Just the other day you were saying to yourself, hey, I sure do wish Twisty would write an essay on Canadian polygamists.
Well, wish no more! The great day is come.
Having just slogged through a few articles sent down from British Columbia by blamer Mearl, I flick the Twisty chin at couple of Latter Day Saint cultists who are in chokey on accounta they have about 43,872 wives. Section 293 of the B.C. Patriarchal Penis Placement Code apparently forbids conjugality between more than two heterosexual persons at the same time.
But McGill law professor Angela Campbell says, hey, hold the phone! Lay off, nosy government! These women aren’t being exploited! Just ask’em!
Campbell knows because she interviewed “these women” in the field last year. Her findings? That they are “modern” after all.
Campbell appears to confuse “modern” with “liberated” (and indeed, to harbor some fairly eccentric ideas concerning the definition of the word “modern”).
But first, here’s a picture of one of the old horndogs currently up on polygamy charges. He’s flanked, at a respectful distance, by the cheery, modern fruit of his loins. Check out the sunny, chipper smiles! These future “sister wives” couldn’t be happier if they were clams. And the old coot is grinning because he’s sired him a passel of godly poontang to marry off to his buds. He’s got 26 wives and 80 kids.
One of the wives left him in 1999. She would have bailed out sooner, but she was afraid for her kids.
She says: “I was there for the needs of my husband, and that was about it. [...] I did what I was told. I had the babies and did the dishes and the wash, and cooked for all these boys that nobody knew what to do with…. There were times in my life I was cooking for 25 to 30 people, three meals a day, seven days a week.”
Meanwhile, Professor Campbell, who, you will recall, went on a polygamy-spotting tour last summer, cites the following conditions as evidence that the polygamist community is “modern” and that it is not, in fact, exploitative to marry off teenage girls to old coots as part of an ultra-patriarchal cult ritual:
The church used to arrange their marriages, but now the girls may “court” first (yup, this newfangled “courting” fad is all the rage with kids today; the next thing you know they’ll be doing the Mashed Potato at sock hops).
Once ensconced in the harem, the women develop “best friend” relationships with the “sister wives.”
They have figured out which birth-control options they can use without the Patriarch’s knowledge or consent (for some reason the fact that these women must resort to obfuscation regarding their own personal uteruses failed to send up a red flag on Campbell’s Patriarch-O-Meter. Perhaps it needs a new battery).
They manage their household finances, use cell phones, drive minivans, and even use the Internet!
Thus, says Campbell, we must question any critique of this quaint “lifestyle,” and the authorities need to change the law to reflect the wishes of the multiwives. Because lard knows that women can’t develop strong friendships unless they’re married as teenagers to the same middle-aged overlord, and besides, as long as they’ve managed to sneak birth control into the picture and drive those ultramodern minivans, who is the state to intervene?
Campbell, in what looks like a supportive attempt to give a voice to the Latter Day wives, takes a somewhat sanctimonious tone when she suggests that the B.C. government, in criminalizing plural marriage, hasn’t bothered to listen to the Women of Bountiful (Bountiful — that’s the name of this LDS community. No joke.). The wives, she maintains, are totally down with their indentured servitude and broodmare status. But what Campbell fails to consider is that women — not just LDS captives, but all women who are indoctrinated from the cradle with misogynist ideology — will go to the mat to defend it. The compulsion to sing lyric odes to the beauty of patriarchal authority * is understandable when you consider the depth to which women’s identities are invested in it.
We’ve seen it time and time again, this loony idea that it is a woman’s “right” to accept and embrace second-class status under patriarchal oppression if she so desires. This oldie-but-goodie is a classic argument against radical feminism, which ism is often vilified for refusing to “listen” to oppressed women when they claim they are not oppressed. Just look at any comment thread on this blog where I’ve stated that tiny handbags, or marriage, or prostitution, or the nuclear family are tools of the patriarchy. Holy armadillo quadruplets, do otherwise sensible women ever love high heels!
But the thing is, radical feminists do listen. It’s just that what we hear is not the dulcet tones of liberated personhood, but the doth-protest-too-much keening of Stockholm Syndromettes sticking up for their captors. Unlike Campbell, radical feminists have answered the clue phone. We know that within a patriarchal paradigm, women, as an oppressed class, do not, from the git-go, possess fully human status. Our “choices,” therefore, are not real. We are manipulated by the system to embrace false constructs as truth. The Bountiful Wives are no exception; they’re sure as shit not living in some patriarchy-free zone. This condition automatically renders bogus any “choices” they might make about “courting” or spending their lives in a closed society driving minivans for some godbag harem.
I probably don’t have to say it, but just to be clear: in casting a jaundiced eye at multi-marriage, I in no way endorse mono-marriage (straight, gay, or freeform). It’s just that this LDS stuff, as an extreme example of what many consider to be a normal state (i.e. married to a dude), so beautifully magnifies the absurdities and injustices of “normal” marriage.
* These odes, by the way, are not sung exclusively by women who are judged to be backward by mainstream Western standards; all women do it to one degree or another, whether it’s the multi-wives of some lunatic godbag cult, or sex-positive porntastic funfeminists in high heels, or progressive women married to progressive men who get gold stars for doing the laundry.