We’ve made amazing strides in equality and feminism in the past couple of decades, but in spite of these advances, there are still anti-women cults hiding in the corners of society where women aren’t allowed to have their own property, bank accounts or even email addresses.
Much of this oppression is in the name of religion — or in the name of control. How do these cults still exist in today’s society?
19 Kids and Quiverfull
You’ve probably already seen a family that is frequently associated with one of these cult-like movements — they’ve been a staple on TLC for nearly 10 years. The Duggar family, stars of 19 Kids and Counting, mirror much of what the Quiverfull philosophy is. In these families, women are extremely submissive and believe that they are put on Earth for one reason — to provide children to their husbands.
This idea comes from a Bible verse, Psalms 127 — “Children are a blessing from the world … happy is the man who has a quiver full of them.”
In the Duggars’ case, the oldest daughters have all begun getting married and starting families of their own — to men in the same religious cult, of course. The matriarch of the family, Michelle, believes so firmly in her Quiverfull ideas that she’s resigned herself to death in childbirth if that’s what her God wills.
Her last pregnancy, which would have been child No. 20, ended in a miscarriage in 2011. As she is now in her late 40s, another pregnancy would be very risky for Michelle. However, she continues to believe if it is God’s will, she will either have more children or die trying.
This is the antithesis of women’s rights, and in some cases — like Michelle Duggar and her perpetual pregnancies — it’s dangerous. One could say that someone like Michelle is enacting her religious freedom by choosing to live this way, and that may be true.
However, when young girls are brought up in these communities and they know no different, how could we expect them to think otherwise? The very existence of these philosophies is disturbing and dangerous and continues an old and ugly tradition of denying opportunities to women.
Cults, Terror and the Will of God
Many of these cults, in addition to being anti-women, use religion to hide violent plans and actions. The Army of God, for example, is a recognized terror group and promotes the killing of abortion providers. They’ve taken credit for everything from the killing of these medical professionals to the bombing of a lesbian bar in 1997 in Atlanta, Georgia.
The Phineas Priesthood is part of the Christian Identity movement that pairs religious zealotry with white supremacy — a dangerous combination at the best of times.
This cult has been heavily influenced by the KKK and has taken credit for everything from abortion clinic bombings to bank robberies.
Twelve Tribes may seem like an innocuous group, with its members working for a local restaurant in exchange for room and board, but you don’t have to look far beneath the surface to see something is rotten in paradise.
Members of this cult are expected to convert to the group’s specific religious views, stop all contact with their friends and family, and donate all of their belongings to the group.
Women are expected to get married at 18, as soon as they’re legally considered an adult, and have been instructed to get pregnant as soon as possible after their wedding night. Young girls only receive an education until they’re 12 years old — or younger, if quotas need to be met or students finish the curriculum early. Further education and careers are not an option for women who are members of this cult.
Those who manage to leave Twelve Tribes are considered to have “left the Kingdom of God,” and are excommunicated by their family members and friends who are still part of the organization.
These cults exist right under our noses, and the women who live in them are vulnerable, often because they are so strictly controlled and sheltered they don’t know any other life. Many do not even know the things that could be within their reach outside of their societies, and even the ones that do desire to leave often do not know how.
The fact that these cults still exist in today’s world is frightening, both as a woman and as a human being. Equality, in all its forms, should not be contingent on one’s gender or religion.
However, banning these cults outright is not an option, because it counts as religious discrimination.
This is one more thing we’ll have to overcome on the long journey toward equality — even if all we can do right now is offer awareness, education, and support for women who choose to leave or are desiring to leave these dangerous situations.