By Alex Temblador
Jessica Kirkland is not a name you might recognize. She’s a mother of two daughters from Georgia, but more importantly in a Facebook post she wrote about Anna Duggar, she inadvertently started a parenting movement in regards to raising daughters with the rally cry, #BreatheFire.
For those who may not know, Josh Duggar, is the oldest son of the Duggar family from 19 Kids and Counting. In May, the world learned that as a teenager, Josh Duggar sexually abused his sisters and one of their friends. Now more recently, the world learned that he used Ashley Madison, known as the “world’s leading married dating service for discreet encounters” (affairs), to cheat on his wife, Anna Duggar. What was Anna Duggar’s response after learning of her husband’s affairs? She appears to be sticking by him which did not sit well with Jessica Kirkland.
Jessica Kirkland, like many of us have done, decided to write a Facebook post in regards to the Josh Duggar/Ashley Madison scandal, but rather than focusing on Josh, she turned her attention to Anna. The Facebook post was shared over 245,000 times until it was taken down.
“I know everybody is laughing about this Josh Duggar story. Oh, a DUGGAR on Ashley Madison, it’s so rich! I wish more people would talk about Anna. I normally keep things light on Facebook, but let’s talk about Anna.”
The mother of two daughters began her Facebook post by highlighting the way in which Anna Duggar was raised:
“Anna Duggar is in the worst position she could possibly be in right now. Anna Duggar was crippled by her parents by receiving no education, having no work experience (or life experience, for that matter) and then was shackled to this loser because his family was famous in their religious circle. Anna Duggar was taught that her sole purpose in life, the most meaningful thing she could do, was to be chaste and proper, a devout wife, and a mother. Anna Duggar did that!”
Kirkland then went on to highlight the irony of Anna being the “faithful, dutiful wife”:
“Anna Duggar followed the rules that were imposed on her from the get-go and this is what she got in reward- a husband who she found out, in the span of 6 months, not only molested his own sisters, but was unfaithful to her in the most humiliating way possible. While she was fulfilling her ‘duty’ of providing him with four children and raising them. She lived up to the standard that men set for her of being chaste and Godly and in return, the man who demanded this of her sought women who were the opposite. ‘Be this,’ they told her. She was. It wasn’t enough.”
From there, Kirkland sympathized with Anna and asked, what can we really expect Anna Duggar to do?
“What is Anna Duggar supposed to do? She can’t divorce because the religious environment she was brought up would blame her and ostracize her for it. Even if she would risk that, she has no education and no work experience to fall back on, so how does she support her kids? From where could she summon the ability to turn her back on everything she ever held to be sacred and safe? Her beliefs, the very thing she would turn to for comfort in this kind of crisis, are the VERY REASON she is in this predicament in the first place.”
And then Kirkland hit us with an extremely important issue, one that may not have been relatively clear from the beginning: “Her parents have utterly, utterly failed her.”
It seems true. According to Anna Duggar’s brother, Anna’s parents are in full support of her staying with Josh Duggar despite these two scandals. Her brother Daniel Keller wrote on Facebook:
“Oh I know. But my parents are preaching stay w him. There more interested in how there daughter getting a divorce will make then look then they are in trying to truly get josh some help and getting Anna and the kids out of there till he has gotten that help.”
The next part of Kirkland’s post really delves into the heart of Anna Duggar’s situation and the situation of many women across the world. Kirkland focused on parenting and called for an immense change in how we raise daughters.
“As a mother of daughters, [Anna’s situation] makes me ill. Parents, WE MUST DO BETTER BY OUR DAUGHTERS. Boys, men, are born with power. Girls have to command it for themselves. They aren’t given it. They assume it and take it. But you have to teach them to do it, that they can do it. We HAVE to teach our daughters that they are not beholden to men like this. That they don’t have to marry a man their father deems ‘acceptable’ and then stay married to that man long, long after he proved himself UNACCEPTABLE. Educate them. Empower them. Give them the tools they need to survive, on their own if they must.”
At the end of her post, Kirkland pleas one last time with parents.
“Please, instill your daughters with the resolve to make a man cower if he must. To say “I don’t deserve this, and my children don’t deserve this.” I wish someone had ever, just once, told Anna she was capable of this. That she knew she is. As for my girls, I’ll raise them to think they breathe fire.”
Kirkland’s last line resonated so much with readers that it became its own hashtag, #BreatheFire, and has set off a storm of discussion across social media about the need to change the way in which we raise girls to be women. These are just a few twitter posts among this movement.
I love that a woman – from her couch – was able to ignite such a passionate discussion. #breathefire
— Aimi (@ak630) August 27, 2015
My mom taught me to breathe fire in 1960s. That's why I've been publishing an LGBT paper 30 years and a feminist all my life #breathefire
— Windy City Times (@WindyCityTimes1) August 26, 2015
I have a 10 year old daughter. I too have always taught her #breathefire. It's especially important for girls going into tech (1 of 2)
— BillBarnhill (@BillBarnhill) August 27, 2015
And it is a movement, or can be. Kirkland received thousands of notes from daughters and mothers praising her for her words. In response to how well her Facebook message is being received by parents and kids, Kirkland said, “I hope the message stands alone. I want girls to know their worth and accept nothing less.”
This message from Kirkland could not have come at a better time. Yesterday was Women’s Equality Day which sought to highlight that women in the United States still do not have the equal rights that men do. The hashtag, #ERAnow, along with Betty the Riveter inspired-photos, flooded the internet with a call to Congress to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, which was written in 1923, passed by Congress in 1972, but failed to be ratified by 35 of the “38 necessary states” and therefore is not a part of our Constitution. For those unaware of what the Equal Rights Amendment would do, it explicitly prohibits sexual discrimination for either gender. The Equality Act that was recently introduced to Congress to protect the LGBT community from discrimination, is trying to remedy the failure of the passage of the ERA by also including “sex” for federal protection.
Although the way in which Anna Duggar’s parents raised her may seem like an extreme example of parents not raising their daughter to be empowered, it is a testament to a parenting trend that does exist in some capacity within many homes in the U.S. A daughter’s rights, her dignity, her safety, and her future depend on her parents raising her to be empowered, because the daughters of America currently live in a country that doesn’t protect these rights. So as Kirkland said, “We must do better by our daughters… Educate them. Empower them. Give them the tools they need to survive, on their own if they must” and show them the beauty in the strength of being able to breathe fire.