Wednesday, May 23, 2007

To be fair

Yesterday, for the hell of it and because the previously mentioned program was on my mind, I did some blog searches of "polygamy." There were, of course, several mentions of Mormons and their stance and those who deviate from said stance, in particular the FLDS.

There were several Muslim writers discussing the issue. There were references to a recent NY Times article about the increase in the numbers of immigrants to New York who practice polygamy. And a similar item in Britain about how polygamist immigrants are granted additional subsidies for housing per spouse.

These last two are causing great controversy.

Now, being a feminist in a polyamorous relationship, I do understand the arguments that there are many ways that polygamy can be a part of a fucked up patriarchal system. That abuses of women can happen when polygamy means one man (with all the power) and as many women as he wants to have.

But the arguments being raised regarding polygamist arrangements of immigrants also gets my hackles up. The argument goes that we should not recognize plural marriages from other countries because we don't recognize plural marriages here. That to give special treatment to "those people" is inherently unfair to those who are not able to do the same under this country's laws.

The question the feminist me is left with is this: If we only allow for one marriage partner for new immigrants, what is the status of the other wives? These women are already in vulnerable positions in a new country where they do not speak the language. They may or may not have an adequate education. They probably have children. What are they to do now that their marriages are considered null and void?

Anyway, I was a little sick of reading about the man with several wives equation after awhile, so I typed "polyandry" into Google, and I found an amazing thing. It seems that a holy man in a small Syrian town has issued a fatwa that it is appropriate for a woman to take another husband if her husband is no longer in her life. Apparently, many men leave to find work in other countries and are gone indefinitely. They essentially abandon their wives, sometimes even financially. The woman may not want to divorce, but may still want the companionship and support of a husband. This fatwa allows this woman to choose to marry again.

I know it's not quite the same as the polygyny that is practiced in the same country, but still is one little step closer to fair.


Aravis said...

The recognizing of immigrant polygamist marriages is a gray area for me, based solely on the info you've given. I understand what you're saying and I agree. On the other hand, it's against the law here, and immigrants know it; it's their choice to come here anyway. We can't change our laws to suit every culture whose people want to immigrate here. I don't like the thought of devaluing their relationships, I really don't. But it's their decision, and their problem to work through if they choose to live here. If I were to move to another country, I would first discover what their laws were and how they might effect my lifestyle, and then decide whether or not to move there. If I choose to do so, it's on me to conform to them, not them to me.

The thought of granting additional subsidies is not at all gray for me: I'm against it. We don't properly subsidize the needs of our own citizens. Why, then, should we give more to aid immigrants in breaking the law as they move to our country? If I read your post correctly, this isn't yet an issue here, but rather in Britain. Still, that's how I would feel if this was the issue here in the U.S.

spinsterwitch said...

I guess I wonder why it is a law in our country?

Aravis said...

Now we're back to the Puritans, aren't we? *G*

At the end of my U.S. History I class, the book touched on the persecution Joseph Smith and the Mormons. They were driven from Palmyra, NY to Nauvoo, Illinois. They made enemies quickly by choosing not to follow any Illinois laws which did not agree with their teachings. When Smith declared that a revelation had justified polygamy, it not only increased anger and resentment in the community, but also created divisiveness within the Mormon religion itself. Traditional Christians were encouraged to attack the Mormons, and Smith was arrested for supposed conspiracy with the Mexican gov't. in order to settle in one of their western territories. The Christian mobs attacked Smith and his brother in the jail in Carthage where they were being held, and killed them. That's when Brigham Young took over and moved them to Utah.

So I guess, to answer your question, the old-school Christians, who have always been in power here, felt threatened from the beginning and have tried their best to stamp out anything which does not agree with their doctrines. Having the power, they are/were able to legislate their beliefs.

As an individual, I am not against polygamy or polygamist marriages. Hey, if you can find balance and be happy, by all means! It's not hurting me any. But I think that anyone who tries to legalize it will have one hell of a fight on their hands. You know how unconventional relationships are looked upon, especially polygamists ones. Trying to change this law will have the Bible-Thumpers in a tizzy comparable to the ones they get into over gay marriage, or abortion.

Actually, now that I think about it, it would be fun to watch the fireworks as their heads explode from the new attacks on their faith... *G*

spinsterwitch said...

Well, now I'm intrigued. I don't actually believe there is a mandate in the bible for a one man - one woman marriage. If I'm wrong it would be good to know. I just did a quick Wiki search on marriage which said that the idea of monogamy came out of Roman & Christian laws. Although it may not have been practiced, there is a precedence for multiple marriages in Judaism. However, as with most examples in the past it was all polygyny.

I wonder if this has just slipped into the category of "it's just the way things are done" without much critical thought.

I don't know that most people would choose a form of plural relationships because it is a lot of work, but it's interesting that we assume that a couple is the best way.

Aravis said...

I agree, Spins. And I was thinking the same thing as I wrote. There are many instances of polygamy in the bible, but it seems to me it's in the Old Testament, which some Christians seem to like to ignore unless it suits their purposes to drag something out of it.

Of course, I am hardly an expert in the bible; you would know better than I would. :0)