Stop “Knowing” What Anna Duggar Will Do

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hope’s blog Wide Open Ground. It was originally published on September 12, 2015.

The downside of the cute, quiet  ATI-patriarchal-quiverfull life of the Duggar family is now all over mainstream media. While it’s somewhat of a relief to see the public realize that conservative homeschooling is not as innocent as it seems, as an ATi alum myself, it’s also gets very triggering and downright weary to hear the media mock my childhood leaders as if it’s nothing but a good story for them. Likewise, seeing the Duggar kids pictures on the front page of the tabloids makes me sad. The Duggars aren’t a juicy story to devour. They are a broken, hurting family.

I don’t like what the Duggars have done and are doing, never will, but I am so sick of the media turning the victims into a juicy headline, as they seek to ‘unlock’ what Anna Duggar will do. Poor Anna, she is a headline: “Anna Duggar won’t leave Josh,” the headlines read. In philosophy, we call reducing a woman to a headline the equivalent to reducing her to an object.

Here is what I want to know: How does the media know Anna won’t leave Josh?

They are guessing.

The media is browsing around ‘interviewing’ homeschool alumni or any and everyone who can give them a juicy line about what it’s like to be a Duggar. But none of the juicy lines, usually which were pulled out of context without really understanding of the greater picture, yield any real knowledge of what Anna Duggar will do. The media is guessing.

We need to stop ‘knowing’ what Anna Duggar is going to do.

The media is assuming Anna won’t leave based upon what they think women in cults do when they are cheated upon. But here is the deal. I grew up ATI, and I have seen families divorce on grounds of infidelity. I’ve seen them not.

The media is going to assume the worse about cults, the darkest reality of a cult, not because they care about Anna, but if they can make the ATI religious group the darkest and most freaky group humanly possible, than they can get more page views. So ‘homeschool leaders could support her’ isn’t a good headline. ‘Anna is trapped for sure’ is a much better pickup line.

I should mention that if Anna wants to leave, she does have Biblical grounds for divorce. No, not everyone will argue that she has Biblical grounds for divorce (i.e. John Piper), but she has it, and most Christians know it.

I should mention that even the extreme fundamentalist leader Kevin Swanson recently admitted that Josh Duggar is a disgrace in the podcast Homeschool Murderers. Even leaders are starting to think Josh is kind of evil.

Within Anna’s own family, some have supported Anna all the way, including one of her siblings and cousin Amy. She and Josh have a lot of siblings; I’m sure there are plenty more who will also support her if she divorces Josh.

I do believe that if Anna wants to get out, she will find people within conservative homeschooling who won’t condemn her for divorcing Josh and won’t blame her for not having enough sex with him.

Josh didn’t just cheat. He willingly walked into bars, willingly set up profiles online, and cheated on her over and over. People know they can’t blame Anna for that. Sure, some of the homeschoolers will say Anna just should have had more sex with her wayward husband. But for pete’s sake, she was extremely pregnant with her fourth child when some of this was going on. Leaders can try to ‘blame Anna,’ sure, but it’s going to collapse in their faces. Plus Josh’s parents wouldn’t have sent him away if they thought more married sex was going to cure him.

It won’t be easy for Anna to leave, but she can, if she wants.

Another thing I keep hearing: “Anna Duggar won’t leave because she’s brainwashed.”

Stop calling homeschool alumni brainwashed. It’s insulting and rude.

At this point, we don’t know if Anna will leave or not. It’s her choice, not our choice. It could take her days, months, or years to work this out. Everyone has a different journey. But I believe in Anna, just like I believe in all other homeschool alumni. If other homeschool alumni have escaped, so can Anna.

I don’t have a clue what Anna will do. Neither does the media. But Anna owns this story. It’s her story, not ours, and the media needs to quite telling Anna’s story.

They need to quit ‘knowing’ what Anna will do.


  • No one has the right to absolute self-definition or creating a zone of narrative exclusion. It’s certainly a rational, though arguable thesis that Anna Duggar was brainwashed. Creationism was inculcated into me from a young age, so I speak from experience.

    The Duggars chose to walk into the limelight, and with that choice become subject to the censure all public figures must abide.

    Growing up most of us experienced the detriments of controlled knowledge environments, and so we should welcome and adopt the necessary resilience for engaging with a genuinely open society. The value of the public discussion, which can never operate from a place of perfect information, must take precedence over group objections to the discourse. Experiential knowledge doesn’t mean we own it. Only a multiplicity of competing accounts elicits truth.

    – TheLemur

    • I am uncomfortable calling it brainwashed not only because it has a negative connotation and is therefore rude, but also because all of us in this world are socially constructed beings. But I certainly understand the argument and do not want to belittle the hard work that those like you have done to work out of it.

      • I get where you’re coming from now you mention social constructionism. I don’t really run with it myself. It is only one theory of knowledge and society among many. And theories are superfragile.

      • well the degree to which social construction takes place is controversial, but the fact that we are socially constructed isn’t really controversial and it’s not incompatible with other theories of knowledge (espitemology), with the exception of pure rationalism which is basically dead in the epistemology.

    • Well said, Lemur, but you try to set aside the very valid exhortation to honor that Anna’s story is hers. The Duggars chose and Anna bought into that….or was washed along in it. I agree with what you say and also that the media voice has no heart, no human heart sometimes. They follow stories like bots on the internet track key words. But the objection here, unless I mistake it, is not to group objections. The statement is made in support of one person in the midst of a shit-storm. You know what that shit-storm is because you have been on the inside. I believe it would be wise to allow some space and time for Anna to be as she will be, and listen to her story as she allows it….
      A discussion of the word, brainwashed, with regard to closed systems of fundamentalist Christian groups might be in order but not with Anna included as yet. It might be that she finally informs us in that particular matter.

    • I wonder if a “right to self-definition,” i.e., narcissism as a human right, is muddying the Duggar story.

      Post postmodern American culture (at least as portrayed by Twitter, LOL) is an absolute bloodbath of narcissism. If I were to read more about the Duggars, I’d rather it be through the voice, perspective, and values of newspaper from 25 years ago rather than the “anything for clickbait” chicanery we endure today.

  • I happen to not like brainwashed either. Misled, faith in the wrong place and other things yes? But until a psychologist calls Anna Duggar brainwashed I doubt it.

    I have seen to many women stay, leave, leave and go back, so I feel no need to pick her apart I stated my peace in my own blog post and left it at that.

    She is a grown woman who can do as she pleases. I hope she is one of the strong ones and leaves, but little old me doesn’t have her ear. Nor does people or any of that other crap. I wanted the issues with home schooling to come out, but never like this.

    • An interesting choice of words: “She is a grown woman who can do as she pleases.” As you know, being grown does not always mean being free to choose. Women have a vote and technically in legal terms are free. But is Anna that woman? Does the role foisted on her by very rigid interpretation of gender roles allow Anna to be a free woman? And has she ever had the good fortune to know a free woman in the world or are all her examples women who expouse the Duggar way. You suggest that if she is strong she will leave but what do you know of strength in the cage/glory she lives in? Her husband is a sick character and that much is very very clear. I wonder, charliejenny, what you wanted to come out about homeschooling and are you talking about the kind of homeschooling done for religious purposes specifically or about it in general? I am very pleased that the religious homeschooling phenomenon is being talked about now.

  • I object to the broad paintbrush used for all schoolers in this article. Most of the negativity comes from the ATI curriculum since most of it is not educationally sound. There are better religious based curriculum s out there that don’t have the misleading information that ATI does. It is common knowledge that anything related to Got hard ministries is tainted with misogyny and the creation of a subservient female. Will Anna leave Josh…I hope so. But the reality of her parental influence and her high profile probably won’t allow her to do so.

  • Anna Duggar, and the rest of the Duggar ilk have chosen to live their lives as a literal library of open books. Many families, whether quiverfull or not, chose to homeschool their children. That isn’t the issue. The issue is that this entire family has used “Jesus” and religious ideologies for their own benefit. They spew hatred toward the Gay community. They despise Roman Catholics and do their best to convert Catholics into their fundie fake-Christian ways. When Anna Duggar started courting Josh (yes, I was fascinated by the show because it was so unbelievable and I watched through voyeuristic eyes), she was so needy and clingy and had no opinions on anything. Over the years, she became more vocal on social media–vocal in her hatred and bigotry. I do not feel anything for this woman. It is hard for me to feel anything for people who hate and use God as a shield. You put your life out there, you need to deal with with any criticism and any public opinion that is thrown your way. Even Satan realizes that this family is hypocritical:

  • I believe her brother announced to social media recently that Anna was not going to leave Josh. He offered her and the children a place to stay, and she declined. He said that Anna’s parents and Josh’s parents were telling her not to leave her husband. With all that she’s going through, being a Mom to 4 kids, and then having pressure put on her from her parents AND her inlaws, she’d have to be super strong to step out of her marriage, even if she wanted to. Not brainwashed, maybe…but they sure don’t seem like they’re letting her make the decision without tremendous pressure.

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