I believe in this lifestyle; it just makes each of us better.  Meri, opening sequence

The Learning Channel (TLC) features programs that reveal and examine diversity, overcoming barriers and alternative ways of life.  Such TLC shows include Little People, Big World (the Roloff mom-and-dad are little people, and three of their four children are regular sized); 19 kids and Counting (a very fertile non-Mormon family who proliferate and procreate at will), Freaky Eaters, Hoarding: Buried Alive and also Sister Wives, a show in which polygamy is shown as a life style choice even though it is still deemed too alternative by some.

I must stress: this does not appear to be the “polygamy” of Warren Jeffs and his particular brood of alleged sex fiends and alleged statutory rapists.  All the women involved with the main man in Sister Wives are adults and were at the time of their marriages to him.

Prior to watching the show, I had my own preconceptions:  whenever I have heard of polygamy, it has always involved a scenario in which one male had more than one mate.  I have often thought:  why don’t we witness a polygamous relationship involving one female and three brother husbands more often? After all, the definition of polygamy is

The condition or practice of having more than one spouse at one time. Also called plural marriage.*

This definition says nothing of one man having more than one spouse (technically called polygyny), so female-centric polygamy (known as polyandry) could happen and perhaps even feasibly work.  However,

 Most countries that permit polygamy, permit only polygyny.**

Polyandry is not “permitted” worldwide.  To me, that makes polygamy essentially a misogynistic form of family by virtue of its elimination of a female head- of-family.  What we are viewing on Sister Wives is the only patriarchal-accepted form of polygamy, making their polygamy just another male-dominated, patriarchal-approved form of relationship.  In this sense, it is not alternative in the least.

The male protagonist of Sister Wives is Kody Brown, an affable guy who doesn’t seem particularly grounded to me.  One thing is for sure:  Kody likes having more than one wife.   He now has four of them:  Meri, Janelle, Christine and Robyn, and a total of 16  kids between the four wives.  His fourth wife, Robyn, is currently pregnant with number 17.

My main thought while watching this show has been –  who really is paying for all these family members?  Seventeen kids and four wives takes a lot of take-home pay.  Kody drives a white Lexus, so here’s to hoping he has inherited a lot of money to take care of this brood. I would be very offended if we, as tax paying citizens, were footing the bill for his unfettered fertility.

His relatively recent courting of Robyn, and their subsequent marriage, brought to the surface cracks in his other relationships. Some of the wives have started to express feelings of neglect and jealousy.  I did think he was acting a bit like a giddy 17-year-old boy around everyone while he and Robyn were “dating”.  In fact, during the courtship he would drive five hours (one way) to see Robin; they lived in Utah and apparently she lived across the state at the time.

The Family Brown literally fled Utah for Las Vegas, Nevada.  According to Kody, the Utah County Attorney  was investigating their life style.  Polygamy is, after all, illegal in all 50 states in the United States.***  Janelle and Kody left their jobs in Utah and are seeking other employment; there is no mention of the work lives of Meri, Christine or Robyn.  Upon reviewing a business opportunity in Las Vegas, Janelle quipped “you have mom and mom and mom and mom and pop trying to run the family business.”  That’s no joke.

And what of the children? Do they feel the sting of neglect and low priority as their dad only seems to live with them every fourth day?  In the episode in which Robyn announces her pregnancy, it is clear that not all the children are ecstatic about it.

Later in the same episode, upon calling a meeting with the older, teenaged kids, Kody and his brides ask the kids if they are making new friends in Las Vegas and if these friends have the “same values . . .  as your parents want you to have” or with the same moral standard.  The kids answer yes, but I was unclear what values they are talking about – polygamous values?

In a subsequent episode, Kody states, “You should not be sexual until you have graduated from high school EVER.”   He says nothing about love, but does mention his preference that they wait for marriage.  Perhaps this answers what he means when he uses the word “values.”

Many of the teenaged children are not sure if they want to live a polygamous lifestyle when they leave the home.   The girls used words like “jealousy” and “drama” to describe why the lifestyle may not be appropriate for them.  Logan used the words “chaos” and “chaotic” to describe the lifestyle to one of his new friends.

“We want our children to choose this faith . . . . this is what we believe is right,”  stated Robyn.  This led to Christine’s comment, “If our kids don’t live this way it’s gonna be hard for me to think ‘Gosh, did I do a bad job.’”   I would say that the fact that the children have their own voice and choice in the matter is encouraging – perhaps the five parental units are doing something right.

In the opening sequence, Kody voices “Love should be multiplied and not divided.”  That is a nice sentiment in theory; in practicality, I wonder if polygamy multiplies love or if it just multiples the number of people in the home so that Kody and men like himself never have to truly feel alone.


** Wikipedia, Legal Status of Polygamy, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_status_of_polygamy


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