past child predator convictions that claim they are female to have a legal right to enter private areas reserved for women and girls. I doubt that Fayetteville parents would stand for a law that would endanger their daughters or allow them to be traumatized by a man joining them in their private space. We should never place the preference of an adult over the safety and innocence of a child. Parents, who do you want undressing next to your daughter at the public swimming pool’s private changing area?The hypocrisy of Michelle Duggar's rhetoric is apparent when one considers the Duggar family's ties to Bill Gothard, founder of the Basic Life Principles ministry and Christian homeschooling supporter. The Duggar family supported Gothard and his ministry, as observed by Wartburg Watch and No Longer Quivering. Earlier this year, Gothard resigned from Basic Life Principles after several women accused him of sexual harassment (more here). To boot, Gothard's Advanced Training Institute counseling seminars promoted callous responses to sexual abuse survivors, as evidenced by this training document. The "umbrella of protection" doctrine he promoted gives authority figures unfair power over subordinates, potentially making them vulnerable to abuse. Critics of Gothard and women who have accused Gothard of predator behavior have urged the Duggars to end their support of Gothard's ministry.
I still believe that we are a society that puts women and children first. Women, young ladies, and little girls deserve to use the restroom and any other women's facility in peace and safety. Will you speak up for protecting women and children? ... Tell the Fayetteville City Council members and Mayor Jordan to vote no on Ordinance 119."
The irony is glaring. Michelle Duggar demonizes transgender people as sexual predators while actual predators in her subculture go unquestioned. LGBTQ equality is maligned as a threat to women and children, while a belief system that actually renders women and children vulnerable is celebrated. In short, Michelle Duggar uses transphobia -- which inflicts real harm on transgender persons, including transgender women and children -- to prop up illusions of safety and protection, while real dangers to women and children go unaddressed.
To read additional commentary, visit the following links.
Liberaland: Michelle Duggar Fighting Against Gay Rights
Huffington Post: Open Letter to Michelle Duggar -- Ignorance is Not Bliss
Arkansas Times: It's always about the bathroom