For a Duggar, marriage means a lot of things: a special episode of their reality show and being permitted their first kiss, for example, in addition to the life changes that are common with relationships in more typical families, such as starting a new household and planning children. However, since Jinger Duggar Vuolo’s marriage, there have been hints that perhaps marrying may provide a bigger change for the Duggar women: freedom from certain household rules.
In their book, Growing Up Duggar, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar’s oldest four daughters speak about dressing modestly. They don’t directly state that they are forbidden to wear pants — instead, they describe their clothing as a choice that is left to each of them. The same is said about courtship — when one of the Duggar siblings becomes involved in a relationship, the family says, they plan and choose rules together: will they hold hands, have side hugs, continue to be chaperoned after engagement, save their first kiss for the wedding?
In the video above, for instance, Jim Bob Duggar explains that the kids are allowed to set their own rules and communicate them to their parents, who will oversee them. Jessa Duggar Seewald says that “all of us kids” have agreed on one rule: saving the first kiss for marriage. It’s unclear how many kids were involved in that decision, since Jinger Duggar later says, according to the Hollywood Gossip, that the thinks she and Jeremy still plan to save their first kiss for marriage. That video also takes place in 2014 — at that point, half a dozen Duggar kids were still age 12 or younger, and the youngest, Josie, hadn’t yet had her fifth birthday.
— The Duggar Family (@duggarfam) March 17, 2014
Despite assertions that each couple makes their own choices, observers may notice that all the Duggar family members who have entered courtships have maintained essentially the same rules. Also, if Jinger and Jeremy Vuolo were allowed to make their own decisions about courtship rules, why did Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar get so upset over a front hug, and why was Jim Bob so frustrated with Michelle for not supervising the adult couple more closely?
Much has been made of Jinger Duggar Vuolo’s several appearances in shorts or pants since her marriage. However, it’s not the first time one of the Duggar girls has been seen wearing pants or shorts, or, for that matter, a clothing item that not all viewers would agree is “modest.” However, a female Duggar being seen in pants rather than a skirt or dress is pretty rare before courtship, and that most of these pants-clad images appear only after marriage.
In a recently released webisode, Jinger Duggar Vuolo credits her husband with “help[ing] me get outside my box.” However, viewers speculating that there may be less patriarchy in the Vuolo household than in the Duggar home should watch closely as Jeremy makes the final decision on what the couple will order.
It appears to reinforce the idea that the Duggar family’s belief system requires a male ‘headship’ to run the family and make the rules — and that for the young women, marriage may simply mean a change in who lays down those rules.
Still, that can be a pretty massive change, as demonstrated by Jinger’s wearing of shorts, and what seems to be a decision to live a less public life than some of the other Duggar family members.
It’s not just that Jinger is the new “rebel Duggar” though. There have also been hints that the women who’ve married and moved out of the Duggar home have relaxed the rules about television, which have been described as rather strict. Little Spurgeon Seewald was featured in an Instagram post watching a show on his parents’ laptop — that’s a change from when Jessa said in 2010 on the Duggar Family Blog that they didn’t have cable and watched only limited movies and shows on DVD!
So, while a Duggar woman’s marriage might merely transfer her headship to her husband rather than her father, this seems to have, so far, brought each of the young women increased freedom in certain aspects of their lives, including dress code.