TLC reality television has been a guilty pleasure of mine for years. When I saw that Shiny Happy People was coming out on Amazon Prime, I could hardly wait to watch it! I binged the four-part documentary within two days. The series did not disappoint. It gave context to the Duggar family culture and details the teachings of the IBLP (Institute in Basic Life Principles) that this reality tv family follows diligently. I had enjoyed watching 19 Kids and Counting and Jill & Jessa Counting On over the years, because they lived so differently than the average American household. The lifestyle, family culture, and logistics of having 19 children was intriguing to watch. Here are my big takeaways from the miniseries:
*Spoiler Alert! I will be detailing the series, so if you have not watched Shiny Happy People yet stop reading.*
Gender Roles: Gender roles within the Duggar family were archaic, cringy, and fascinating to watch the past several years. I did not put two and two together that this dynamic creates the perfect storm for abuse to transpire. In retrospect, this should be obvious. Within this CULTure, women are heavily controlled in how they act, dress, family planning (or lack thereof), and are held responsible for the thoughts and actions of men even in situations of sexual assault. The teachings of the IBLP are incredibly dangerous to women and children specifically. The women are groomed to be completely dependent on their husbands at a very young age and often become stuck with no way out of an abusive relationship. The series gave the microphone to several women and families who were a part of the IBLP to speak on how this environment impacted them through childhood into adulthood.
Jill Duggar: Jill Duggar has been through a lot with her upbringing, growing up on a reality television show, and the abuse she experienced at the hand of her own sibling, Josh Duggar. This series gave her an avenue to talk about her experiences on her terms honestly. She seems to be taking small steps to live authentically and not in constant fear of being perfect.
IBLP: I had no clue about the religion the Duggars followed. The documentary details the teachings of this organization and the impact it has on its followers. I was pretty blown away by the religious teachings and how detrimental they are to women and children specifically.
The overarching theme of obedience makes it easy for abuse to happen, go unreported, and blame the victims for abuse that transpires.
From a Mother’s Perspective: As a mom, so many of these teachings are incredibly concerning. Children are taught to be obedient to a point that they do not know how to advocate for themselves in dangerous situations (like sexual assault.) The women are encouraged to have as many children as possible. This can be detrimental to the health of the mother and makes it almost impossible to leave an abusive relationship. Education is not a focus within the culture, which makes it challenging to succeed financially. Many of the discipline practices use physical and emotional abuse to control their children. As parents, our actions will impact our children for years to come. I can only imagine the amount of therapy those that have grown up in this religion will need to recover.