Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Feminist Polygamy

Katherine Butler writes about the possibility of feminist polygamy (polygyny, really.)

But polygamists who style themselves more modern assert that their lifestyle affords them freedom outside the home, giving them the ultimate feminist family. Journalist and attorney Elizabeth Joseph of Big Water, Utah, is perhaps one of the most vocal supporters of the idea of a feminist polygamist. She is famously quoted in a speech given in 1997 to the Utah chapter of the National Organization for Women. According to Elizabeth, “If polygamy didn’t exist, the modern American woman would have invented it.” As she went on to explain in her speech entitled Polygamy: The Ultimate Feminist Lifestyle, “[Polygamy] provides me the environment and opportunity to maximize my female potential without all the tradeoffs and compromises that attend monogamy. The women in my family are friends. You don’t share two decades of experience, and a man, without those friendships becoming very special.”

While apparently generally accepting of the idea that polygyny can be feminist, she expresses reservations, noting…

It’s not her husband that is making dinner or putting the kids to bed. It’s another woman. It seems like modern polygamy takes trappings of the feminist movement but still hangs them about a world where partnerships are still defined by traditional roles.

There is no reason why the husband can’t make dinner or put the kids to bed. When people work out their family roles for themselves, though, some are going to freely choose “traditional” roles.

She also cites “Sister Wives,” adding to the evidence that the show is having a positive effect for full marriage equality.

I maintain that polygyny can be feminist. And certainly, full marriage equality, which allows for polyandry and for two, three, or more women to marry without the involvement of a man, is feminist.
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  1. Excellent! I am not a fan of "feminists" who despise the idea of women freely choosing traditionally "female" roles - isn't the point that we're free to choose??

  2. Thanks, Macha. I couldn't agree more. It is great that women have more choices now, including the choice to be "traditional". I'm in favor of full marriage equality, which includes gender equality, which does entail as one of many possibilities that a "girly" woman will choose to marry a "manly" man, that they will stay monogamous for life, and that he will earn the income, be handyman at home, and make the big decisions, while she will stay home with the kids and do the cooking and cleaning, and provide essential input into his decision process. If that's what both of them want, then good for them. Of course, there are so many other possibilities, and I think they shouldn't be discouraged either if that is what is best for the participants. (And I hope I spelled everything right this time, which is my second time posting this comment.)

  3. So you are saying at the very end the ultimate in feminism is lesbianism? You almost had me up till that point, for the record, I am a Male.

  4. Anonymous, I do not say that. Feminism does not necessarily mean lesbianism. A woman can be heterosexual and one of several wives to one man. And ALL of them can be feminists. True feminism allows lesbian women, bisexual women, and heterosexual women to pursue the lives best for them.


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