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Visions of A Way of Life Both Familiar and Alien - Synchronicity swirls and other foolishness

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October 5th, 2010


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01:48 am - Visions of A Way of Life Both Familiar and Alien
After encountering mention of it in the course of some of her SEO writing, amberite told Becca and I about the new TLC show wives Sister Wives, which is a show about a polygamist Mormon family adding another wife and her children to the family. I was expecting to be utterly repelled, and was not – I expected extreme patriarchal oppression of the sort where women were discouraged from working outside the home and that was definitely not true – with the exception of one of the women who cares for the children, all of the adults work outside of the home, and at least in what we are shown, decisions are at least to some extent made by all of the adults.

The situation of the family shown in the show is in many ways profoundly alien to me – it is exceptionally heterosexual, at least moderately patriarchal, and exceedingly child-focused - there are 5 adults and 15!!! children, and I find all of these to be strange and disturbing. However, underneath these great differences, I see a shocking number of points of extreme similarity. Many of the interactions between the various adults is astoundingly familiar in ways that I have never seen on TV – the dynamics of loving and functional families consisting of more than 2 partners clearly have features in common even if the basic assumptions that these families are based on are very different. All three of us recognized interactions of sorts that were familiar to us. Definitely not what I was expecting and quite fascinating to watch. Obviously, what we are seeing is only an edited and to a degree, deliberately performed version of these people's lives, but it's also clear that there are points of impressive similarity.

On a somewhat related note, I was also a bit disturbed to read about how this family is being hassled by the authorities in Utah. As the article states "Although it is rarely prosecuted, bigamy is a third-degree felony in Utah, punishable by a prison term of up to five years. Under the law, a person can be found guilty of bigamy through cohabitation, not just legal marriage contracts. " Utah is a deeply scary place in a multitude of ways.
Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful

(9 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:andrewducker
Date:October 5th, 2010 10:45 am (UTC)
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Bigamy through cohabitation??? WTF???
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From:antayla
Date:October 6th, 2010 01:02 am (UTC)
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Ditto!
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From:queen_in_autumn
Date:October 5th, 2010 01:06 pm (UTC)
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I'm glad to hear that it's a positive portrayal of plural marriage.
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From:seika
Date:October 6th, 2010 12:02 am (UTC)
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I read a National Geographic article about polygamist Mormon families a few months back, and it was awfully negative. The whole article was so cautiously like "but even though it looks fine on the outside, we can't of course ever once lose sight of the fact that it must be awful in general, with the few exceptions of these one or two not-so-bad aspects".

*rubs back of head and sighs* And I do think there are some things about the way Mormon families (not just polygamist Mormon families, either, but... y'know, Mormons) conduct their lives that is unhealthy and that I don't agree with, and I do think exposing these things for mass critique is fine. But it sort of annoys me that perhaps as the public perception of Mormon polygamy goes up, the likelihood that people will assume polygamy always works like that (complete with Mormonism's sexist and oppressive-religious-rule-riddled problems) will go up as well. Like, people will just assume polygamy is always part of a strict uber-religious matter, or a patriarchal/gender-divided household, IDK...
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From:heron61
Date:October 6th, 2010 01:01 am (UTC)
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I think it's useful for many people to see that there are functional alternatives to monogamy, but I also completely agree with you. OTOH, given the way media acceptance of sub-cultures works, I'm betting that once Mormon polygamy becomes less exotic to many viewers, the mass media will move on to polyamory, which will naturally result in much exploitation, but is also the only path to the sort of visibility that builds tolerance.
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From:seika
Date:October 6th, 2010 09:28 am (UTC)
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Hmm, hadn't thought of them moving on like that... but good point.
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From:aekiy
Date:October 6th, 2010 08:27 pm (UTC)
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I remember that article, and I was so disappointed that (a) they advertised it as a broader view of polygamy and instead focused on a group of Mormons and (b) that they, like so many people, confused polygamy with polygyny that I didn't bother to finish reading the article.
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From:kitten_goddess
Date:October 6th, 2010 12:49 am (UTC)
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If cohabitation is bigamy, does that mean that a brother and two sisters living together in the same household are guilty of bigamy and incest?
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From:aekiy
Date:October 6th, 2010 08:26 pm (UTC)
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Not if none of them is married. There would have to be a married couple living with an additional person.

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