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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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105 Responses

  1. freshwatermermaid
    freshwatermermaid January 16, 2012 at 1:49 pm |

    Why is only one man necessarily the centre of this? Automatically deciding that polygamy = 1 man, many ladies is definitely incompatible with feminism, and so is automatically dismissing 1 woman + many men.

    So how about this: several PARTNERS of whatever gender they identify = utopic polygamy. As in, this is a highly unlikely arrangement in the current kirarchy, but not impossible, and not to be automatically judged as the work of ‘duped’ beings w/out agency.

  2. Colin Day
    Colin Day January 16, 2012 at 1:53 pm |

    Would that make men who aren’t married (and under widespread polygyny, they’d be a bunch) less valuable?

  3. Jess
    Jess January 16, 2012 at 2:00 pm |

    This is an important question and I think more discussion around it in the feminist blogosphere would be awesome. In short, no, I don’t think polygamy is incompatible with feminism. I don’t think it is *inherently* patriarchal, although it very often is. For one, the term polygamy refers to multiple partners in marriage, not necessarily one man and several women (that is polygyny and polyandry is many men with one woman, which does actually happen). I wrote about some of my thoughts this exact question here: http://msmagazine.com/blog/blog/2011/01/05/one-feminist-asks-is-polygamy-inherently-bad-for-women/

  4. Zippa
    Zippa January 16, 2012 at 2:06 pm |

    As a poly person with poly friends who considers herself extremely feminist, I also want to point out that it’s entirely possible that a family with one man and multiple women is made up of women loving one another, not just the man loving several women. A bi/poly woman may have a male partner AND a female partner, and they may also partner with each other, depending on the dynamic of the relationship. While the standard, stereotypical image of polygamous families is the Sister Wives model, in reality the patriarchal model is absolutely not the only option.

  5. Me and not you
    Me and not you January 16, 2012 at 2:15 pm |

    To throw out a couple of definitions really quickly:

    Polygamy: marriages between multiple partners (either there is one person who is married to several people or several people are all married to each other; anthropologically I think the former is more common)
    Polygyny: marriage of one person (usually male) to several women
    Polyandry: marriage of one person (usually female) to several men
    Some anthropology: Polygyny is more common than polyandry; in many cases they’re either “sister” or “brother” marriages where one individual marries all the same sex siblings; even in polygamous societies polygamy is not the majority of marriages, though I don’t know the stats.

    Because polygyny is so much more common than polyandry, polygamy is frequently used synonymously for polygyny in pop media, though that’s not technically not correct.

  6. JetGirl
    JetGirl January 16, 2012 at 3:00 pm |

    Polygamy as a concept, no problem. Polygamy as practiced by groups such as the FLDS, which forbids women from having multiple husbands, but encourages men to have multiple wives — profoundly sexist, even when you don’t figure in rape, pedophilia, shunning boys so more girls will be available for multiple marriage, etc. and other common occurrences in sects all over North America.

  7. Roro80
    Roro80 January 16, 2012 at 3:04 pm |

    I think there are a couple of interesting issues surrounding this.

    The place where I think it’s totally incompatible with feminism is steeped in the history of polygamy in western culture. It has primarily been used in the US and Europe as a way to provide wombs for the procreation of the most privileged men in a community. Often those wombs belong to children — young girls — who are married at menarchy to men who’d like another wife. Obviously, forcing girls to marry adult men for the purpose of showing off the wealth and procreative powers of those men is all sorts of ugly. It’s so ugly, and pretty universally considered as much, that we’ve outlawed it.

    Obviously that’s a very, very different situation than more than two consenting adults who wishes to create a family and have sex with each other. It’s hard enough to make things work all the time with one partner, I imagine it would be even more difficult with more than two, but that’s certainly not to say it couldn’t be done. Besides, we don’t restrict marriage between to straight people based on whether or not “society” thinks it would work, so I see no reason why we should do so for more than 2 people, except that most groups who would want to do so would like to do so in order to create a situation like described above — marrying off girls and young women to men who want lots of wives.

    Further complicating things would be divorce law and marital benefits. Every state has laws on the books as to benefits of being married — how would that change if there were more than one spouse? If two people have only a 50% of staying together, I see no reason why 3 or more would want to stay together any more frequently. One of the main reasons that implementation would be difficult is that our system is so entrenched with laws that are predicated on two partners. Every state has their own laws on how assets are divided, alimony, etc. All that would have to be re-thought. Not that this is a reason to deny it, just why it would be difficult to implement. (Note, this is not the case for same-sex marriage, which would be pretty easy to implement.)

    Anyway, that’s my take.

  8. A.Y. Siu
    A.Y. Siu January 16, 2012 at 3:07 pm |

    We don’t live in a cultural vacuum. If we did, of course there’d be nothing inherently sexist or antifeminist about polygamy, even if it were male-centered. But then again, if we lived in a cultural vacuum, what would it mean for something to be sexist or (anti)feminist anyway?

    Feminism exists because cultures exist and inequality in our cultures exists.

  9. LotusBen
    LotusBen January 16, 2012 at 3:16 pm |

    Through most of history, polygyny hasn’t been very compatible with feminism, as other people have already pointed out. Nowadays, however, I think a trend toward polygamy would be very good for feminism. Polyamory seems to be beginning to catch on, and if these relationships could have some sort of legal recognition it would just be another nail in the coffin of the sexist institution of traditional marriage. With no-fault divorces, laws against marital rape, and now gay marriage, the coercive and patriarchal aspect of marriage has really been undermined over the past several decades, and legalizing polygamy would just take this one step further. I hope some day being married to someone is as fluid as say, being best friends with someone, and the traditional strictures have become so undermined that it’s impossible for the government or church to even regulate it anymore.

  10. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil January 16, 2012 at 4:00 pm |

    I hope some day being married to someone is as fluid as say, being best friends with someone, and the traditional strictures have become so undermined that it’s impossible for the government or church to even regulate it anymore.

    In that situation, marriage means nothing. Also, it seems a little strange to support polygamy as a means to eroding traditional marriage.

  11. Maria
    Maria January 16, 2012 at 4:03 pm |

    Polygamy is as compatible with feminism as monogamous marriages are.

  12. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig January 16, 2012 at 4:27 pm |

    Maria: Could you clarify that? Because monogamous marriages aren’t very compatible with feminism either. In fact, most anti-feminist women are in (presumably) monogamous marriages.

  13. LotusBen
    LotusBen January 16, 2012 at 4:30 pm |

    In that situation, marriage means nothing. Also, it seems a little strange to support polygamy as a means to eroding traditional marriage.

    Well, in that situation marriage will mean whatever the individuals involved want it to mean. I would appreciate that because it’d mean people having more power to find fullfilment however they like, rather than authorities prescribing certain forms of social relationships over others.

    And yeah, polygamy is certainly part and parcel of traditional marriage in many places, like much of the Islamic world, for example. But in United States of America, polygamy has generally been frowned upon and suppressed by the government and the church (except Mormons). Most people nowadays who are in non-monogamous relationships tend to be less traditional and more egalitarian. So, if their relationships could have equal social status to more traditional marriages, it would very much further erode the privileged status of traditional marriage.

  14. Chase
    Chase January 16, 2012 at 4:39 pm |

    I’m with JetGirl and A. Y. Siu.

    I think it’s easy to answer “no” to the question of whether polygamy is inherently patriarchal. Can you imagine, in some possible world, at least one polygamous arrangement that also happens to be egalitarian, without compromise? If you can, and I suppose virtually anyone can, then it’s not inherently patriarchal. Done!

    The problem, though, is that polygamy as a concept is one thing, polygamy as it has existed and continues to exist in this world is another. And unfortunately, polygamy has been and continues to be an overwhelmingly bad institution for women (and not just women). No doubt there are exceptions. But they occur against a background that we shouldn’t lose sight of. So, for example, unless cultural attitudes change dramatically, and polyamorous arrangements become much more common, I wouldn’t support civil recognition for polygamous marriage. In a better world than this, there would be no good reason not to. But here, for the foreseeable future, it would do more harm than good.

  15. LotusBen
    LotusBen January 16, 2012 at 4:55 pm |

    Chase, how are poly arrangments, currently or historically, more harmful to women than monogamous arrangments? Monogamous marriage hasn’t exactly had a great record of upholding women’s rights either. Plenty of young girls have been forced into arranged monogamous marriages throughout history, for example–same as with polygamy.

  16. Odin
    Odin January 16, 2012 at 5:19 pm |

    @LotusBen

    – I’m not Chase, but I do think that polygyny’s history is a little bit worse for women than monogamy’s history. In cultures that have preferentially practised polygyny for multiple generations, you tend to see that the age of first marriage for women as being very low, and the age of first marriage for men being very high. Usually women wind up marrying again at a later age, after their first husband dies. This is how polygyny is able to work even though populations tend to have equal numbers of men and women at any given age — you make the pool of marriagable women large, and make the pool of marriagable men small. The age disparities between women and their first husbands worsen the power imbalance. This doesn’t mean any particular culture practicing polygyny was more patriarchal than any particular culture practicing monogamy, just that to maintain polygyny you need the age disparity (or worse, see below), which tends to make things worse.

    The worse: the lost boys of polygyny. I remember reading about the raid of the FLDS community happened in Texas a few years ago that up to the age of puberty or so — in that community, there were equal numbers of male and female children. Once you got to age 15, that ratio changed drastically, with many fewer boys than girls. Those boys had to have gone _somewhere_ — so preferential polygyny can be worse for boys, too, than preferential monogamy, in that they will likely be driven away from the community or murdered.

    Disclaimer: All that said, historical polygamy != all polygamy, and I’m all for legalizing polygamy (whether, eg, it’s Alice marrying both Bob and Carol, or Alice, Bob, and Carol all marry as a group) so long as it’s set up to protect all members of the group equally.

  17. Antonia
    Antonia January 16, 2012 at 5:33 pm |

    Not only do we have polygamy, polygyny, and polyandry; there are some of us who are involved in relationships with more than one person who shares our gender identity, or who falls outside the gender binary altogether.

    As a queer woman, I’m tired of people talking about how inherently misogynist polygamous relationships must be. Not because there aren’t serious issues to be considered in polygynous relationships, but because I always end up invisible in these conversations.

  18. DonnaL
    DonnaL January 16, 2012 at 5:53 pm |

    Ben, I think you’re ignoring economic history in asking how polygynous marriages were historically more harmful to women than monogamous marriages. When, as has historically been the case, a husband is the sole or primary source of income, obviously each individual wife is harmed economically by the presence of each additional wife, and the loss of resources for herself and her children. I can’t speak to how polygyny was practiced in Islam, but where do you think the pushback came from that led to the strict prohibition of polygny among Jewish communities in Western Europe (where it had never been common in the first place) by the 10th and 11th centuries? Or the practice in the Egyptian and North African Jewish communities around the same time to impose strict promises in marriage contracts that a husband would neither divorce his wife or take a second wife without her permission, with severe financial penalties (including the return to the wife of the entirety of the “ketubah” money she brought to the marriage) for breaching those promises? The impetus came from women themselves, and their families, in a time of higher social and economic status for Jewish women in general — and in a time, prior to the Crusades and prior to the growth of the Christian merchant class, when Jews were very prominent in long-distance Mediterranean trade and there was a temptation for Jewish men who were merchants, and were often absent for large parts of the year, to take second wives and start second families in other towns and countries (particularly, of course, in Muslim lands where polygyny was nothing particularly unusual). So I think we have to trust that the women, and their families, who strongly fought against the practice of polygyny in Judaism, understood why it was harmful to them, and to their children.

  19. Chase
    Chase January 16, 2012 at 5:57 pm |

    @LotusBen

    Good point. I can’t know which arrangment has been more harmful, but we can definitely agree that neither has a good history. Further, I’d never assume that a monogamous arrangment, just by virtue of being monogamous, is somehow preferable to or better than a polyamorous arrangment. My reservation is solely with legalizing polygamy. The odd part about this is that if it were already legal, I doubt that I’d support making it illegal. Instead, I’d probably concentrate on the issue of how to regulate it. But for now, in the US and many other places, the barn door on polygamous marriage is closed, and I suspect that — again, for now — opening it would have worse consequences than leaving it closed. Probably the best longterm outcome is to recognize a variety of different arrangements. My only point is that, given the history of polygamy, we should wade into those waters, if at all, slowly and carefully.

  20. Azalea
    Azalea January 16, 2012 at 5:57 pm |

    As a poly person with poly friends who considers herself extremely feminist, I also want to point out that it’s entirely possible that a family with one man and multiple women is made up of women loving one another, not just the man loving several women. A bi/poly woman may have a male partner AND a female partner, and they may also partner with each other, depending on the dynamic of the relationship. While the standard, stereotypical image of polygamous families is the Sister Wives model, in reality the patriarchal model is absolutely not the only option.

    I agree with you Zippa. Polygamy is sexist only when it is sexist (when women are not allowed the same rights that men are allowed to have because they are women). The idea that one person being married to multiple people is inherently sexist wreaks of monogamous superiority. There are women who for whatever reason would be ok with this, and it wouldn’t have anything to do with religion or seism but more to do with sexuality, libido and a geniune interest in polygamy.

  21. Azalea
    Azalea January 16, 2012 at 6:06 pm |

    The problem, though, is that polygamy as a concept is one thing, polygamy as it has existed and continues to exist in this world is another. And unfortunately, polygamy has been and continues to be an overwhelmingly bad institution for women (and not just women). No doubt there are exceptions. But they occur against a background that we shouldn’t lose sight of. So, for example, unless cultural attitudes change dramatically, and polyamorous arrangements become much more common, I wouldn’t support civil recognition for polygamous marriage. In a better world than this, there would be no good reason not to. But here, for the foreseeable future, it would do more harm than good.

    So, Chase, aside from the obvious misogyny of women being forced into polygamy against their will or pressured by their religion, when and where has it been sexist? Because if Jordan married Joyce, Jennifer and Jaqueline with their informed consent (of each other) without pressure from an outside source where is the sexism?

  22. Lara Emily Foley
    Lara Emily Foley January 16, 2012 at 6:16 pm |

    When we discuss this are we also lumping polyamoury in with polygamy? Or are we just specifically talking about the historical baggae that comes with the term polygamy?

  23. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil January 16, 2012 at 6:18 pm |

    Because monogamous marriages aren’t very compatible with feminism either. In fact, most anti-feminist women are in (presumably) monogamous marriages.

    Really? Would you like to tell that to all the married, feminist women I know? Although marriage rates in the US are declining, 72% of American adults have been married at some point. Given those numbers, I would have to assume that there are a goodly number of feminist women who are or have been married (myself included). The fact that anti-feminist women get married too is more or less irrelevant in this case.

  24. LotusBen
    LotusBen January 16, 2012 at 6:34 pm |

    I’ve always known that the conventional wisdom was that polygyny has been particularly bad for women, and at one level that made sense to me. But my questioning just arose from the fact that I’m no big fan of traditional monogamous marriage either, and I know enough about its history to know its patriarchal record has been pretty whitewashed. So I wasn’t sure if the anti-polygyny view derived more from actual historical/sociological data or from prejudices in favor of monogamous marriage based off of Judeo-Christian religious dogma or Western cultural imperialism. So thanks for your responses Odin and Donna. I can see now how polygyny has historically been uniquely and especially harmful given what you’ve said. Yay learning!

    I still disagree wtih Chase re: legalizing polygamy, though. I mean, the FLDS and other groups that practice traditional polygyny are relatively small, and they’re doing what they’re doing anyway, even though it’s not government sanctioned. I doubt legalizing polygamy would increase the frequency of these arrangements very much. I believe there’s a lot more modern, egalitarian polyamorists in the US today than there are traditional polygynists. So legalizing polygamy would just make it easier for these polyamorous people to go about their daily lives, and remove unfair discrimation that privileges monogamous marriage. This seems as though it would be fairly compatible with feminism to me.

  25. groggette
    groggette January 16, 2012 at 6:41 pm |

    Further, I’d never assume that a monogamous arrangment, just by virtue of being monogamous, is somehow preferable to or better than a polyamorous arrangment.

    Why? Some people are not monogamously inclined. I’m one of them and so are a good chunk of my friends (self-selecting friendships, blah blah blah).
    Also, it’s not impossible to be legally married right now and polyamorous. It’s not a “polyamorous marriage” between multiple people but a primary married couple with other partners (some of whom maybe be as primary in the relationship as the married pair in everything but the legal benefits.

  26. groggette
    groggette January 16, 2012 at 6:48 pm |

    Er, in case it’s not clear, that second part of my comment (about marriage) isn’t tied to the comment I was quoting, just a seperate thought about the thread in general.

    @LotusBen

    Most people nowadays who are in non-monogamous relationships tend to be less traditional and more egalitarian.

    I’d hesitate to say this too. Less traditional is likely but more egalitarian? eh not so much in what I’ve seen. There’s people who suck at monogamous relationships and shouldn’t be in them and people who suck at polyamrous relationships and shouldn’t be in them (and some people who shouldn’t be in any kind of relationship). In my own experience and what I’ve seen the number of people involved in the relationship doesn’t have any bearing on how progressive or egalitarian it is.

  27. Chase
    Chase January 16, 2012 at 7:01 pm |

    @Azalea

    [I]f Jordan married Joyce, Jennifer and Jaqueline with their informed consent (of each other) without pressure from an outside source where is the sexism?

    Nowhere, which is why I’m not in principle opposed to polygamy (see my second comment for more) and why I denied that there’s anything inherently patriarchal about it. Ideally, those arrangements would have legal recognition. And ideally, we’d find some reasonable path from here to there. But that doesn’t make me in favor of recognizing them under the law in the very near future, for reasons stated above. That’s a pretty unstable position, though; I’ll cop to that.

  28. Tony_
    Tony_ January 16, 2012 at 7:04 pm |

    Egalitarian group marriage and polyamory regardless of gender ratios, as well as simple acceptance of the single man or woman (see Kate Bolick’s recent article in the Atlanic), excite me as liberating alternatives to monogamy, and to the extent that these options fall under polygamy then I currently don’t see it as inherently patriarchal or kyriarchal. Polygyny and polyandry under a purely heterosexual context, however, leave me cold.

    Let me quote from a paper I came across by Theodore Bergstrom that articulates some of my qualms:

    “In human societies, males who inherit economic wealth from parents or other relatives can increase their reproductive success substantially by acquiring additional wives, mistresses, or concubines. For females, on the other hand, an extra husband adds little to her lifetime fertility. Once a female has achieved moderate prosperity, additional wealth does little to relax the biological
    constraints on the number of offspring she can have. Therefore, we expect that in an an economy with well-functioning markets for marital partners, where parents distribute inheritance and the
    the bridewealth of their daughters in such a way as to maximize the number of their surviving grandchildren, we would expect there to be polygyny rather than polyandry and we would expect brides to command a positive price. We would further expect to see parents leave their inheritances (including the bridewealth received for their daughters predominantly to their sons rather than to their daughters. According to Goody (1973) and Kuper (1981), most of the polygynous societies of Africa fit this description”

    In essence, the economics of polygamy lean towards polygyny, and it also means towards hypergamy, which is the upward economic mobility of women based on marriage (but not men). Polygamy can be used, in practice, as a way for very wealthy and powerful men to extend their privilege in a dramatic way that they could not under monogamy. This would be the case (as the above quote shows) even if wealth were equally distributed among men and women in society, but we know that is not the case. As a side effect I think you could see gender imbalance by economic class as well as more incentives for poorer women to improve their economic standing through marriage rather than economic independence. Those would all be regressive trends in my eyes.

    Still, I do think that polygamy can be done in a healthy, egalitarian way and I can’t see any reason in those cases to say that someone else’s chosen relationship is invalid. And I do see that the ways that polygamy was practiced historically in an oppressive way, or practiced in other societies that are more repressive, are not as relevant today. So I remain conflicted.

  29. Odin
    Odin January 16, 2012 at 7:15 pm |

    Groggette, I think you may want to reread what Chase said — s/he said s/he would _not_ monogamy was automatically preferable, not that s/he _would_ assume so. :)

    You make an interesting point about currently-legally-married polyamorous individuals — these people exist, and it’s worth looking at what protections and vulnerabilities exist in these arrangements. I have a friend A with partners B and C, but B and C are not involved with each other. A is legally married to B, but used to have joint bank accounts with C. C had to close all of those and financially disentangle from A when A and B legally married, because otherwise B could’ve had a claim on C’s accounts and property through A. So there are some real legal consequences of _not_ defining poly marriage. Someone in C’s position who didn’t know they needed to financially disentangle shouldn’t have to rely on the continued good will of the B-analogue to keep hold of his or her property.

  30. Clarisse Thorn
    Clarisse Thorn January 16, 2012 at 7:29 pm | *

    I wrote an article about this when I was working on HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. I said a LOT in that article, and I hesitate to snip it for that reason, but maybe it’ll work out okay … here’s a relevant snip:

    Most interestingly, I’ve found that when the only partnership alternatives are seen as (1) abandonment and/or deadbeat fatherhood, (2) cheating, or (3) overt polygamy, then even empowered women will argue in favor of polygamy—though not happily, since they’re quite conscious that a system supporting polygamy without polyandry is completely unfair. In the aforementioned July 2009 New African piece, titled “The Sins of Our Fathers,” Akua Djanie reflects bitterly upon a father who ignored her mother in favor of his second wife. She writes that she “will encourage [her sons] to have a relationship with only one woman at a time. And if they make the mistake of having children from different women, I will make sure they are responsible for each and every one of them.”

    Then, however, Djanie asserts that “although I myself would never wish to be in such a [polygamous] relationship, I think it can work, does work, and has worked in the past”; that “the issue is not so much with the pros and cons of polygamy, but more with the irresponsible behavior of some men”; and that “African men are still as polygamous as they were in my father’s heyday. In fact I believe that polygamy will never go away.” She doesn’t mention HIV once. It’s worth noting that Djanie is very aware of Western cultural imperialism; she loathes and deconstructs those who downgrade African culture in favor of Western. For instance, her November 2009 New African piece is about her frustration that Africans usually model Christmas on Western standards, showing images of white children frolicking in snow. Thus, her argument against traditional polygamy is especially striking.

  31. Clarisse Thorn
    Clarisse Thorn January 16, 2012 at 7:30 pm | *

    Also note, there’s a really interesting book called Is Multiculturalism Bad For Women? that grapples with traditional polygamy a bit.

  32. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig January 16, 2012 at 8:21 pm |

    FashionablyEvil: I understand that there are married feminists, just as there are Christian feminists, but in both cases, there are lots of logical gymnastics that must be done to square the two positions with each other. Married women are much more conservative and conventional than single woman, that’s just a fact.
    Personally, I think polyandry is more feminist then polygyny, but that’s just my two cents.

  33. Amanda Marcotte
    Amanda Marcotte January 16, 2012 at 9:01 pm |

    This question is part of a larger problem of collapsing the distinction between “ideal” and “legal”. Conservatives are the worst. Let’s not join them. I think one can both say that throwing people in jail for polygamy is wrong without supporting a clearly patriarchal institution.

  34. Archie
    Archie January 16, 2012 at 9:31 pm |

    To the point: if the parties to a marriage are feminists, then the marriage is compatible with feminism. However, I find it hard to believe that institutional polygamy, (whether practiced in the US,Africa, or in the Muslim world,) is something that women enter because it advances their degree of self determination.

  35. beth
    beth January 16, 2012 at 9:55 pm |

    Instead of an intellectual thought experiment, all we have to do is look at the history of marriage to multiples. There’s a reason why our ancestors fought to make it illegal and even the most conservative thought it was a boon to women’s rights. Why do we have to lose and refight everything again?

    Multiple spouses are about 100% multiple wives, one man. The value of the man is much higher and not equal. In a two spouse marriage, both have about equal value in the eyes of the law and in the pain of divorcing? One man is the focal point of procreation and power and family name. Irreplaceable, while women are part of a herd. The loss of one is not that costly to the man as the loss of the man, which leaves such a family stranded. Many times, there’s childlike home schooled women, isolated from society and not expected to be fully mature, functional, or powerful as a man is. It seems many who do choose the life have the same fear of the big bad world as many of us did, and opt out in this world where playing babysitter with big daddy, the nonquestionable man.

    What rights she has to fight abuse? How much harder is it to be in a house of narcs playing sister wives in pious pole position than just having the one man? They play god, your children, your guilt against you for ever sticking up for yourself or questioning anything. Thought things were bad with the one spouse? Try asserting yourself in a multiple and you find yourself in a spiderweb where your power is perhaps immature sibling not equal spouse.

    In a multi marriage, the older wives don’t often have or exercise (what are they going to do) the power to refuse more wives. Often it is said it is god’s plan and who argues with that? The wives have no similar power to explore sexuality and often get ‘used up’ the older further, unemployable without retirement and no social security. Girls in such families are painted a future where they cannot count on a home of their own. As we go down the path of religious tolerance, remember, women and girls are not acceptable losses. Why do we have to go through this thing where we ttry to believe that all beliefs are equal and nice when there is a force in the world who would go back to women being counted with the cattle?

  36. Drew
    Drew January 16, 2012 at 10:16 pm |

    I don’t think a private polygynous arrangement is inherently misogynistic, but institutional polygyny (especially in the absence of polyandry/polyamory) would end up being so.

  37. Jamie
    Jamie January 16, 2012 at 10:16 pm |

    I think most of this discussion is going to boil down to: “This thing seems like it could be OK, even kinda awesome, as long as no one is being a jerk.

    ….oh wait.”

  38. WitchWolf
    WitchWolf January 16, 2012 at 10:23 pm |

    If we respect choice then why should being in a multiple marriage be out of the question? I firmly believe that people have a right to define a marriage any way they would like to define it as long as the people entering the marriage are legal adults and have the ability to leave the marriage freely. (In fairness, I also think that there should be a contract that determines roles and responsibilities, expectations, and an equatable end of a relationship.)

    I am not totally convinced that the government has a right to determine what marriage is and I am not even sure that the government should be in the marriage business… I do think that if there are children are involved there should be some kind of agreement between parents in place before that child is born.

  39. Jamie
    Jamie January 16, 2012 at 10:23 pm |

    Actually, I just got back from a few months staying with the Massaii people, whose marriage practices are very much steeped in polygamy, and a few other traditional peoples in Kenya, some of whose were not.

    It’s hard to say how that stacked up against feminism, because feminist rhetoric seems all kinds of irrelevant when one is more worried about how to keep the cows alive. Also, it’s hard to isolate one issue like this in a culture that is so radically different from the type where feminism can even exist. But polygamy did have a certain social function, in that the women – who don’t have a lot of power by themselves – were able to sort of team up against their husband when he was doing something jerkish. That said, it often worked against them, as I saw in the Turkana tribes (who aren’t loving life right now with the whole drought situation) when a favored or first wife would receive an unfair amount of resources.

    I realise that these examples are probably far from what a lot of people here are thinking, between discussions of polyamoury and probably Bountiful. The point, as I said above, is that isolating a piece of a culture, like polygamy, isn’t a great way to look at it and decide whether or not it works with a feminist outlook. Like just about everything else these days, the answer is complicated.

  40. igglanova
    igglanova January 16, 2012 at 10:35 pm |

    Eh, I don’t really see the point in agonizing over whether something is compatible with feminism or not. My own thought process always goes thusly…

    Does it hurt people?

    No?

    Whatever, then. Do what you want. As long as you’re not being a total dick about your relationships in other ways, feminism can safely ignore you. (But oh, how rarely that seems to happen…)

    If we’re talking about state recognition of polygamous marriages, that would currently fuck up a lot of entangled legislation like partner benefits and welfare. I would just advocate scrapping institutional support for marriage, period, and then giving less than two mouse shits about whatever people want to call their various sexy-time arrangements, but no-one ever seems to go for that idea.

  41. LotusBen
    LotusBen January 16, 2012 at 10:48 pm |

    I would just advocate scrapping institutional support for marriage, period, and then giving less than two mouse shits about whatever people want to call their various sexy-time arrangements, but no-one ever seems to go for that idea.

    Yeah, not many people do go for that idea. But I think it sounds perfect.

  42. BBBShrewHarpy
    BBBShrewHarpy January 16, 2012 at 10:52 pm |

    @Jamie

    I think your example is very pertinent actually. Also, DonnaL’s historical perspective, with women being the fighting force against polygyny owing to the issues of resources for both them and their children, reminds us that marriage is usually a financial compact in addition to a sexual/romantic living arrangement.

    In addition to the questions of inheritance and legal settlements following break-ups mentioned by Roro80 (7), it is quite common at least in the US for employment packages to include financial benefits such as health and life insurance for (in my state) legal spouses (in some more enlightened states domestic partners of either gender are legal beneficiaries). If we assume that one working person is entitled to one beneficiary (and it is in my view not realistic for fiscal reasons to expect anything else), then a polygamous union could also be a negotiated set of pairings (not necessarily reciprocal) to accommodate and protect the more financially vulnerable members of the union (including children, if any). Clearly a LDS type arrangement with a patriarch and wives who were not married to each other would not work unless the women (at least all but one of them) were financially independent. It is possible, however, that such a negotiation of financial benefits in a multi-way polygamous marriage might mitigate in our society against the fears of the women from other lands and times described by DonnaL, Jamie, and Clarisse. I think such an arrangement and its accommodation by society (and employers) would be a necessary (but not necessarily sufficient) condition for polygamy to be compatible with feminism.

  43. WitchWolf
    WitchWolf January 16, 2012 at 11:19 pm |

    BBBShrewHarpy

    that leads to another question of course- In the US your ability to get health insurance is tied to being employed and with many employers starting to opt-out of paying for partner/spouse/child benefits, it’s difficult to even have one spouse much less multiple.

    Jamie

    very sobering post – Thanks…

  44. beth
    beth January 17, 2012 at 12:05 am |

    There’s a reason why we have prohibitions on slavery, child labor, and the minimum wage. Given the power, men of power lead a race to the bottom.. given the choice, many people would choose dirty water over no water so I don’t base my ideals on the fact that multiple marriages exist where women don’t have much choice or the pressure that god ordained it.

    Activism for women should be to create a world where a woman can be very powerful, not disempowered because of some false thought experiment that comes out that it is rude to judge a culture. Multiple marriage is not “just like the choice” of marrying a single spouse. While we parse out the meaning, the history, the results, and the race to the bottom is clear to see. Women are not as valuable, not as protected, not as powerful as the man in that marriage and once entered into that corral, power to run the household and her life diminishes and is whatever she can beg or borrow in the henhouse. Her value drops if she is too assertive, for she competes on the scale of compliance and sexual power with all the other women. If she wants to break it, there is a ready list of sister wives to testiify against hr…they have a lot invested and to question riles up the whole house. The household is the man’s and never truly hers as a wife in a multiple, and girls aren’t given the future of adulthood, ownership, power as is the ideal for adult women as feminism fought for.

  45. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. January 17, 2012 at 12:59 am |

    Women are not as valuable, not as protected, not as powerful as the man in that marriage and once entered into that corral, power to run the household and her life diminishes and is whatever she can beg or borrow in the henhouse. Her value drops if she is too assertive, for she competes on the scale of compliance and sexual power with all the other women. If she wants to break it, there is a ready list of sister wives to testiify against hr…they have a lot invested and to question riles up the whole house. The household is the man’s and never truly hers as a wife in a multiple, and girls aren’t given the future of adulthood, ownership, power as is the ideal for adult women as feminism fought for.

    I don’t accept the premise that a woman’s value is based on exclusive access to her reproduction whether that premise is used to promote monogamous marriage or condemn polygamy.

    Any relationship can be non-egalitarian.

  46. WitchWolf
    WitchWolf January 17, 2012 at 1:52 am |

    Beth monogamous marriages are not all equal either – So what do we have to do, bar all marriage? Men have the power to define what marriage is and who can enter it — Men have had the ability to control “marriage” how it’s defined, how the power will be distributed – It doesn’t matter if he has one wife or many, men with absolute power will rule by that.

  47. Julian Morrison
    Julian Morrison January 17, 2012 at 5:23 am |

    The marriage arrangements are an unnecessary proxy for looking at the real culprit, which is religion and tradition. It’s just a little harder, socially and especially legally, to say to someone “your religion needs to tear up its traditions and reform its ideas” than “quit collecting wives”. But all this indicates is that the solution won’t come from laws.

  48. Justamblingalong
    Justamblingalong January 17, 2012 at 6:10 am |

    Personally, I think polyandry is more feminist then polygyny, but that’s just my two cents.

    Feminism is emphatically not about attempting to flip gender roles so men are subjected and women are liberated- that rhetoric typically comes from right-wing talk shows. So to say “relationship X is ok if women are in position Y, but wrong if men are in position Y” is bullshit.

    We don’t have to mention this very often, pragmatically speaking, because in our society there’s not much risk of women getting a ton of privilege as opposed to men in the immediate future. But if we’re just talking about the theory of gender relations, and what the ideal goal we’re shooting for is, then yeah, it’s absolutely bullshit to say “I’m fine with women practicing X, but not men.”

  49. Natalia
    Natalia January 17, 2012 at 6:52 am |

    Married women are much more conservative and conventional than single woman, that’s just a fact.

    There she goes with the performance art again.

  50. Tuesday Teasers: Stuff I’ve Been Reading [#3] - The Pursuit of Harpyness

    [...] @ Feministe | Feministe Feedback: Polygamy and Feminism. A reader submitted a question about feminist perspectives on polygamy and discussion ensued in [...]

  51. Gunnar Tveiten
    Gunnar Tveiten January 17, 2012 at 8:32 am |

    I think in a hypothethical world, it could be compatible with feminism, assuming group-marriages generally where accepted, and not just one-man-many-women marriages (if that’s accepted, but the opposite is not, then I don’t think it can be feminist-compatible)

    But I also think that *this* world is a very long way from *that* world, i.e. there’s a lot of stuff that’d need to change in a radical way, for that to become possible.

  52. Past my expiration date
    Past my expiration date January 17, 2012 at 9:19 am |

    I understand that there are married feminists, just as there are Christian feminists, but in both cases, there are lots of logical gymnastics that must be done to square the two positions with each other. Married women are much more conservative and conventional than single woman, that’s just a fact.

    Where I’m finding logical gymnastics — or at least several missing steps — is in the argument that

    IF most anti-feminist women are married,
    THEN marriage is inherently anti-feminist.

    Would it be valid to argue that

    IF most anti-feminist women use contraception
    THEN using contraception is inherently anti-feminist?

  53. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig January 17, 2012 at 9:51 am |

    Past my expiration date: Marriage is rooted in the idea that women are transferable property. Married women have to agree to reduce themselves to property, and it’s no surprise that traditionally-raised and self-hating women are more willing to sacrifice themselves than liberal minded women are. And I think you’re putting up a straw man; anti-feminist women don’t use birth control at all.

    Justamblingalong: Polyandry doesn’t reduce men to ‘subjects.’ In fact, it doesn’t impact their rights at all, unlike polygyny, which treats women as interchangable widgets.

  54. Jen in Ohio
    Jen in Ohio January 17, 2012 at 10:37 am |

    I would just advocate scrapping institutional support for marriage, period, and then giving less than two mouse shits about whatever people want to call their various sexy-time arrangements, but no-one ever seems to go for that idea.

    Yeah, not many people do go for that idea. But I think it sounds perfect.

    Y’all realize that you can currently do this, right? It’s legal and everything, right now. In the US, no one has the right to force you into a marriage. Have all the sexy times arrangements you want and call them whatever you want, go for it.

    Here’s the thing, though — other people have different needs than you do. A lot of people have the need to choose their own kinship and have some kind of community/official recognition of these chosen-kinship bonds. (This need is actually way older than the marriage contract itself, which is fascinating to me, but I’m a giant dork who has never been married and has no intention of ever getting married.)

    The right to choose one’s own kinship is especially important to a lot of queer people who have been thrown away from their families of origin and/or who have very hostile relations with those families. Pretty much no one wants the abusive homophobe who turned them out as a kid to have the power make the call at the hospital about whether to leave the life support on, you know? Marriage instantly transfers that right to the spouse.

    POAs are supposed to transfer that right to whomever you designate but they often don’t work for queer folk because homophobes will use any excuse they can to screw us over, and right now only a marriage license can legalize any kinship-bond queer people choose. Unless the entire system is overhauled (which, let’s face it, is highly unlikely to happen in our lifetimes) then queer people literally cannot “become family” without a marriage license. If there are homophobes in the extendeds/in-laws on either side, then we risk losing not only our assets when a partner dies, but sometimes also our children.

    The civil marriage contract is an imperfect way of legalizing chosen kinship bonds, for sure, but rather than scrapping it, I’d like to see it improved and expanded to serve the needs of more types and kinds of chosen families, poly arrangements inclusive. Anyone who doesn’t want to choose any new kinship shouldn’t have to, and there should also be a way to sever any and all legal ties to the kinship you were born into because, you know, some of us are big time losers at that particular game of genetic lotto, heh.

  55. groggette
    groggette January 17, 2012 at 10:52 am |

    Groggette, I think you may want to reread what Chase said — s/he said s/he would _not_ monogamy was automatically preferable, not that s/he _would_ assume so. :)

    Oh shit, you’re completely right! I missed the “never” every time I read that line. My apologies, Chase.

  56. groggette
    groggette January 17, 2012 at 10:58 am |

    from Antonia:

    As a queer woman, I’m tired of people talking about how inherently misogynist polygamous relationships must be. Not because there aren’t serious issues to be considered in polygynous relationships, but because I always end up invisible in these conversations.

    Just highlighting that in regards to Beth’s recent comments where she completely erases queer poly women (and men).

  57. Bex
    Bex January 17, 2012 at 11:08 am |

    My personal opinion has always been that:

    a) people should be able to choose any consensual relationship structures they see fit,

    and,

    b) religious, political, and other societal structures that choose to limit the “acceptable” structures to a specific kind are oppressive and tend toward rebellion, abuse, and ultimate failure.

  58. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil January 17, 2012 at 11:14 am |

    Marriage is rooted in the idea that women are transferable property. Married women have to agree to reduce themselves to property, and it’s no surprise that traditionally-raised and self-hating women are more willing to sacrifice themselves than liberal minded women are.

    Yes! I am now property! And self-hating! That’s exactly what I’ve been missing for the last 4 years!

  59. Bex
    Bex January 17, 2012 at 11:17 am |

    Past my expiration date: Marriage is rooted in the idea that women are transferable property. Married women have to agree to reduce themselves to property, and it’s no surprise that traditionally-raised and self-hating women are more willing to sacrifice themselves than liberal minded women are.

    Actually, from my knowledge the kind of marriage traditions we have now descended primarily from the Celts – before the onslaught of Christianity, celtic women were as likely to own property as their husbands, as likely to go off to fight in battle, as likely to be left alone raising the children. This is actually why marriage contract law became so important there, from my understanding of the process.

    The only reason the marriage license exists in the USA is because of the criminalization (and subsequent decriminalization) of interracial marriage. Prior to abolition, one only required the signatures of one’s “spiritual family” in the front of a family “holy book” to prove a “legal” marriage had occurred. When the government decided to begin allowing interracial marriage to be recognized, it was only allowed if the couple first purchased a “license to marry” and eventually the bureaucrats realized they could make a lot more money if everyone had to buy the darn things. Ta-da, marriage as we know it today.

  60. Past my expiration date
    Past my expiration date January 17, 2012 at 11:23 am |

    IF anti-feminist women don’t use contraception at all,
    AND (according to the Guttmacher Institute), more than 99% of women aged 15–44 who have ever had sexual intercourse have used at least one contraceptive method,
    THEN hooray! the proportion of anti-feminist women in the US population is very small!

    Now I, me, personally, speaking for myself, don’t remember the part where I had to agree to reduce myself to property, when I got married. But of course my memory may be faulty.

  61. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers January 17, 2012 at 11:53 am |

    Here’s the thing. Almost any arrangement can be egalitarian or subjugating. Culture has a bad, bad habit of making it always be about male domination no matter how you slice it.

    One man, multiple women? The man is the valuable center of the household; the women are interchangeable property.

    One woman, multiple men? Men work together in groups to dominate and control individual women who are the possession of more than one of them.

    One woman, one man? The man is bigger, stronger and has more social rights than the woman, so when it’s him and her alone, he’s going to be in control, and if she tries to push back, she’s isolated with him.

    The problem is misogyny and male domination. *Any* system can be turned to misogynist, male-dominant ends.

    From a different perspective, imagine this:

    One man, multiple women: Women group together because it gives them security against attempts by the man they’re sleeping with to try to control them. The man is outnumbered and any time there’s a conflict between him and one of the women, it’s many women against him.

    One woman, multiple men: The woman is the valuable center of the household; her multiple men don’t know which of her children are fathered by which of them, so they’re honor-bound to treat all of her children as theirs. Since only women can reproduce, her social power is greater than theirs, and they compete with each other for her attention and love.

    One man, one woman: The woman’s emotional strength and centeredness, her close bonds with her family, and her network of female friends give her more social and emotional power than the man, who is isolated by the social requirement by men to pretend they have no weaknesses; she dominates him, and he doesn’t dare admit it because other men, rather than sympathizing, will mock him and undercut what social power he does have.

    Or how about this:

    One man, multiple women: A triangle, or quadrangle, of committed friends and lovers who all perceive each other as equals. The women may be primarily straight, but lack of societal homophobia allows them to express their deep caring for each other in sexual unions; or they may be bisexual, and romantically in love with each other as much as they are with the man. Or one or more could be gay, but best friends with the man that the woman they love loves as well.

    One woman, multiple men: A triangle, or quadrangle, of committed friends and lovers who all perceive each other as equals. The men may be primarily straight, but lack of societal homophobia allows them to express their deep caring for each other in sexual unions; or they may be bisexual, and romantically in love with each other as much as they are with the woman. Or one or more could be gay, but best friends with the woman that the man they love loves as well.

    One man, one woman: An egalitarian relationship of committed equals.

    Oh, and then there’s:

    Multiple men, multiple women: More than one man have grouped together to be able to exert dominance and control over a group of women. The men are a united front; societal misogyny causes the women to compete with each other, as they are told their only worth is the value they hold to men.

    Multiple men, multiple women: More than one woman have grouped together to be able to dominate and control a group of men. The women are a united front; social structures that demand that men compete with one another keep the men from banding together and keeps them at each other’s throats competing for the attention of the women.

    Multiple men, multiple women: A committed relationship of friends and equals where pretty much everyone is either a best friend with benefits or a lover to everyone else.

    Most of these are science fiction/fantasy cultural constructs. In real life, societal misogyny exists. In real life, cultures that practice polygyny almost universally practice it in the form where the man is valuable and the women are possessions. In the one culture I know of that practices polyandry, the men are brothers (or understood socially to be brothers) and they share a wife due to a shortage of women; the woman is not the dominant center of the relationship, she is a shared possession. And the whole reason domestic violence is so widespread, so hard to fight, and so often committed by men against women is that when a man and a woman are alone together, and he is physically stronger, feels a sense of entitlement, and has more social and economic power than she does, there are no witnesses who can take her side, and if she speaks up, social forces that call women less reliable than men discount her testimony.

    So as nearly as I can see, the problem is not the marriage form. Polygyny practiced by a society that values women highly and encourages them to bond together with one another could be a form of female dominance, allowing women to outnumber men in relationships. Polyandry practiced by a society that values women highly could function just like polygyny in our misogynist society does. Both forms could be egalitarian if practiced in an egalitarian culture. And monogamy can promote male dominance and control, or can permit female dominance and control, or can be egalitarian.

    The form of marriage makes no difference as long as the society is misogynist. In the real world, we can’t escape the fact that all actual societies currently practicing polygyny *are* misogynist… but so are most cultures that practice monogamy. Yes, polygynous marriages in a misogynist society are worse for women than monogamous marriages in a misogynist society, because if your only societal power pertains to how important you are to a man, allowing men to consider multiple women equally important deprives them all of power. But that’s not a function of the polygyny, it’s a function of the misogyny, and outlawing polygyny did not make Jewish and Christian marriages any more egalitarian than Muslim polygyny was for the first 1900 years that the concept of Christianity even existed, and probably longer.

    Now there are a lot of legal problems with polygamy that would need to be resolved. But if we created a legal structure that *allows* the marriage of multiple people, and handles things like inheritance, custody, what happens on divorce, etc., it shouldn’t be that hard to enforce that the structure:
    - cannot be entered by people who are underage with respect to the other participants; a three-way marriage of three teenagers might be permissible, but a teenager marrying two adults, or two teenagers marrying an adult, are not
    - cannot be restricted by gender in any way, so the existence of potential polygynous marriage is counterbalanced by potential polyandrous marriage and potential polyamorous marriage
    - does not permit for one person to provide all of the financial support to the rest; the tax structure would be designed such that if one person provides for one person, there is some benefit that eases the burden, but if one person provides for two people, the tax burden becomes staggering (perhaps eased into, so the first year that it happens, there’s no problem, but the second year, it starts to suck, and by the time one person has been financially providing for multiple unemployed people for five years, the tax burden is unbearable… we don’t want to penalize the three-way where one person was always planning to stay home with the kids and then one of the two working spouses lost their job, but no structure that’s designed around the notion of a patriarch who makes all the money and doles it out to dependent wives can be allowed without severe tax penalties)

    This solves most of the problems that are specific to polygyny. We already have laws against people being forced into marriage, and making polygamy a legal thing might actually give us a framework to better protect women from being forced into it, as right now, it’s completely underground.

    The real problem is misogyny and male dominance. No matter what marital structures exist, they will be turned to the purpose of enforcing male dominance so long as society is patriarchal and misogynist. So I don’t actually see a good reason for forbidding polygamous marriage except for the technical difficulties in managing the legal structure. Making polygamy legal brings it out into the open and allows society to exert some control over it for the protection of the women in it, and making it explicitly poly*gamy* and not poly*gyny* means that social role models for such marriages don’t all look like “old rich man with many wives”. We got a lot more egalitarian monogamous marriages when we removed most of the laws that explicitly allowed men to control their wives, and put in place laws to protect wives from such control. Those laws could help women in polygynous marriages too, if such marriages were under the control of law.

  62. Angie unduplicated
    Angie unduplicated January 17, 2012 at 11:55 am |

    Polyandry, by definition, is unlikely to be more feminist than polygyny. Imbalances of power between the sexes are rooted in physical size, physical force, and the physical changes of pregnancy. More big men=more force and size vs one woman who is smaller and outnumbered. Second imbalance: all the dirty clothes and beer cans in the floor, and three guesses who will be ganged up on whom to clean up the mess.
    Jen-your point about being able to divorce your entire family is so valid and so welcome. That’s a law we need ASAP, to escape criminal, bullying, or multigenerational addicted families. Darned shame we can’t get witness protection, too.

  63. Maria
    Maria January 17, 2012 at 12:37 pm |

    Archie

    To the point: if the parties to a marriage are feminists, then the marriage is compatible with feminism.

    Yep.

    That’s why when I go over to my feminist married friend’s house, I see her fixing the feminist dinner and vacuuming the feminist carpet while he sits on his feminist butt after a long, hard day of work and reads his feminist Kindle.

    Feminism isn’t Tide with bleach. It doesn’t magically get the stains of patriarchy out of your relationship.

  64. jessi
    jessi January 17, 2012 at 12:42 pm |

    That’s why when I go over to my feminist married friend’s house, I see her fixing the feminist dinner and vacuuming the feminist carpet while he sits on his feminist butt after a long, hard day of work and reads his feminist Kindle.

    Feminism isn’t Tide with bleach. It doesn’t magically get the stains of patriarchy out of your relationship.

    In what way are both parties in that scenario feminists?

  65. Arielle Karp
    Arielle Karp January 17, 2012 at 12:58 pm |

    From a scientific perspective, polygamy is a form of inbreeding as it limits the gene pool. The same goes for polyandry as well. Therefore, we should not agree with either or any form of inbreeding as part of our cultural norm, whether we be feminists, or scientists, or both :).

  66. Northland Heights
    Northland Heights January 17, 2012 at 12:58 pm |

    Pointing this out is a cliche by now, but there is a reason that successful societies evolved out of polygamy. It is anti-democratic, and invariably favors a few wealthy men at the expense of everyone else.

  67. Tina
    Tina January 17, 2012 at 1:03 pm |

    From a scientific perspective, polygamy is a form of inbreeding as it limits the gene pool. The same goes for polyandry as well. Therefore, we should not agree with either or any form of inbreeding as part of our cultural norm, whether we be feminists, or scientists, or both :).

    So should we also be against the gays because they don’t breed and therefore the entire human race will become extinct?

  68. groggette
    groggette January 17, 2012 at 1:12 pm |

    It is anti-democratic, and invariably favors a few wealthy men at the expense of everyone else.

    The polyamorous cirlces I run in are neither anti-democratic nor do they favor a few wealthy men at the expense of everyone else.

  69. AMM
    AMM January 17, 2012 at 3:17 pm |

    By an odd coincidence, I met a polygamous family (2 men, 1 woman.) I think she is legally married to one of the men. They seem like nice liberal types (I met them in a Quaker venue, so I’m guessing they’re Quakers, or at least fellow-travellers), and the daddies seem to trade off child care, though of course I don’t know what their home life is like. I had the impression that they consider both men to be the fathers of all of their children, but of course only one can be the father of any particular child for legal purposes.

    The main problem they report is that it’s a bit difficult when the man who is not the legal father needs to deal with institutions like schools. He needs to carry a letter from the legal parents so he can do things like pick up the child from school and stuff.

    I don’t know what it would be like if they broke up. I was only married to one person, and getting divorced was bad enough.

  70. flightless
    flightless January 17, 2012 at 3:31 pm |

    The only people I’ve known personally who considered themselves to be in a poly marriage were 3 men, and they had a loving & successful household together for years. Not legally binding in the state where they live, but they all used the word “husband.”

  71. Drew
    Drew January 17, 2012 at 3:34 pm |

    Northland Heights 1.17.2012 at 12:58 pm | Permalink
    Pointing this out is a cliche by now, but there is a reason that successful societies evolved out of polygamy. It is anti-democratic, and invariably favors a few wealthy men at the expense of everyone else.

    I’ve read somewhere that the average height of men being more than the average height of women indicates that we generally come from polygynous societies (monogamous species have about equal average height between sexes, and a polyandrous species would have taller females, on average).

    And it makes a sort of sense, in an archaic evolutionary way – the man with the best genes would have the most partners and spread genes best selected for. Also, considering our reproductive sysems, a man with several women can produce more children than a woman with several men.

    Of course, none of this translates to “Therefore, we should be polygynous today.”

    groggette 1.17.2012 at 1:12 pm | PermalinkThe polyamorous cirlces I run in are neither anti-democratic nor do they favor a few wealthy men at the expense of everyone else.

    Polyamorous circles within a society with institutionalized monogamy are going to be different than a society with institutionalized polyamory, I think.

  72. Archie
    Archie January 17, 2012 at 4:12 pm |

    Maria it sounds like your feminist friend married a non-feminist. .

  73. Justamblingalong
    Justamblingalong January 17, 2012 at 4:32 pm |

    Justamblingalong: Polyandry doesn’t reduce men to ‘subjects.’ In fact, it doesn’t impact their rights at all, unlike polygyny, which treats women as interchangable widgets.

    What’s inherently more free about one woman with multiple husbands, as opposed to one man with multiple wives? Can you justify this statement, at all?

  74. Roro80
    Roro80 January 17, 2012 at 4:53 pm |

    It’s pretty crummy to tell other people on this board who happen to be in marriages they’re quite happy with (thankyouverymuch) that their marriages couldn’t possibly be compatible with feminism, because you said so. That whole “disappearing other peoples’ voices” thing is ugly. If you, personally, can’t imagine being in a marriage at all, because you don’t think you could partner with anyone in a way that is egalitarian, that’s fine and your choice, good on ya, but please don’t define other people’s relationships for them.

  75. LotusBen
    LotusBen January 17, 2012 at 5:26 pm |

    Jen in Ohio: great points. I think it’s awesome when queer folks can trade the crappy families they are born into with ones they choose. And a marriage license does carry more weight than a power of attorney. So I hope to see legal gay marriage in all 50 states. The idea of scrapping institutional support for marriage is more something I consider an ideal, because I think it would maximize personal freedom. In the here and now, I fully support the efforts of marriage activists to prevent the government from discriminating against LGBT people, as well as poly people.

  76. Odin
    Odin January 17, 2012 at 7:49 pm |

    @Arielle

    Speaking as a feminist and a scientist… huh? I really, really do not follow.

    First, our species has plenty of genetic diversity (much of it in Africa, IIRC). And I live in a country (the US) that is growing more diverse and is seeing an increasing rate of interracial marriage. I’m rather confused why we should be opposed to cultural accepting as normal things which “limit the gene pool”.

    Second, polygamy is not inherently “limiting the gene pool” — only letting a small subset of men and a small subset of their sons and their sons’ sons and so forth reproduce certainly could, but that’s hardly equivalent to cultural acceptance of feminist-compatible notions of polyamory.

    Third, plenty of human populations practice endogamy, which also limits the genetic diversity of that particular population. This is already pretty well-accepted, culturally. If we, as feminists and scientists, are not supposed to “agree with” this, then are we supposed to, eg, _discourage_ Native Americans from marrying others in their same Nation (or whose nations are from the same part of the continent, etc)? Should I be frowning at the two Chinese international students in my class who are dating? Was I supposed to oppose my cousin marrying someone else of Ashkenazi decent? Because that seems, um, rather un-feminist and hella problematic.

    Fourth, occasional “inbreeding” is not really that bad. Cousin marriage, so long as it’s occasional, doesn’t really hurt the genetic diversity of the population at all, and unless the family has something particularly nasty*, it’s not really terrible for the offspring either. (And if the family does have something nasty, like Tay-Sachs… well, there is such a thing as genetic screening, y’know.)

    Fifth, plenty of species practice polygyny. The reason the African lion population is decreasing is not because they have harems….

  77. igglanova
    igglanova January 17, 2012 at 9:48 pm |

    Here’s the thing, though — other people have different needs than you do. A lot of people have the need to choose their own kinship and have some kind of community/official recognition of these chosen-kinship bonds.

    Ah, here we go with the dressing-down. How I do love a good dressing-down, being scolded like an impudent child who could not possibly know what I was talking about.

    Let me make something plain. People’s emotional need to feel official recognition for their partnership does not, ever, trump the injustice that results from the restrictions on said recognition that official legality necessarily causes. The fuzzy feeling you get from community recognition is not more important than other people’s deprivation of the special privileges granted to people in state-approved nuclear marriages. If you want to make your marriage feel more legit than a simple partnership, what you are actually wishing for is a document that designates your relationship as better than other ways of partnering. Yeah, privilege and superiority sure do feel nice and cozy, don’t they?

    In case you think I’m against same-sex marriage or some other such radical horseshit, I assure you that I am not. I am a pragmatist. Expanding the definition of marriage is currently the easiest way to right wrongs and improve people’s lives, so I’m all for it. But let’s not pretend that institutional support for marriage does not result in inequality.

  78. Beth
    Beth January 18, 2012 at 2:00 am |

    I have to laugh at most of these comments.

    Seriously. This begs the Saturday Night Live “seriously?” treatment.

    Well. In the real world. If you have one man and multiple wives…well, I wish I had a white board for this… the man does have the most power.

    Period.

    It is not an equal arrangement. And…one does not exist except in thought experiments where elaborate legal contracts are drawn up such as some have suggested. Geeze. Are the first wife’s kid’s worth more in inheritance? Who pays for social security…oh, yeah, they don’t work so they don’t get any and also…can’t get half of the husband’s. But then…the man is okay in these situations always. After all, to get into heaven the women sorta have to be chaste to him only and with the peer pressure, he has multiple handmaidens. While the women do not get freedom to have god tell them to get another husband or to demand from her husband. After all, there are other compliant wives. He doesn’t do without.

    You can take exception like an academic all you want. Guarantee that the women’s and girl’s lives in that situation aren’t acceptable losses to fulfill some sort of mind experiment where “it should” be okay within the confines of someone’s mind, when in the real world, over time and history, it has never played out as a road to empowerment of women. Instead, uninterrupted, it is a race to the bottom. Yeah, I get it. In some societies, women have that choice or, basically none. However, doesn’t stop me from being a feminist and saying that a mature woman (one who has employment options and doesn’t want to escape the big bad world and leave Big Daddy’s rule) deserves better than wife #4 designation.

    The children of these multiple marriages (always one man, multiple wives) deserve to know that women are worth as much as men. Have as much of a roving eye and sexuality as men. Have the right to head their household. Have as much of a requirement of care and attention as a man. However, these marriages don’t model that. The women aren’t worth as much as a man. And the value of the spouses added aren’t equal, you know that. Not like a two partner marriage.

    One of the good things we’ve done with laws is to recognize some situations that act like gasoline on a race to the bottom. It recognizes, at least in the US, that there is something called hate crimes. An hate attack is not just a regular assault because it tends to become an accelerator to bigger society downward spirals. Also with the minimum wage. Also with the prohibition on child labor and slavery. Could two adults agree to a slavery contract in free will and slavery need not be abusive? In a thought experiment, yes. But legal logic recognizes that the state of society is important in the law too. We are not to the point where legal multiple marriage would not lead to a downward spiral. And funny, in times of trouble, do you notice that most societies still reach for the reason that trouble is all about the unruly womenz. If they’d just cover themselves up, act right, bow to the men, be servants of men, well..society and the country’s finances would shape right up. I can’t believe in this year that the idea that contraception is still debated in the US. Believe me, there is still that gasoline that exists, ready to be lit that would love to take us back in time and hope the younger generation would be fools enough to forget what came before and fall in line.

    Sure, in your college community or urban area, you might not be able to imagine it happening, but read historical and contemporary accounts. These men and women who fought to make it illegal and still do, they had reasons and paid a big price for it. And they are not equal reasons to hating illegal gay marriage. It is about fighting that race to the bottom of men and old rooted religious ideas that women just aren’t as valuable as men, don’t have the volition of men, and sex is really not that important to them and god doesn’t believe that women can be equal to men and they can lead together.

    I’ll stand up and say that when it comes to valuing women equally to men: some religions are just better than others. Some cultures are just better than others. Clutch your pearls if you will.

  79. LotusBen
    LotusBen January 18, 2012 at 2:28 am |

    Beth, who are you talking to? No one here has defended men who believe in crap like “handmaidens.” Men like that are complete fucking douchebags. You really think that legalizing polygamy would lead to millions of people rushing to join the Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints. What is this “real world” that you live in exactly?

    Besides, the fact that polygamy is illegal hasn’t stopped the crap you’re talking about. The patriarchs who want to live that sort of life are still living it, still abusing women and girls. I don’t think they are losing that much sleep over the fact that the Satanic U.S. government doesn’t recognize their plural marriages either.

    Finally, you’ve heard of polyamory, right? You know that the vision you’re putting forth of polygamy isn’t really the only way it works nowadays? That there’s plenty of people in loving relationships in any combination you can imagine: 2 guys and 1 woman, 2 women and 1 guy, 3 guys just by themselves, 3 women all together, etc., etc. This is happening. A lot. It’s not just some theory.

    Are these people’s relationships also antithetical to feminism in your mind?

  80. igglanova
    igglanova January 18, 2012 at 4:51 am |

    If you ‘have to laugh’ at the notion that feminist / anti-O polyamorous communities exist, you really need to get out more. I live in a community where stuff like that is mundane enough that nobody bats an eye, and I don’t even live in a utopian hippie commune-paradise or anything.

    I do know a lot of queers, though. Something about your comment is seriously setting off my ‘only friends with straight people’ radar, so that could be why you’d scoff at the idea…

  81. Jen in Ohio
    Jen in Ohio January 18, 2012 at 8:13 am |

    Ah, here we go with the dressing-down. How I do love a good dressing-down, being scolded like an impudent child who could not possibly know what I was talking about.

    I was neither dressing you down nor scolding you. I was expressing what I thought was a somewhat parallel pov to yours in a way I believe is casual and conversational. You and I apparently don’t share definitions about what constitutes conversational discourse. I apologize for my portion of this misunderstanding.

    The fuzzy feeling you get from community recognition is not more important than other people’s deprivation of the special privileges granted to people in state-approved nuclear marriages. If you want to make your marriage feel more legit than a simple partnership, what you are actually wishing for is a document that designates your relationship as better than other ways of partnering. Yeah, privilege and superiority sure do feel nice and cozy, don’t they?

    As I already said in my previous comment, I have never been married and I have no intention of ever being married, so I don’t know why the hell you’re popping off at me about my fuzzy feelings, telling me that I’m wishing for some weird-ass documented superiority, and snarking at me about nice and cozy privilege.

    My interest in the historical fact that human beings have had a need for community recognition of their chosen kinship bonds for longer than we’ve actually had documents is geeky, not personal. I’m an egghead who’s curious about why people do the all the weird shit they do and have all the weird needs they seem to have — which I recognize are sometimes very different from my needs, and which implies nothing about the validity of anyone’s needs.

    Most of my comment wasn’t even about that, though. Most of it was about all the rights that you seem to know just as well as I do that queer folk are often denied due to lack of access to the existing civil marriage contract. And since I also argued that the contract should be expanded to include queer, poly, and other arrangements, I can’t see as to where we actually disagree on anything I think is worth arguing about.

    In case you think I’m against same-sex marriage or some other such radical horseshit, I assure you that I am not. I am a pragmatist. Expanding the definition of marriage is currently the easiest way to right wrongs and improve people’s lives, so I’m all for it. But let’s not pretend that institutional support for marriage does not result in inequality.

    I don’t think you’re a bigot. I’m not pretending anything. I also have a pragmatic side. I just apparently go about doing that differently than you do, too. Which, I should probably add, I don’t experience as a problem! Again, I think difference is interesting.

    I hope this resolves whatever in the hell that was, and I genuinely hope you have a better day than I’m about to have — I flunked my fuckin’ mammogram and have to go back in this morning for a re-shoot, plus maybe schedule a biopsy, all of which has me pretty deeply fuckin’ freaked out.

  82. evil fizz
    evil fizz January 18, 2012 at 12:34 pm | *

    Marriage is rooted in the idea that women are transferable property. Married women have to agree to reduce themselves to property, and it’s no surprise that traditionally-raised and self-hating women are more willing to sacrifice themselves than liberal minded women are. And I think you’re putting up a straw man; anti-feminist women don’t use birth control at all.

    I..uh…wow. Let’s try to keep the mass insults and degradation to a minimum, shall we?

  83. Azalea
    Azalea January 18, 2012 at 12:44 pm |

    Legalizing polygamy means that those who *want* to be in apolgamous marriage can. Why is there a need to discuss whether or not its ok to criminalize the actions of consenting informed adults? Afraid that there are men who want polygamous marriage that currently do not have that option will refuse monogamy? Why is that scary? They are not the only men who exist and honestly if polygamy is what he wants bad enough there are plenty of men in this country who are leading “double lives” and practicing bigamy without anyone’s consent. If polygamy were legal it’d have no effect on the boogeymonsters like him who’d marry two people anyway. Legalizing polygamy doesn’t mean allowing people to marry as many people as they want without informing previous spouses. Marriage is a contract and everyone in a marriage with shared spouses would have a valid interest in knowing who they are related to, how many other children there are, how many other people they’d have to share resources with and have a way out if they don’t want to be a part of a polygamous relationship.

  84. Beth
    Beth January 18, 2012 at 3:29 pm |

    “Why is there a need to discuss whether or not it’s ok to criminalize the actions of consenting informed adults?”

    Sure. And then there’s slavery…minimum wage…protections at work…building codes…

    Why can’t two consenting adults just have any arrangement in a legal contract?

    Well, because there are reasons beyond thought experiments. Legal, societal good reasons. (and of course, there are reasons like: women are equal to men and should live that way, just like there is no more legal slavery. Women are not equal to the man in multiple marriages and these are the 99.9% kind of marriage in multiple marriages).

    People also ask why hate crimes are punished more severely than regular assaults and vandalism.

    Because we don’t want a race to the bottom and hate crimes tend to accelerate if not quickly stamped out. So the penalties are higher.

    There are also laws about monopolies and businesses getting too big. Why can’t a business get as big as they want and do what they want? After all, we are all adults? You can see what happens when there’s a “too big to fail” situation. If only the government would enforce those laws…

    Marriage is a legal entity created by law makers. If you want to live with tons of people can get married through your religion or just because, go ahead. But as a legal entity, frankly, a wife farm doesn’t exist for good reason.

    Because history has proven, it is a race to the bottom. Men quickly abuse the situation, just as they abuse in slave situation. Sure, some slaves may enter into the arrangement willingly and be treated well…however, history proves that arrangement accelerates like low wages and soon, what the “market will bear” is too low for society to co-sign. And the cost of backing out of slavery once started, well…you can study history on that.

    Again, because there is an interest to preventing a race to the bottom.

  85. Lyndsay
    Lyndsay January 18, 2012 at 3:56 pm |

    A relationship can be community-recognized but not government-recognized. Have a commitment ceremony in front of family and friends and declare promises to each other. That’s what my partner and I did. We are now engaged for immigration reasons mainly. Legal marriage isn’t a fair system in my opinion but it’s not changing anytime soon.
    I also have another partner I see 1-2 times a month. I know many polyamorous people. Many of them are quite political and feminist. Actually being married to more than one person can work for people as well as polyamory though it’s hard for me to imagine it.

  86. Katya
    Katya January 18, 2012 at 4:41 pm |

    Frankly, I try thinking about the institutional and legal changes that would have to be made to adjust to state-recognized polygamous marriages, and my head starts to hurt. What does divorce mean? What about community property? What about child custody? Etc. This is why I think that allowing same-sex marriage does not, in any way, lead inexorably to polygamy. The system is set up for couples, and the gender of the couples is actually not important (despite what the religious bigots think). The system is simply not set up for multiple spouses, and the work it would take to recreate it is immense.

    Now, if you’re talking about marriage without state recognition, it solves some but not all of the problems–issues dealing with children, for example, would still remain sticky. A is married to B and C. A has a baby, and B is the other biological parent. A leaves the relationship–does C have any parental rights? Obligations?

    I admit that I’m pretty biased against polygamy, given that most, if not all, real examples of it tend to be bad for women and low-status boys and men. Theoretically, it could be great, but we don’t live in a theoretical world. What private arrangements people come to are their own business, but polygamy as an institution has a pretty bad history to overcome before I will view it with anything other than suspicion.

  87. groggette
    groggette January 18, 2012 at 4:47 pm |

    a wife farm

    You mean they have farms for them now?!? Bu-bye OKCupid.

    Seriously though, Beth, fuck off. You’re not engaging in anything resembling good faith and you’re walking all over the backs of queer and/or poly people here to do it.

  88. Arielle Karp
    Arielle Karp January 19, 2012 at 2:36 pm |

    In response to Tina: no, of course we shouldn’t be against gays just because they can’t breed on their own. However, gay females actually CAN breed via in vitro fertilization, etc.. . & they definitely should make sure they’re not using sperm from close family members! That would still NOT be ANY form of inbreeding, polyandry, polygamy, or apparently homosexuality, which I do NOT agree with Tina that homosexuality should be grouped with inbreeding!

  89. Arielle Karp
    Arielle Karp January 19, 2012 at 2:47 pm |

    I would also like to point out that gay men can also breed by donati g their sperm &/or finding a surrogate mother. Therefore, it makes absolutely no sense to group homosexuality with inbreeding. If that were the case, you’d think West Virginia would’ve been 1st to allow gay marriage! ;). I am all for gay marriage, I’ve gone to a some of my friends’ gay marriages myself, however, I do NOT agree with allowing brothers, sisters or 1st cousins marrying each other, straight or not! I don’t see how you can group the two together.

  90. Justamblingalong
    Justamblingalong January 19, 2012 at 4:15 pm |

    If that were the case, you’d think West Virginia would’ve been 1st to allow gay marriage! ;).

    Yes, let’s make sure to perpetrate tired, classist stereotypes while we’re at it.

  91. Odin
    Odin January 20, 2012 at 8:14 am |

    Arielle, could you please clarify what you mean by inbreeding? You keep using that word and it’s one whose meaning really depends on context (yes, even ‘scientifically’). I’m still not sure if you’re opposed to endogamy… heck, I’m not sure if that means you object to all human reproduction, seeing as mitochondrial DNA has indicated that humans have a common female ancestor. =P

  92. Rhoanna
    Rhoanna January 20, 2012 at 10:38 am |

    I do NOT agree with allowing brothers, sisters or 1st cousins marrying each other, straight or not!

    If they’re the same sex (or infertile), they wouldn’t be “inbreeding”. So why shouldn’t they be able to get married? (Nevermind the dubiousness of deciding which couples are fit to have children, whether the concern is inbreeding or something else.)

  93. Arielle Karp
    Arielle Karp January 20, 2012 at 10:58 am |

    Odin: inbreeding means “the mating of two closely related individuals, whether it be parents, siblings, cousins, etc… as well as self-fertilizing plants.” If you think about it, polygamy (& polyandry) limits the gene pool with one half of the population’s chrosomes by one or very few males (or females), which is discussed in great depth in any basic genetics class. Therefore, polygamy and polyandry are linked to various forms of inbreeding.

    As for endogamy, I’m not sure how that’s related, but if you choose to mate with someone of your same “class” or race, that’s your choice. It happens all over the globe, but no, I don’t think people should be limited to mate with just a small population- as again, that has led to inbreeding in the past.

    Regarding the mitochondrial DNA coming from a common female ancestor (most likely a parthogentec bonobo monkey), I’m glad you agree with me on my theory of evolution. The bible would have you believe men can first and women second, but as you point out, that’s just not true (let alone the whole sexual reproduction somehow arising out of a rib story). I’m sure you know that everyone is a female for the 1st six wk’s of pregnancy- that’s why men have breast tissue and eggs that dissipate when they turn 35, and why it’s much easier for a man t/b turned into a woman rather than the other way around (the labia comes out and folds over the clitorus forming the penis, which is why there is a seam along the penis), and the ovariesprotrude down and become the testicles. That is well known scientific fact- as to how that evolved, that’s a whole other topic of discussion ;). I don’t think the world is yet ready to believe that men actually evolved from women (although that would explain why they still have more hair and less cognitive functions In the pre-frontal cortex and less connections between the two hemispheres), but all of that research was part of why I got a B.S. in neuroscience and minored in women’s studies!

    Sorry for the long response!

  94. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie January 20, 2012 at 11:45 am |

    Beth is making the most sense here. That’s why there’s so much blowback: She’s right, and most of us don’t want to admit to the cesspool of misogyny in which we swim all our lives.

  95. igglanova
    igglanova January 20, 2012 at 11:52 am |

    ARRRGH pet peeve alert -

    I’m sure you know that everyone is a female for the 1st six wk’s of pregnancy

    This is completely fuckin’ wrong. The time frame, for one, is closer to nine weeks. But more importantly, ‘undifferentiated’ does not mean ‘female.’ An undifferentiated embryo has undifferentiated gonads and external genitals, as well as possessing both Mullerian (female) and Wolffian (male) ducts. If you want to get really nitty-gritty about it, the ‘male’ ducts actually develop slightly before the ‘female’ ones – would that make everyone ‘male’ at that stage in your eyes?

    Just because undifferentiated junk bears a closer superficial resemblance to female than male bits does not mean that everyone begins life as female. Yeesh.

    …But wait, why was this relevant again? >_> Oh yeah, it isn’t…

  96. Odin
    Odin January 20, 2012 at 7:04 pm |

    Thanks for clarifying what you meant by inbreeding, Arielle. But you’re still making a huge leap from polygamy (in general) to a very specific scenario where the only permitted reproduction is in FLDS-style polygynous (or FLDS-style polyandry). And that’s just too big a leap to make, given that polygamy can exist in a society without being mandatory or even preferential. That’s been made clear throughout this thread — people have even mentioned poly groups where all members won’t be reproducing. And bad arguments are not a good reason to say that as feminists and scientists, we should be opposed to something.

    And I’m really confused about all this rib business. Sheesh, everyone knows humans were descended for Ask and Embla after my brothers and I breathed life and spirit into them. =P Damned mortals, bring a couple of ‘em to life and a few millenia later they think they think they’re masters of all Midgard just ’cause they invented the internet.

    (Just because I mentioned the matrilineal MRCA doesn’t mean I’m a creationist. Or even a theist of any stripe.)

  97. Donna L
    Donna L January 20, 2012 at 7:24 pm |

    the mitochondrial DNA coming from a common female ancestor (most likely a parthogentec bonobo monkey)

    There’s obviously a long line of common female ancestors, going all the way back to the beginning. What people are referring to when they talk about the so-called mitochondrial Eve, I believe, is simply the most recent common female ancestor, a woman — entirely human — who probably lived in Africa some 40,000 years ago (if I remember correctly); there are presumably many other men and women who lived at the time who have living descendants today. Just not everyone, and not through that line.

  98. Odin
    Odin January 21, 2012 at 10:50 am |

    @Donna — that’s certainly what I was referring to, at least. (Not sure why we’d need parthenogenesis in a bonobo for that, as I’m pretty sure they split off from chimps rather more recently than our ancestors split off from chimps.)

    To try to return to the topic of polygamy: Bonobos are also decidedly not monogamous, but they’re also not harem-forming in the way lions are, and they’re matriarchal. So it might be worth pointing out that other styles of polygamy besides the stereotypical FLDS polygyny… and they even occur naturally in some of our closest cousins. Not that I advocate “natural = good” as a source of morality, but there are those who argue that other types of polygamy are unnatural and therefore untenable for humans.

  99. zanne
    zanne January 21, 2012 at 3:20 pm |

    @PoliticalGuineaPig: can you share some data to back up that “Married women are much more conservative and conventional than single woman, that’s just a fact.”?

  100. Azalea
    Azalea January 21, 2012 at 4:47 pm |

    “Why is there a need to discuss whether or not it’s ok to criminalize the actions of consenting informed adults?”

    Sure. And then there’s slavery…minimum wage…protections at work…building codes…

    Last time I checked it was a horrible thing FORCED on another person or group of persons! Really? We throw black people under the bus now to make a stupid point? That’s cool now?

  101. LotusBen
    LotusBen January 21, 2012 at 5:03 pm |

    Azalea, I don’t know if you caught this gem from Beth in her post @ 78:

    “Could two adults agree to a slavery contract in free will and slavery need not be abusive? In a thought experiment, yes.”

    Nice to know Beth has “experimented” with thinking about the ways in which slavery is not abusive. I guess I more side with you Azalea and think of slavery as an inherently horrible thing that’s forced on people.

    Pretty messed up that Beth is saying this sort of stupid shit. And as you pointed out, it’s not in the service of a good argument either. Her overall point is stupid and the examples she uses to illustrate it are offensive and similarly stupid.

  102. Jay Phoebe
    Jay Phoebe January 24, 2012 at 7:57 am |

    Jill, this really isn’t good enough. If you do know what the term “polygamy” refers to (which is not the same as polygyny), why did you post an email from a person who does not, and not comment on it? I’m feeling pretty upset.

  103. Jay Phoebe
    Jay Phoebe January 26, 2012 at 9:33 am |

    I feel that what is upsetting is the culturally dominant stigmatizing misconception the email made. I also think, from what you say about not being close to expert on poly, that deciding to foreground other faulty opinions is an abuse of privilege – part of that privilege, I want to say, being from your (IMO really awesome) feminist work.

    I guess there are other bloggers who post material without comment regularly, for the community they’ve gathered to discuss, but I feel that at best it’s lazy blogging and at worst, like I said, it’s an abuse (or maybe misuse would be a better word) of platform.

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