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Sister Wives: Is polygamy "good" or "bad?"

Mechele R. Dillard's picture

Is plural marriage simply "good" or "bad," or is it, like other family situations, something to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis?

The Brown family has become the face of polygamy for the United States since they began visiting their viewing audience each week on the TLC program Sister Wives. This week, the family brought a darker side of polygamy to their fans, where polygamy is not simply undesirable, but outright abusive.

Polygamy, Blended Homes

Is there a “good” side to polygamy, as Maddie indicated on the teens’ trip to the Holding Out HELP: Helping, Encouraging, & Loving Polygamists outreach? Well, in the case of the Browns, it does seem to work for them. In this day and age, family after family is split apart by divorce, many times with multiple divorces, and blended families are becoming more and more the norm. Most often, the mother will retain custody of the children of divorce, and the father will typically have some form of visitation. But, he certainly does not usually parent his children consistently, on a daily basis, as many single mothers would agree. In the Browns’ situation, those multiple marriages just happen to be all in one family instead of torn apart into separate units. The mothers work together, and the father has free access to all of the mothers, all of the children, making it easier, no doubt, to build relationships, although with so MANY children, it has to make relationship-building more difficult. But, still, it is hard to say that today’s broken-home norm is “better” than a positive plural marriage situation.

"Bad" Polygamy or Bad Situations?

On the other hand, there are many abusive plural marriage situations, as demonstrated by the representatives of Holding Out HELP. Warren Jeffs is an excellent example of polygamy gone wrong, way wrong. Jeffs made himself dictator of his community, declaring himself the “prophet,” and abusing women and children physically, emotionally and sexually. But, again, there are single-couple homes all over the U.S., struggling with the same situations, where children are being abused, and the adults—both men and women—are abusing their children and each other. For many reasons, people are afraid to leave these situations, and need help from the outside, whether they are in single-family households or in a plural marriage situation, and groups like Holding Out HELP, which helps individuals, sometimes entire family groups, leave a bad plural-marriage situation, are needed.

But, again, is there a “good” side to polygamy?

For some, polygamy may be wrong for religious reasons; perhaps it is wrong for personal reasons. For others, seeing the Browns may make it seem okay. Perhaps it is a question that only has an answer when one goes family by family, evaluating the success or failure of specific plural marriage situation. Perhaps it is a question that can only be answered, ironically, from an individual perspective. It does appear to work for the Brown family. Still, does that make it “right?”

Ultimately, when it comes to abuse in plural marriage, is it polygamy, or is it the people?

Stay tuned.

For information about Holding Out HELP, visit their website online.

Image: TLC

Video: TLC/Sister Wives


Submitted by CaboCara (not verified) on
People need to understand that polygamy is NOT all “sister wives” and “big love” or the Dargers. UT, AZ and other states in fact DO "turn a blind eye" to FLDS polygamy where children (girls as young as 12) are married off to much older men and then live off of welfare, food stamps and Medicaid (known as "bleeding the beast")... as discussed in new book "plygs", a fact based journalistic view at the REAL world of polygamy... Warren Jeffs, the leader of this group (serving a life sentence for child rape) has recently ordered that only 15 men in the group can procreate with ANY of the women of their choice within the group… and just 2 weeks ago from his jail cell in TX he has ordered the businesses on the UT/AZ border be closed, apparently predicted an apocalypse and told his followers to build backpacks and be ready to go at a moments notice. He has banned consumption of oatmeal, corn, turnips and dairy products....This ALL after the findings of his journal about a bed ordered to be specially made for the purpose of sexually assaulting hundreds of young girls were outlined in pages of a diary he referred to as 'priesthood records'. He told his followers the bed must be made of hardwood, sturdy so it wouldn't rattle, long enough to hold his frame and covered with a plastic sheet to 'protect the mattress from what will happen on it'.... now a lot of the families from TX have moved out of the ranch... this means that many young girls are being moved across state lines or even across the border to Canada this is human trafficking for sexual reasons... another federal offence... the government does NOT seem to be doing anything at this time...this group in UT / AZ / TX are nothing but pedophiles and welfare cheats...

Submitted by Jancis M. Andrews (not verified) on
The question of whether polygamy is good or bad was answered on Nov. 23, 2011, by Chief Justice Robert Bauman of BC Supreme Court. After he took 4 months to consider both pro and con arguments by 13 groups, Judge Bauman ruled that polygamy is an inherently harmful act, contravening the equality rights of women who are rivals for the affections of one man, impoverishing their children, and, because Nature has not even made two women for every one man, setting men against men in the quest for a wife and family of their own. Every male polygamist is thus robbing his brothers, leading to a potentially dangerous social situation. Polygamy comes from the dark ages when women had no rights and were considered chattels. But the year is now 2012 AD, not 2012 BC, and via public opinion polls, Canadians have made it clear they do not want to see women as concubines in harems, which is what polygamy is.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on
I thought polygamy was against the law. Guess I was wrong, but I think it's ridiculous. One man cannot "live" in four separate houses and be a husband and father in every one of them? On Sister Wives I don't see any show of love anywhere -- no hugs and kisses -- not between Kody and any of his wives, or Kody and any of his children. I also feel that Kody is not sexually attracted to at least one of his wives and it shows. I wonder how he could divorce that one. I also wonder what he does for a living to afford four new houses, or, in fact, just to keep food on the tables.

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