Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Thoughts on Polygamy

I've been on a polygamy kick as of late. I found this book at KramerBooks (Dupont Circle) and since I've never not loved a book in that store, I promptly picked up a copy for free at the library. And, despite the awesome title, I didn't love it. The plot was interesting enough to get me through to the end, but the characters were dry and not very compelling. I just didn't think about them when I wasn't reading the book, you know?

And thanks to Netflix streaming, I managed to watch the entire first two seasons of Sister Wives. And then promptly looked back at all the hours of my life lost and thought, "I can't believe I watched the whole stupid thing!"

And then there are always some of my favorite blogs that often have interesting commentary and perspectives on polygamy.

Strangely, even though I grew up LDS, I never thought too hard about polygamy. The church's polygamous history never particularly bothered me, as it does many. I just thought of it as a strange practice from the past that had no real relevance in my life. I completely understand (at least intellectually) why people are still upset by this early church practice and even lose their faith in the church over it, and I think their concerns are completely valid. But for whatever the reason, it's never been my issue. Maybe because my list of issues is already long, and adding one more might tip me over the edge. Just kidding....I think.

Anyways, while reading about 19th century polygamy is strange and fascinating, I think modern-day polygamy is diabolically unreal. I just can't believe that people live this way in our current day and age. But according to TLC, they do!

Here are some of my thoughts and questions as I've watched and read.....

1. Why don't we just decriminalize polygamy? Doesn't making it illegal actually perpetuate the abuse in the Warren Jeff-like sects because they live such an insular life? Won't decriminalization take the abusers out of the shadows? But then again....these groups seem to have no desire to join the rest of the world, so it would likely make no difference if their practices were legal or not. It's hard to know if polygamy can even exist without widespread sexual/physical sure does seem to breed in these communities more than others.

2. Are Utah police really hunting down polygamy families (Season 2: Sister Wives)? Or was the threat made up by TLC producers to create good television, and the Brown family never really had to leave Utah? The family was operating under the assumption that at the end of the police investigation, the father would be thrown in jail and the family would be permanently separated. Yeah, their living situation is weird. But without suspicion of any abuse, it seems so wrong (and a waste of police resources) to break up a family.

3. Why are Utah Mormons so outraged by modern-day polygamy? Not by the Warren Jeffs (completely justified) but by the super-sized house down the street? Is it a constant reminder of an ugly part of church history? Do they feel like if they don't hate it....they will always be associated with it?

4. I've concluded that for the man, polygamy really isn't about sex, or even love. It's all about power and prestige within their polygamous group. It's really not a whole lot different than people who have lots of kids or cars to increase their prestige within their social group...except a lot more complicated (and expensive). I have no idea what attracts women to polygamy. Tradition? Sisterhood? Self-hatred?

4. The women of Sister Wives do their best to show they are modern women (at least in the Utah Valley sense of the word). Honestly, you could not tell them from the middle-aged women singing hymns in Relief Society by their dress and mannerisms. But they are fooling themselves. They are hindered by the wants and needs of their other sister wives, all of the children, and their husband, who has the final say, in even the most "modern" of polygamy situations. They call it sacrifice. I call it powerlessness.

5. However, I get a slight twinge when I see the women on the show living and working together. My current life in many ways is a woman-less existence. I work in an all-male office. I am alone with my boys when I am not at work. I have little time for girlfriends but miss friendship with other women. It would be pretty awesome to work and be around other women more often. Although, I am confident I can accomplish this goal without becoming a fourth wife.

I'd better go for now. My sister-wife just told me she is waiting for the laptop. Apparently, we are low on canned beets and need to reorder. ;-)

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