I don’t know how many of you watch Sister Wives, but there was a fascinating episode on recently. (I have no idea when. Everything’s taped and I couldn’t tell you for the life of me when things are actually on!) Their show kind of went downhill for awhile, but I think the producers are looking for ways to spice it up some. This idea, whoever’s it was, turned out really well. Three of the kids went to volunteer at an organization that helps victims of “polygamy”–abusive polygamy, that is. The kind where young girls are forced to marry older men and basically be breeding cattle.
They talked to some girls (and one guy) who’d escaped from this kind of community and it was really interesting to see everyone’s reactions to each other and to hear the stories that the escapees told. It made me (at least) think about the differences between the way those kind of polygamists run their families, the way Kody Brown runs his, and my own philosophies about multiple families and structure.
In the “traditional” kind of polygamy, a man can apparently have dozens of wives. He visits each wife and her children periodically but his first priority is himself and his duty to produce as many offspring as possible. He is the authority figure and the boss but the escapees were all astounded to imagine a patriarch having a close relationship with any of his children.
In that sense, Kody Brown sets a great example. Granted, when you have 18 children or so, how close can you be with any one of them? But he tries to be fair and as loving as he can given his circumstances.
The problem with Kody, as I see it, is that he doesn’t have enough authority or structure. Being the nice guy is all well and good, but how can you have a family of over 20–or any cohesive group–without someone being in charge?
I think Kody used to be in charge of his family. When they first started the show they downplayed it, but it did seem like he had more of a traditional “head of the household” role, but since he’s become a “television star,” it seems to me that he’s kind of forgotten that his job is to run the family. He doesn’t put his foot down about anything anymore, and it seems like the respect his wives and children used to have for him is rapidly dwindling.
While I’m not arguing for the abuse of women or children, I do think that every group should have a leader. The leader doesn’t have to be an asshole, but they should know how to lead for the benefit of the group, not just let everybody run around doing whatever they want. It’s kind of an old-fashioned notion to have a “head of the household,” but I think it’s important, and it should be the person who is most qualified to lead, whether that’s a man or a woman.
I was glad to see the polygamy issue being addressed by Sister Wives. Maybe at some point they’ll bring on some non-religious polys to show another aspect!