A guest post by Mike Hunt Ray Rice

In September 2014 Lena Dunham’s memoir Not That Kind of Girl was released. In it, she talks of molesting her younger sister. There was some minor negative commentary, but Dunham was defiant, and seems to have suffered no loss of popularity because of it, and her show Girls was renewed in January.

It has come to the public’s attention that Josh Duggar, the oldest child on 19 Kids and Counting, molested 5 girls when he was a teenager, 4 of whom are his sisters. In contrast to the mild reaction to Dunham, a firestorm has erupted over Duggar. TLC has currently decided to suspend its airing of the shower.

These stories seem similar to me, yet there is a big difference in the public reaction. The question is: why? One possible reason is that Dunham is a woman, while Duggar is a man. It seems more wrong and predatory when a boy explores his curiosity with his younger sisters than when a girl does it.

However, I think it is more than that. I think the reason for the differing public reactions is that Dunham is “cool” and Duggar isn’t. Since Dunham is cool, any great criticism of her is going to make the critic seem uncool. However, since Duggar and his family are seen as weird, any criticism of him is going to be safe. As much as people cry about “punching down” people seem to enjoy it when it comes to Duggar.

Also, Duggar’s politics and his religious beliefs are far out of the mainstream, and he has actively worked against the expansion of LGBTQ rights. Since they are the current favored minority, people are going to do anything they can in order to poke a hole in Duggar’s credibility.

Duggar did these things as a minor. There is a reason why juvenile police records are sealed. The fact that these reports were redacted so cavalierly is a major concern to me. Duggar apologized to those he hurt, and he told his wife before they were married, and she still married him. It really isn’t anyone else’s business. Dunham put it in her memoir in order to make money from her molestation; Duggar was forced to talk about it publicly.

I have never watched 19 Kids and Counting, or Girls for that matter, so I have no vested interest in either show airing or not. I am only writing this post because the hypocrisy that people are showing is troubling. I wish I could say it was surprising, too…

Category: Newsroom

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15 Responses to Josh Duggar vs Lena Dunham

  1. Lightening Rod says:

    This complaint only makes sense if you ignore a bucket-full of relevant details and collapse each situation down to the lowest common denominator. Dunham was seven when she peeked at her little sister’s vagina. She also tried to bribe her with candy to kiss her and masturbated while they were in the same bed. Oh, my! Josh was a teenager when he molested five younger girls, one of which he wasn’t related to.

    Another relevant difference is that Dunham doesn’t hold herself out as some paragon of virtue while the Duggars are lauded by Christian culture warriors like Huckabee and are all too happy to point their fingers at others.

    So yeah, there’s hypocrisy here. Just not from the direction you’re pointing.

    • Mike Hunt Ray Rice says:

      relevant details

      One man’s relevance is another man’s nonsense.

      [Dunham] also tried to bribe [her sister] with candy to kiss her

      Personally I find that detail funny. I don’t think less of Dunham for it.

      Josh was a teenager when he molested five younger girls, one of which he wasn’t related to.

      I don’t know for a fact that the girl who wasn’t his sister was indeed a non-relative, or younger than him. It may have been an older cousin.

      • greginak says:

        From a mental health/ child dev pov there is a big difference between the Dunham and Duggar situations. The details are very relevant. It is not uncommon for young children to look at or touch each others privates. A seven year old touching a much younger sib is within the realm of normal. Yeah it freaks people out and you would want to make sure it isn’t something that keeps happening over the course of time or with others.

        JD was a teen ( in or past puberty). That changes things since he was a sexual being ( as is everybody after puberty) and was old enough to have an idea of personal boundaries, consent and right and wrong. He touched multiple people so it wasn’t just a one off bit of experimentation. Multiple people suggests he was driven to touch others.

  2. I didn’t know much about the Duggar thing until a few days ago, when I finally Googled it, and Lightening Rod’s description of the differences seems to coincide with what I remember from the Dunham fiasco. In short, I agree with Rod that the comparison seems off.

    I still don’t know much about the Duggar thing. What exactly he did, how old he exactly was, what type of amends he made (beyond the apology), how he currently frames his arguments on LGBTQ rights–all those details pertain to how I’d judge the Duggar thing, assuming I wanted to expend the effort to look them up. Which I probably don’t.

    I have known some people who were victimized by family members in similar ways. (I’m speaking broadly because, again, I don’t know the specifics of the Duggar case.) These things can be really hard to parse: who’s to blame, how much, how to deal with them now that they’re adults. Those are hard questions.

    • Mike Hunt Ray Rice says:

      how [Duggar] currently frames his arguments on LGBTQ rights

      To me one has nothing to do with the other. I think it is a red herring used by LGBTQ warriors in order to try to discredit him.

      Now if he was accused of molesting boys, then they would have something. But as it stands, they don’t have anything.

      • I was mostly riffing off your point that his stance on LGBTQ was relevant to why he was treated differently from how Dunham was treated.

        By “framing,” I meant, was he taking a “soft” anti-ssm stance, or was he, for example, claiming that gays are moral degenerates who are trying to corrupt our children?

        One reason I ask is because I know nothing about Duggar. I don’t watch that show and to my knowledge hadn’t heard of it. And while I don’t believe there’s really any “good” argument against ssm, I’m less offended by “soft” opposition than by the more virulent kind.

        As to whether it’s truly really relevant, maybe not. He did what he did, he made amends or not, etc.

  3. trumwill says:

    From what I read and hear, I tend to agree with Ross Douthat that even though Dunham and her show ostensibly bolster socially left values, it tends to act more as an exoneration of socially right values.

    While I think “hypocrisy” is an overwrought charge, the disconnect between his self-presentation and the secret he was keeping renders him pretty useless as a moral messenger, and that makes it more newsworthy than Dunham, whose admission was so in-keeping with her character that she didn’t think anything of putting it in a book.

    But really, I think Josh is actually somewhat beside the point here. This story is really about the Duggar family, and Jim Bob in particular. I’m debating whether to write a post (here or at OT) on the subject.

    • Mike Hunt Ray Rice says:

      Jim Bob

      One thing I didn’t mention in the piece is that Jim Bob is getting a lot of criticism for not turning his son into the police.

      Give me an f-ing break. No parents are going to turn in their child to the police, nor should they.

  4. Peter says:

    Blogospherians love the Duggars because they are (reasonably) high-IQ white people with a lot of children. Why, they could be the demographic salvation of the master, er, white race!

  5. Dand says:

    1) A lot of people on the left have been bothered by the Duggers for some time predating their show even going on the air
    2) Notice that a lot of people are simultaneously using Josh’s abuse is an indictment of Quiverfullism while also claiming that it is wrong to use Rotherham as an indictment of Muslims.
    3) The left has major problems with Quiverfullism, while I think that many of these criticisms are valid* I also think that they are rooted in something that is much less valid. A lot of the people who are bothered by the Duggers and Quiverfullism in general also seem bothered by the fact that Mitt Romney has 25 grandchildren. While there are valid of Quiverfulls there are no valid objections to the Romney’s having 25 grandchildren. Among many on the right there is a lingering fear of being outbreed and overwhelmed by Hispanics (this fear isn’t well founded for a couple of different reasons). There is similar fear (somewhat more plausible fear) among the secular left of being outbreed by religious conservatives, families like the Duggers and Romney’s personify that fear.
    *All of these objections to Quiverfulls could also be made against the Amish of Hasidic Jews yet the former receives almost no criticism and the latter only mild criticism because neither one is identified with the political right the way Quiverfulls and Mormons are.

    • Peter says:

      One difference in terms of criticism is that the Mormons aggressively recruit outsiders and I believe some fundamentalist Christians do as well. In contrast, the Amish don’t recruit and the Hasidim limit their attention to less-religious Jews.

  6. superdestroyer says:

    The Duggars are common grifters who were running a version of an affinity con of religious people. The thing that grifters never want is someone to look at them too closely. That is why so many of them avoid the media. The Duggars were arrogant enough to believe that the y could con too many people at one time. That kind of arrogance always draws people who want to knock them down.

  7. Michael Drew says:

    I don’t think his being 14 necessarily makes the reaction to him correct (I.e. I agree it matters that he was a minor), but I don’t think a comparison of the difference between the reaction to him to that to Dunham that doesn’t take 14 years old versus 7 years old AT ALL can be taken as… well, to be honest I don’t think it can be seen as a comparison being made in good faith. I can’t really put it less strongly than that.

    And that is not in any way a claim that the distinctions you do highlight are not at play or shouldn’t be raised. They very plausibly could be and can entirely legitimately be claimed. But ya gotta get the 7/14 thing in there to be doing a serious comparison, man.

    • Michael Drew says:

      I mean: if there were also a Johann Duggar who did the same things as Josh did in the same family but he did them when he was seven we think that the reaction would be the same? No chance. It might still be different from the reaction to Dunham, but it would be different to the reaction to Josh as well. if you’re going to

      Now, we can have the argument that we should react to Josh and Johann the same because they were both minors. (I don’t believe that.) But that’s a different argument from whether the reaction would be different. It would be different, and it would be because of the age difference.

      And likewise, a part of the difference between the reactions to Duggar and Dunham is because of the age difference, whatever you think of that. And this post purports to address why in fact people are reacting differently, not (just) how people should react.

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