I wanted to mention two new shows that I’ve started watching this fall. The first is Sister Wives. I know what you’re thinking: it’s like a car accident and you can’t help but look, right? Well, not quite. While I admit that my reasons for watching that show at first were entirely voyeuristic, it’s actually made me think a lot. The Brown family members (one man, his four wives and their sixteen children) have said that they started doing this show in order to dispel common misconceptions and prejudices that the general public has towards polygamist families, and as far as I’m concerned, they’ve succeeded.
This family is nothing like the image I had of a polygamist family. They are not part of a sect and do not live isolated in their own community; they are modern people (with modern haircuts, modern clothes and a modern house with modern amenities), have monogamist friends and, for the most part, work outside the home and go to school just like anybody else. One of the teenage girls felt perfectly comfortable saying that this was not the lifestyle she wanted for herself, but that she loved all her family nonetheless. The women were legal adults when they chose to marry Kody, and each wife must not only be made aware of, but approve, the courtship of a new wife. This is basically the origin of the term “sister wife”: the wives have not only a bond with their husband, but with each other as well. There is a real affection between the wives, as well as between them and each other’s children. They form a big family, and this does have certain advantages: some of the wives can work outside the home while knowing that one wife, by choice, will be the homemaker and will be there when the children come home from school. And the first wife, who always wanted a big family but was only able to have one biological child, is thrilled that she has a big family anyway. Also, the husband must nurture his relationship with each partner and must love them equally (so there is no “favourite” wife and no hierarchy among them).
This is not to say that I actually approve of polygamy: I still think that the fact that a woman can’t have several husbands basically proves that the whole logic is flawed and unfair, and it is still inconceivable to me that a woman would willingly share her husband with others. That’s not what marriage means to me. But in the particular case of the Brown family, since they are all adults who made responsible and educated choices that work for them, I also don’t see anything majorly wrong with it.
The Brown family is facing legal problems due to the polygamy. Kody’s marriage to his first wife is legal and binding, but his three other marriages are actually spiritual unions, and therefore not reason to prosecute – unless the law is interpreted to mean that simply living under the same roof constitutes a union, in which case he and his wives could be facing jail time. And here’s the thing: before I watched this show, if someone had told me that a man and his four wives were facing legal issues due to polygamy, I would not have been sympathetic. The law is the law, right? But now, having seen what their life is like... I think that polygamy is not automatically punishable. I mean, if a wife is a minor, it’s wrong. If a wife is forced into the marriage, it’s wrong. If a wife is being controlled, dominated, denied education, isolated or abused in any way, it’s wrong. If a wife is unaware that her husband is courting someone else, it’s wrong. But none of these situations applies in the case of the Brown family. So in their case, even though it’s not a lifestyle I would want for myself, I don’t see how it’s wrong for them.
The second season will start next spring, but there will be a one-hour special this Sunday on TLC. I unfortunately won’t be watching, because that’s when The Walking Dead is on. This is a show – an actual series – about what happens after the world falls prey to an epidemic that turns people into zombies. There are some survivors, who must now fight to live as normally as possible, finding food and shelter, but also trying to keep the zombies away. It’s really well made, and even though I don’t like gruesome things, I’m quite enjoying this show (but good thing it’s only an hour long, because that’s about how much zombiness I can take at a time).