Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Harem by Any Other Name

I admit it: I've watched the TLC TV Show "Sister Wives" with a fascinated horror. Here's my take on the plot of this reality show: The alpha male, Koby, takes three blond look-alike wives when he is in his 20's. Eventually, they start having children, and by the time we meet the family, these three wives have given birth to 13 offspring between them. All three are attractive and personable but . . . that's a lot of pregnancies and they've lost their 20 year old skinniness and nymphet sexual appeal as a part of the normal aging process. So, the balding Koby gets a "testimony" (apparently this is fundamentalist religious-speak in the polygamous world in Utah for "I've got the hots for another woman") and starts dating the younger, skinny, brunette Robyn. 

Yes, he dates her. With his wives' approval. And marries her.  The wedding now over, new wife Robyn gets the privileges of the marital bed every fourth night. One big happy family. 

Apparently, however, he is legally married only to the first wife. The others are in some sort of promise relationship, since the institution of multiple wives has been outlawed for quite a while now. 

So, what he really has is a harem. One wife and three concubines. 

According to wisegeek.com, a concubine is "a woman who lives with a man in a situation which is similar to marriage, although without all of the privileges of marriage.” 

Wisegeek also says, "Generally, only men of high social status have concubines. Additional wives require more wealth, especially since a well-outfitted concubine elevates a man's social status, while an obviously neglected concubine would reflect poorly upon him." 

At one point, First Wife does ask her husband something along the lines of "How would you feel if I brought another husband into the family?" Koby simply can't imagine the thought. While acknowledging that this is indeed a double standard where he, the important male, gets more privileges than the less important females, he shrugs this off as no big deal. After all, he did get his "testimony," so clearly God has ordained this. 

As I watch this, I sit amazed, and not so amazed, at our human ability to justify anything we want to do by our assurance that God has given the green light. I see this especially with sexual matters: the sex drive is so strong that the hormone-bathed brain misreads getting the hots for someone as a clear directive from God to go ahead and act on it. 

Now, for the record, I don't care if Koby has 30 concubines. It's a free country; I don't get to dictate the morality of others; and if those women aren't any smarter than to buy into this disempowering system, it's their problem. I also wonder about all the men who can't get wives because of the Koby's in the world who greedily grab more of a limited resource, but that's another issue.  

My real problem lies with the justification for his harem being anything other than his selfish ne to keep a bundle of adoring women around in order to keep his fragile ego intact and his status high in the eyes of others. I also have a really, really big problem with using the name of God to justify behavior and decisions that are anything but holy.

I will never understand a theology that says, “it's OK for me, and God wants me to do this because I'm a male (or more powerful or more privileged or more well-to-do) and therefore more important than you, but it is not OK for you because you are a (woman, minority, impoverished, without power, etc.) and therefore you are less valued in the eyes of God.” 

Either God is for all of us, or God is for none of us. There are no favorites in the kingdom of Heaven. 

1 comment:

jane daughhetee said...

AMEN and AMEN sister.