Last year there was a discussion on an e-mail list I’m on about the Duggars, the notoriously large family of 17 (soon to be 18) children. There were comments about how that was too many children to give individual attention to each, a snide comment or two about Mrs. Duggar’s hairstyle, and the general consensus seemed to be that the Gosselins were a more “real” family to whom my list-mates could relate because the Duggars seemed too scarily perfect in a Stepford sort of way.
At the time, I had heard of the Duggars but not the Gosselins, but hadn’t seen either family on TV. Curious, I searched the TV listings, found the Gosselins’ show John & Kate Plus 8 (a regular series) along with a show about the Duggars (who do not have a regular series; I know of only two documentary-type shows featuring the family). I watched the Duggar documentaries and a couple of episodes of John & Kate, and did some online reading that revealed some of the similarities and differences between the two families.
Differences: John and Kate Gosselin only (did I say only????) have 8 children, a set of twins and a set of sextuplets, while Jim-Bob and Michelle Duggar have more than twice as many, with two sets of twins but the rst single births. The Duggars homeschool their children, while the Gosselins do not. The Duggar children behave so well and their parents are always so calm and relaxed (at least in the two documentaries) that it’s enough to give most normal parents an inferiority complex, while the Gosselin kids often run their parents ragged.
Similarities: There are a lot of people out there who really, really, REALLY hate these people. A lot of people have spent a lot of time online venting their spleen against these two families, and in particularly against these two mothers. The “lazy shrew” part of this post title refers a blog characterization of Kate Gosselin, while the “breeder pig” part refers one of the many vile epithets about Michelle Duggar that pollute the internet.
Let’s take the lazy shrew first. There is a blog called Gosselins Without Pity in which fans (if people who watch a show obsessively and then complain about it can be called fans) of the show post their comments, which frequently take the form of long, detailed explanations of what Kate Gosselin did wrong, why she’s (a) a control freak, (b) lazy, (c) mean to her husband, (d) mean to her kids, (e) all of the above. Jon gets either sympathy for being henpecked, or contempt for not setting his carping shrew of a wife straight.
I have to be honest and say that I simply haven’t watched the show often enough to know whether these criticisms are justified or not. I am too busy taking care of my own four children to watch any non-news TV regularly. In the two episodes I did see, Kate did nothing especially reprehensible. And if she gets testy sometimes, well, I can see how that might happen when you have two 7-year-olds and six 3-year-olds in the house. My one 3-year-old alone is enough to drive anyone to distraction.
In addition to the Gosselin-specific blogs (there are more than just the one I mentioned) there is much discussion of Jon’s and Kate’s (but especially Kate’s) shortcomings elsewhere on the web. This post at imperfectparent.com from last October has garnered well over 13,000 comments so far. A more recent article from a few months ago has 3,500-plus comments and they’re still pouring in.
Now for the breeder pig. Online haters of Kate Gosselin have nothing on the crowd that picks on Michelle Duggar. Adlyn Morrison posted on her blog last month a collection of particularly vile comments posted at You Tube after the Duggars announced they were expecting their 18th child.
Nice f***ing hair, breeder pig.
oh god…twisted fundamentalist midwestern Christians…bah all the girls have those ugly long hair styles and they’re all wearing dresses…”cough…these people must really hate gay people.. [sic; all capitalization and punctuation errors in original]
How wearing dresses and having long hair signify hatred of homosexuals is beyond me. A third opines,
This family disgusts me. I’m surprised this woman’s uterus hasn’t fallen out while walking down the street. [Misplaced modifier alert: the uterus isn’t walking down the street; the woman is.]
Personally, I think the state of Mrs. Duggar’s reproductive organs is her own business, and far too private a matter for internet speculation, but alas, all too many people don’t agree. A particularly offensive photo crops up frequently on websites and blogs discussing the Duggars. It is a formal studio portrait of the Duggar family, on which some devilishly clever and classy person has added the caption, “VAGINA: It’s not a clown car.” The photo appears, for example, here, where still more people are spouting off with great wit and verve about Mrs. Duggar’s reproductive organs and hair (one comment eloquently opines that Mrs. D’s hair is “f***ed up”).
Earlier this month, there was a discussion on the Pregnancy and Parenting bulletin board about the Duggars, and while many of the comments were either supportive of the Duggars or expressing the view that it’s no one else’s business how many children the Duggars have, there were a few making comments like this one from Kathy on July 11:
Personally, I think that BOTH Michelle and her husband, Jim Bob, need to be rounded up and FORCIBLY STERILIZED!!…Can you imagine the ABSOLUTE DRAIN on the environment that this ONE FAMILY creates???…No wonder that the environment is in such terrible shape and Global warming is increasing with SELFISH people like Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar (doesn’t that name just SCREAM hilbilly hick??) draining the Earth’s natural resources with their endless brood! [ellipses mine; original post was longer]
The “kids are bad for the environment” argument is something I’ve posted about before. This is strictly an affluent Westerner’s line of thinking, the sort of reasoning you get from the kind of people lampooned on StuffWhitePeopleLike.com.
While one does find defenses of big families online, one finds far more of the obnoxious and insulting attacks, like the question posted on Live Journal asking, “do you think the duggars are batshit insane?” Needless to say, many respondents did.
By allowing TV cameras into their homes, the Gosselins and Duggars have opened themselves up to this sort of thing, just as I have opened myself up to it by starting a blog. I now receive insulting comments (mainly on my political posts) but that’s the price of being in the public eye. The negative comments people make in cyberspace about Kate Gosselin are sometimes mean, but they focus primarily on her parenting style, whereas the comments about Michelle Duggar are often truly beyond the pale.
Update 12/28/08: This post has been updated to show longer quotes in block quote format. None of the content has been altered.