Friday, March 20, 2015

I've just watched Monica Lewinsky's TED talk, "The Price of Shame," and she knocks it out of the park.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Is Kody Brown a Feminist?

One of my readers once commented that she follows the manosphere because she doesn't have cable. I laughed with self-recognition at that remark.

Two months ago I finally broke down and got Direct TV, and as you can see, I've practically given up on following the Angry White Guys as a result. I've spent the past couple of months binging on television. My partner and I are currently addicted to Black Sails, Better Call Saul, and Vikings, and on my own, I have become a promiscuous consumer of true crime and obscure documentaries.

We're not into reality series much, with one notable exception: Sister Wives

As I've shared in the past, I have a great deal of interest in LDS Church history, being on my mother's side the descendent of Mormon pioneers. I was raised with a particularly dim view of plural marriage. The only twig in my family tree who actually had more than one wife was Uncle Charlie. According to my mother, poor Uncle Charlie and his wife Susan were perfectly content until he was "bullied" by the Church into taking a second wife, after which they hardly had a moment's peace. Now I am not at all convinced this is true. (My mother, like the rest of her family, was never one to let the facts get in the way of a good story.)

Like the Brown wives, they lived in separate houses fifty yards apart.
Subsequent reading -- and living in cultures where polygamy was commonly practiced -- only reinforced my perception that plural marriage was generally a bad thing for the women and children (and, often, for the men) involved in it. At the very least, it was ill adapted to life in post-industrial economies.

The Kody Brown family has indicated that they agreed to participate in the reality series Sister Wives because they had a spiritual mission to share their story, and to convince mainstream America that they were a "normal" family.  In my opinion, they've been very successful. In fact, they seem more "functional" than most monogamous couples I've observed: more respectful, more communicative, more committed.

If an emotionally intimate, committed relationship between two individuals is a crucible, the crucible of marriage amongst five strikes me as exponentially more intense, and greater both in terms of potential rewards and strains. It's clearly not for everyone, as the Browns themselves admit (and they cheerfully accept that some of their own children reject plural marriage for themselves).

It was easy from the start for me to like the wives (Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn), all highly intelligent, thoughtful, and attractive women. It was easy for me to be enthralled with the ideal of "sister wives." And spending time with a spouse once every four days strikes me as just about right since I happen to cherish my personal time and space. But I am surprised to find how much I have come to like and respect Kody Brown, a man who expects his daughters to pursue higher education and professional careers, encourages both his sons and daughters to have long (and chaste) courtships before marriage (because a solid marriage is based on friendship), and who reminds one of his college bound daughters that her body is her own ("and even after you marry, your body belongs to you").  

I don't know if Uncle Charlie and his wives were proto-feminists, BTW, although it's worth noting that during his lifetime Wyoming was the first state to grant women suffrage. I do know that he was very fondly remembered by the folks of my grandparents' generation and was most decidedly not a patriarchal a-hole.
Kody Brown
Is this what a feminist looks like?