Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Feminist Polygamy?

Do you ever listen to "This American Life" on NPR? It's an interesting program, where they basically choose a theme and put together different kinds of stories on that theme. It's a lot more interesting than that sounds. I download the show via audible.com onto my iPod, and listen to it when I'm walking the dog, or walking back to work after dropping Maya off at school (though we haven't been doing that as much lately...gotta work on that). You can listen to it for free on the radio, of course, or if you are willing to sit in front of your computer and listen, but my mind wanders when I try to do that.

Saturday's episode was called, "I enjoy being a girl (sort of)" and was really interesting. It included four or five different stories about being a woman. One of which made me think about things a bit differently than I have before. I tend to think of polygamous marriages as bad for women (and not so great for men, either), because I have this idea in my head that the women all live in one house, with a ton of screaming kids running around, not enough money, no health insurance, and just being red neck to the nth power. Plus there are horror stories of 14 year old girls being sold to old men as one of their multiple wives. Who wants that? Well, Elizabeth Josepth was one of the stories on This American Life, and she is well educated, well spoken, works outside the home, and is one of 8 wives in a polygemous marriage. WTF? Well, she says it works out pretty great for them. They all work at professional jobs. They all have their own houses (two wives share a house, because it's really big). They all get along and love each other and party on tequilla when they feel like it. There are about 20 kids between the 8 of them, but 10 of them are grown and moved out now. When 3 of the wives had babies all close together, they paid a 4th of the wives to stay home for a few years with the kids, so they could go back to work. Amazing.

So, I'm not saying this is for me. I'm not saying it's for most people. But it did make me open my mind a bit about alternative lifestyles, and see that people's lives can be SO different than mine. For another glimpse into the 'different' choices that intelligent people make, you can read the continuting saga of an 'open marriage' at Bitch PhD. It's not a blog ABOUT her open marriage, it's about her life, but she happens to have both a husband and a boyfriend, and her in laws just found out, I think, and the shit's kind of hitting the fan.

Discuss. (In Linda Richman's voice, of course!)


J said...

And Mr. Bosco, a longtime reader, reminded me of this article, which is a big part of what gives me the willies with regard to polygamy:

Since you need a Salon Membership to read it, I'll post the whole article here, from June of 2005:

Sacrificing the kids
A breakaway Mormon sect is accused of abandoning as many as 1,000 teenage boys to free up the group's females for polygamous marriages.

By Julian Borger

June 14, 2005 | Up to 1,000 teenage boys have been separated from their parents and thrown out of their communities by a polygamous sect to make more young women available for older men, Utah officials claim. Many of these "lost boys," some as young as 13, have simply been dumped on the side of the road in Arizona and Utah, by the leaders of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS), and told they will never see their families again or go to heaven.

The 10,000-strong FLDS, which broke away from the Mormon Church in 1890 when the mainstream faith disavowed polygamy, believes a man must marry at least three women to go to heaven. The sect appeared to be in turmoil Monday after its assets were frozen last week and a warrant was issued in Arizona on Friday for the arrest of its autocratic leader, Warren Jeffs, for arranging a wedding between an underage girl and a 28-year-old man who was already married.

Jeffs is also being sued by lawyers for six of the lost boys for conspiracy to purge surplus males from the community, and by his nephew, Brent Jeffs, who accuses him of sexual abuse.

Warren Jeffs' whereabouts Monday were uncertain, but Utah officials said they believed he may be hiding in an FLDS compound near Eldorado, Texas, and they have contacted the Texan authorities.

Some have voiced concern that an attempt to corner the sect leader could provoke a tragedy like the 1993 siege of the Branch Davidian sect in Waco, Texas. Jim Hill, an investigator in Utah's attorney general's office, told the Guardian Monday: "From everything I've been able to discern about Warren Jeffs, he is someone who is capable of some very different things. Whether that includes a mass suicide, I don't know. But I worry about it all the time."

FLDS officials and the sect's lawyer, Rodney Parker, did not return calls seeking comment, but they have previously argued that the lost boys were exiled from their communities because they were teenage delinquents who refused to abide by the sect's rules.

Hill said although the boys may have been rebellious, their expulsion had more to do with the ruthless sexual arithmetic of a polygamous sect. "Obviously if you're going to have three to one or four to one female-to-male marriages, you're going to run out of females. The way of taking care of it is selectively casting out those you don't want to be in the religion," the investigator said.

Dave Bills, who runs Smiles for Diversity, a foundation in Salt Lake City set up by an ex-FLDS member to look after the lost boys, said it was difficult to estimate their numbers because they had been scattered. But Bills said the figures could be "as low as 400 and as high as 1,000."

"They live every day like it's their last day and they don't care about anything," Bills said. "They're told they won't have three wives, and they're doomed. But they all want to go back to their moms."

One of the boys, Gideon Barlow, said he was expelled from a FLDS community in Colorado City, Ariz., for wearing short-sleeved shirts, listening to CDs and having a girlfriend. He said his mother rejected him on orders from the sect's leaders. "I couldn't see how my mom would let them do what they did to me," he told the Los Angeles Times. After his expulsion, he attempted to give her a Mother's Day present, but she told him to stay away. "I am dead to her now," he said.

Joanne Suder, a lawyer representing some of the boys in a case against the sect, said there had been "a conspiracy to excommunicate young boys to change the arithmetic so there are more young girls available for polygamy." She said some of the boys were simply driven out of town and dumped on the side of the road, leaving them traumatized. "I think anyone who finds themselves ousted from the only environment they ever knew and left in the middle of nowhere, and then is not allowed to be with their family and loved ones, and is led to believe that they can no longer go to heaven, is going to be troubled," Suder told the Guardian.

Polygamy is illegal in the United States, but authorities have been wary of confronting the FLDS for fear of provoking a siege or inviting political attacks for religious persecution.

State investigators have also found it hard to persuade FLDS members to give evidence against Jeffs. However, authorities in Utah and Arizona have recently increased the pressure on the sect's leader. Last week, a Utah judge froze FLDS assets, and the attorney's office in Mohave County, Ariz., charged Jeffs for arranging a marriage between a 28-year-old married man and a 16-year-old girl. If convicted he could serve up to two years in prison.

Jeffs inherited the leadership of the FLDS three years ago after the death of his father, Rulon. Since then, he has ruled its enclaves on the Arizona-Utah border, in Texas and in Canada with fearsome discipline. At the age of 49 he has reportedly fathered at least 56 children by 40 wives.

There have been no confirmed sightings of Jeffs for over a year, but a photograph of a man resembling the sect leader was taken in January at the FLDS 1,700-acre Texas ranch near Eldorado.

Randy Mankin, the editor of the local newspaper, the Eldorado Success, said: "People on the ranch don't have contact with the outside world. Two men only do whatever is necessary to do their business."

salon.com (via the Guardian, I believe)

Cherry said...

wow... Leaving comments on your own blog, J?

J said...

I know...just seemed wrong to expand the post any longer the 'normal' way. ;)