In what is only one example of the never-ending influence that American media has on my life, it took the new HBO show Big Love to make me actually think about polygamy. The battle over polygamy has long been one between fringe Mormon-based branch groups and the rest of society. Well, I never thought I'd say this, but fringe religious extremists – make room for one more.
Let's take a moment here to define polygamy. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines polygamy as "marriage in which a spouse of either sex may have more than one mate at the same time," as opposed to polygyny, "the state or practice of having more than one wife or female mate at one time" or polyandry, "the state or practice of having more than one husband or male mate at one time." So polygamy encompasses both polygyny and polyandry, and hence is the term that I'm choosing to use. I'm just as OK with women having plural husbands as I am with men having plural wives.
So why do I support polygamy? Because people should be able to have the kinds of families that they want to have. While gay rights supporters cringe to hear the polygamists use gay rights as a reason for polygamist rights, I have to say that they have a point. The idea that a family consists of a husband, a wife and their children is obviously outdated.
Consenting adults should be allowed to love and marry who they want to love and marry – even if that person is already married to someone else. Notice I said adults – I'm against polygamy, or anything else, being used to allow or force underage teenagers to marry. Obviously, there are cases where polygamy is used to subjugate women or abuse young girls. But hey, that can happen with traditional marriage, too. A man only needs one wife to be a wife-beater. What accepting polygamy is about is accepting people being able to live and love the way that they want to, even if that way is non-traditional.
Polygamy is not for me, and I suspect that it's not for most people in today's society. But for the people for whom it works, and for who it gives the type of family that they want to have? Well, I'm certainly not comfortable saying that they shouldn't be allowed to have their lifestyle of choice. Are you?
Thank Elizabeth for her thoughts or tell her why she's wrong after you read Perilous Years: the blog.
Ms. Clayton is an aspiring nuclear physicist/kindergarten teacher and a Mills senior. The title of her column comes from a 1940s advertisment for Pink Pills, marketed to help teen girls who have "outgrown their strength."She welcomes all comments, concerns and compliments..