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.