What Do The Duggars Really Think About Gender Roles?

The Duggar family has been a reality TV fixture since the early 2000s when their hit show "19 Kids and Counting" debuted on TLC. 

Viewers fell in love with the lovably expansive brood, making stars out of the Duggar sisters, in particular. Per USA Today, the show was ultimately canceled in 2015, following Josh Duggar's sex abuse scandal. Josh was also revealed to be cheating on his wife, Anna Duggar, which was a major breach of the Duggars' super-strict rules. 


"Counting On" followed the Duggar sisters as they branched out and found some independence of their own, albeit always under the strict guidance of their fathers/husbands. Showbiz CheatSheet confirms that the family embraces staunch gender roles, with the men expected to provide for their families while the women have children and take care of them and run the household. Moreover, they typically don't work or even get the chance to attend college. 

The Duggars also have a strict dress code they must adhere to at all times, lest others be tempted by them. Everything about their lives is dictated by an untouchable faith in God, but it also affects how the men and women in the family are divided by arguably outdated and prohibitive gender roles. 


The Duggars have to follow a series of strict rules

As Life & Style details, the Duggar family adheres to a set of ultra-strict rules based on their Independent Baptist faith. 

The Arkansas-based group reserve practically everything for marriage, including full-frontal hugging — it's side hugs only until the kids get hitched — and kissing, which typically happens on their wedding day. The women are expected to dress modestly at all times, while the entire family only watches very specific TV shows and movies. They're also prohibited from dancing. 


When kids are "courting," as the Duggars term it, they're chaperoned on dates while parents Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar also frequently read their text message exchanges, per E! News. As Jim Bob explained of their outwardly harsh approach, it "keeps things from going in the wrong direction." 

For the most part, the children seem happy enough to go along with their folks' wishes, especially since, as Jill Duggar Dillard put it to People, "It's about setting a higher standard" for everything else in their lives.  

However, the longer the Duggars are in the spotlight, the more they've begun bending the rules — particularly the women. 

The men work while the women are homemakers

Per Showbiz CheatSheet, the Duggars believe that women are more suited to completing household chores while men are better at tackling manual labor. This doesn't necessarily sit well with fans, though. Express Digest points out the negative response to Derick Dillard referring to his wife, Jill Duggar Dillard, doing "woman's work" while cooking in the kitchen with their young son strapped to her back. 


"I was with you until I saw #womanswork. This makes me sad and angry," wrote one commenter, while another decried Derick's take as "sexist." As a third put it, "What year are we living in? Put down that phone and get over there and show your sons that you should be helping her!" Jill seemed to be in on the joke, agreeing with fans who suggested Derick was just trying to get a rise out of people. 

It's worth noting that all of the adult Duggar males work, while none of the women are allowed, with those still living at home tasked with helping look after their younger siblings alongside keeping the home clean and tidy. Showbiz CheatSheet clarifies that John-David Duggar's wife, Abbie, works as a registered nurse, so it's possible the Duggar women don't want to work and prefer to focus on homemaking.


Christmas gifts are divided along strict gender lines

Aside from the women remaining at home and the men going out to work, the Duggars also must abide by strict gender roles when it comes to buying each other Christmas gifts. During a Q&A session on the YouTube channel she shares with husband Derick Dillard, Jill Duggar Dillard explained the Secret Santa setup in her parents' household. 


Most importantly, aside from only buying gifts for one person each, the boys purchase gifts for the other boys and the girls only buy them for the other girls. Likewise, the ages of the kids come into it too, so the younger kids don't buy for the older kids and vice versa. 

iHeart notes they also receive personalized gift bags including a can of Pringles, some beef jerky, and a jar of pickles, with Michelle sharing, "Christmas is the one time of year when every child gets their favorite flavor of each treat." They also create care packages for the needy, which naturally include Bibles. 

Unsurprisingly, then, the family's take on the Santa Claus myth is also very different, as Michelle Duggar discussed in a blog for TLC (via In Touch Weekly). She and patriarch Jim Bob Duggar prefer to explain "to the children who Santa Claus was historically" while also focusing "on his good deeds and ministering to children." Otherwise, Christmas is "a big birthday party for Jesus." 


The kids all bake and decorate Christmas cookies for the occasion too, in another family bonding ritual.

Wives must be available to their husbands at all times

The Duggars think divorce is never the answer, except in the most extreme circumstances, because they marry for life. And, as far as Michelle Duggar is concerned, there's one major way wives can ensure their husbands always feel happy and secure. In an interview with Today, the matriarch recalled the advice she'd received from a friend ahead of marrying Jim Bob back in 1984. 


"She said, 'In your marriage there will be times you're going to be very exhausted. Your hubby comes home after a hard day's work, you get the baby to bed, and he is going to be looking forward to that time with you. 'Be available. Anyone can fix him lunch, but only one person can meet that physical need of love that he has, and you always need to be available when he calls,'" the friend advised. 

According to Michelle, always being happily available for sex has saved her marriage, while Jim Bob is obviously glad of it too, quipping, "We're like a newlywed couple every day!" Furthermore, per Romper, in a video for TLC, Michelle encouraged wives to always be their husbands' biggest supporters and to never challenge them on anything either. 


As the Daily Beast argues, although women and children are seemingly at the center of the Duggars' religion, they don't have any autonomy, going from their father's home to their husband's. 

The Duggar daughters have begun fighting back

The Duggar children are raised to obey their fathers above all else, per Showbiz CheatSheet, to the extent that certain believe the daughters have potentially inappropriate relationships with them. 

As they grow up and get married, certain kids have fought back against Michelle and Jim Bob's strict rules, as Us Weekly details, from traveling without a chaperone to wearing pants and even drinking alcohol. Reddit users pointed out how Jill Duggar Dillard shared a story about her son picking out her earrings on social media, acknowledging she clearly doesn't subscribe to her folks' restrictive gender ideas.


As The U.S. Sun pointed out, Jill also broke with convention by sending her children to public school (the Duggars are all homeschooled). Fans were delighted to see Jill branching out and giving her kids the opportunity to experience a different side to life than she did, and, hopefully, expand their horizons. 

Her husband, Derick Dillard, shared an Instagram post championing Jill for standing up for women's rights, too, signaling he's fully onboard — jokes about her belonging in the kitchen notwithstanding, of course. Suffice to say, they might be brought up a certain way, but once the Duggar ladies are out on their own, all bets are off.