This month we’re talking about polygamy, the controversial and mostly illegal practice of marrying more than one person. With popular TV shows like HBO’s Big Love and TLC’s reality show Sister Wives, more and more people are talking about the pros and cons of this form of marriage. Some see it as an alternative to traditional monogamy the way gay marriage or common law relationships have challenged organized religion and the law. Others see it is a fundamentalist religious extreme, which impedes women’s rights and fosters abuse and child brides.
As monogamists, we’ve clearly chosen our preferred form of marriage, though I can’t be sure how our moms will react to this topic. At some point during the salon, we’d like to ask, “could you be a sister wife?”
While I think the reaction will mostly be no, we’re curious to know why. The reasons will likely vary and we look forward to debating and sharing them. To get the conversation started, here are a few articles that touch on some of the many facets of polygamy.
Polygamy in Canada
So much of the news coverage on polygamy comes from the U.S. and abroad, but what about polygamy on our home turf? I must admit that I wasn’t aware of the community of Bounty in B.C. or that there hasn’t been a successful prosecution for polygamy in Canada for more than 60 years. This CBC article gives a bit of the history in Canada and the current laws.
Polygamy, Bigamy and Polyamory: What’s the difference?
After a fair bit of searching, this was the best and least biased take on the differences between these three. I figured the one that gets down to the greek suffix “gamy” for marriage and the prefix “poly” for many was a good start. Some other terms worth noting: polyandry, polygyny, polyfidelity and non-monogamy. If you’re really a keener, you can find some interesting definitions from the Poly Amory Society.
Polygamy in the Media
Two popular TV shows have more people in North America talking about polygamy than ever before. Whether they agree with it or not, millions of viewers are tuning in to Sister Wives to see the “reality” of living in a polygamous marriage. Perhaps a glossy view of this outlawed form of marriage, read below to see the more contentious side of polygamy in the New York Times.
A Collection of Polygamy Articles from the New York Times
In case those charming sister wives had you shopping for your own wife, the NYT reminds us of the dark side of men having multiple wives. The Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints and Utah appear at the heart of many compounds, underage brides and sexual assault charges. Polygamy looks very different outside of North America. It is traditionalist practice in places such as South Africa, where president Jacob Zuma is a proponent of plural marriage. He has four wives and 20 children.
Mme J and Mme B