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Sunday, January 15, 2006

polygamy

Lucyna posts about some of the most fascinating topics.

Her latest post at Sir Humphreys is entitled To Make Polygamy Legal is to Possess Women. Those of you who know me will know that this is exactly the sort of title likely to provoke a response from me: it's about alternative relationship models, the law, and feminism...all of which push my argumentative buttons.

My first response was "Polygamy's illegal?!! I didn't actually know that. Not that I pay much attention to what is and is not illegal. After all, there seems to be absolutely no sense to why some things are legal and others aren't and who wants to go around keeping track of all the silly laws?

Lucyna says:
As a woman, I am truly horrified that the clueless people involved think that having polygamy illegal is harmful to women. As Robert Spencer says, the opposite is true:

'... it [polygamy] is inherently harmful to women, who are reduced to the status of possessions.'

Hmmm... I don't think either of those things. I don't think that having polygamy illegal is harmful to women and I don't think that polygamy is inherently harmful to women either.

I am a bad feminist.

I am also confused by the possession thing. I don't see how the number of spouses in a marriage affects whether the wife is a possession or not. Surely it is either the institute of marriage (monogomous, polygamous, whatever) and/or the attitudes and behaviour of those involved in the marriage that makes someone a possession. And it is not always the wife who is treated like a possession.

One of the arguments for monogamy and against polygamy was that monogamy is an equal partnership between spouses.

Again. Confused. Surely equality of parntership in a relationship is defined by the attitude and behaviour of the particpants in the relationship, not the number of spouses?

Another argument against polygamy seems to be that is another attack on the Christian ideal of marriage and weakening family structure. I am not completely sure what the Christian ideal of marriage is though. I think people mean monogamy but I seem to recall many wives of various Old Testament dudes (???) and aren't there some Christians who live a polygamous lifestyle? I think maybe by "Christian ideal" people mean "my ideal" and "the only right way."

Then there is the whole the state should protect marriage as something sacred between between one man and one woman in order to protect society.

I understand the argument. I just disagree. I don't think society needs protecting. Lucyna posted a very interesting quote from Dhimmi Watch.
Marriage is a codification of society's legitimate interest in stabilizing the very volatile force of human fertility: this force comprises sexual attraction, procreation, and the inevitable linkage of families, tribes, and lineages that proceeds therefrom. The state has a legitimate interest here because families enter disputes; tribes go to war; children must be cared for, educated, enculturated. Moreover, individuals can get divorced, but families, once there are offspring, cannot. There have to be rules about how these things are managed, or the whole society suffers. Thus, marriage.
Interesting. Logical. I agree that families are important. I just disagree that by making gay and polygomous marriages illegal we are strengthening families.

Oh and that reminds me of another thing I don't get. I think it came up with the gay marriage debate as well. It seems that people want the state to protect the monogomous ideal of marriage in order to stop family structures from weakening and thereby giving the state gaining control of the children. Is it just me that thinks this doesn't make any sense? Maybe it does make sense. I just don't get it. I must be missing some crucial information.

I think that the opposition to polygamy all comes down to people feeling threatened, which is understandable. Their ideals/way of life ARE being threatened by different ideals/ways of life.

Here is an interesting post about Legalising Polygamy in Canada.

Comments:
It's the classic 'I think it's a bad idea, so I'm not going to let you do it'.

It's also the classic 'It's not what we do now, so it must be wrong'.

It's only a short step away from 'I don't like it, so I must try and ban it'.

Personally, I'm a fan of monogamy. It works for me. Probably, this is mostly due to the culture I was brought up in, but nevertheless - it works for me.

That doesn't mean that I intend to inflict it upon anyone else - or to restrict their choices.

Similarly, I'm straight, non-religious, right handed, straight-haired, and like wearing black. But I have no problems with homosexual folk, religious people, left handers, the curly haired and people who like wearing colour.

Even if I did have a problem with (any of) those choices/preferences at a personal level, that wouldn't give me mandate to try and change them.

The only right I really have (along these lines) is the right to work to prevent people from limiting my (and other people's) lifestyle choices.

The only lifestyle choices I really object to, are those that involve trying to force their choice upon everyone else. Jehova's Witness door knockers. Amway sales people. Anyone who votes against increasing personal freedom.
 
Keeping the issue of enforcing any sort of laws, which constrain rights, aside for the moment, I suspect you will find the vast majority of polygamous relationships will be one man, many wives.

I suspect that there will be a clear delineation of authority, usually the man, and the relationships will have a strong authoritarian bent to them, in favour of the male.

The societies in which these flourish will reflect this in certain ways that, when they crack at the seams, will appear a little ugly.

The reality behind the romance (if I can use this term) I think will diminish the very aspect that is appealing on the surface: freedom of association without constraints.

The issue facing society is not so much denial of freedoms in tolerating a wide variety of personal choices, but instead pandering to one set of beliefs at the expense of personal freedom. It is not inconceivable to me that one day a fundamentalist Muslim, living in our society, will be tried by Sharia law and let off, for beating one of his wives who left the house unaccompanied wearing inappropriate clothing. We will get that tolerant, and every-one can sit back and say how good that is, that we can respect different cultures in our society in such a positive way.

If the logic always matched the reality, the world would be an easier place to manage. I have a vague sense of unease that we are weighing up the issue according to optimal outcomes, not the actual dynamics that create these forms of relationships in the first place.

For example, if you have a dream of falling in love with a special some-one, how nice you manage to do it along with three other men and women. Maybe you'll fall madly in love with the whole football team, as it were, and they all love each other and it all just works.

[Insert Tui Billboard Here]

Or maybe you've just entered a business partnership agreement that provides a certain level of security and community. But I bet it's not "happily ever after" in the classic sense.
 
Lots of wisdom on display here. The world would be a much more harmonious place if there were more like you two, in my opinion. There's be more personal freedom, less busy-bodies telling you the 'correct' way to be... and less f&ckin Amway salesmen. Utopia, in other words :)
 
I am still thinking of suitable replies to these comments..
 
Is biology allowed into this discussion?
 
Yep. Why wouldn't it be?
 
One of the arguments for monogamy and against polygamy was that monogamy is an equal partnership between spouses.

Again. Confused. Surely equality of parntership in a relationship is defined by the attitude and behaviour of the particpants in the relationship, not the number of spouses?


It's an argument in law. How it is acted out in individual marriages is different from the potential. In polygamy, and I'm referring to the one man many wives type, there is no potential at all for equality in law.

The above answers the possession question as well. The inequality is skewed towards the person with the power - hence all under his domain are his possessions.

Another argument against polygamy seems to be that is another attack on the Christian ideal of marriage and weakening family structure. I am not completely sure what the Christian ideal of marriage is though. I think people mean monogamy but I seem to recall many wives of various Old Testament dudes (???) and aren't there some Christians who live a polygamous lifestyle? I think maybe by "Christian ideal" people mean "my ideal" and "the only right way."

The Old Testament is seen as part of Christianity, but is also superceded by the New Testament. Do I have to explain this further? I hoping not, since I'm really rusty. In essence how the old testament dudes could act is replaced by the new testament, if that makes sense. An evolution of thought, if you will.

I just disagree that by making gay and polygomous marriages illegal we are strengthening families.

I actually agree with your statement above, but think the opposite is true.

It seems that people want the state to protect the monogomous ideal of marriage in order to stop family structures from weakening and thereby giving the state gaining control of the children. Is it just me that thinks this doesn't make any sense? Maybe it does make sense. I just don't get it. I must be missing some crucial information.

You must be missing something here - I'm not sure what it is.

I think that the opposition to polygamy all comes down to people feeling threatened, which is understandable. Their ideals/way of life ARE being threatened by different ideals/ways of life.

Ah, yep.
 
Btw, I'm also interested in AL's perspective, biology-wise.
 
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