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Choisya
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Re: Many wives and other questions

Peppermill - what are 'blended' marriages? We do not have that term in the UK.



I very much share the feelings and attitudes you expressed. E.g., for those, and a myriad of other reasons, at this stage in history, I am glad that our US laws support only monogamous marriages. (There may still be a few isolated exceptions -- I am not expert enough to be certain without more research than I am willing to do right now.) However, Rachel (rkubie) does expand, in the post following ours, some of the possibilities we do face relative to helping blended families receive community and broader familial support. Since blended families have become such a broad reality in the US, I do believe supporting practices, customs, courtesies, rituals and rites (and laws, if needed) to be important to develop and provide. (We could undoubtedly profitably revisit and strengthen the same for marriages as well.)
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Peppermill
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Re: Many wives and other questions


Choisya wrote:
Peppermill - what are 'blended' marriages? We do not have that term in the UK.?

Choisya -- the expression is "blended FAMILIES". It refers to families that include children from two or more marriages.

I didn't realize it was an Americanism. Thanks for asking.
"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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Choisya
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Re: Many wives and other questions

Oh - that's a useful expression - I will try to get it going over here as we certainly have plenty of those:smileysad:.





Peppermill wrote:

Choisya wrote:
Peppermill - what are 'blended' marriages? We do not have that term in the UK.?

Choisya -- the expression is "blended FAMILIES". It refers to families that include children from two or more marriages.

I didn't realize it was an Americanism. Thanks for asking.


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IBIS
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Re: Many wives and other questions

I found the polygamist husband's lifestyle very interesting, and complicated.

Jacob was kind to all his wives, and they received protection from him. But certainly his treatment of them was not equal. They were treated fairly, but not equally.

There was a hierarchy in the status of the wives... so each deserved treatment equal to their status... just as the children born to each wife had a standing in the family structure that was commensurate with their mother's status.

Jacob is portrayed as a kind, just and fair husband. He addresses each wife with the respect that their status in the family hierarchy deserves. That's amazingly tough to do, and Jacob's diplomatic skills must have been of a high caliber.

Imagine the fine line he walks if he showed undue favoritism. Since Jacob originally desired Rachel, the loveliest of the sisters, I sympathized with him. His every action was closely observed; and how skillfully he had to negotiate conflicts that would arise if he exhibited any sign of favoritism.... towards either wife or child.
IBIS

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Anita_Diamant
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Re: Many wives and other questions

I agree that Jacob was a good husband in the terms of this kind of family. The role of "husband" must have been quite different from what we expect, as was the role of "wife" in a polygamous setting.

Anita
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IBIS
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Re: Many wives and other questions

Anita, thank you for your insight into the dynamics of a polygamous marriage.

It's also interesting that in our contemporary "blended families", first wives are not treated in any special way from second or even third wives. If anything, they're older and sometimes dismissed by subsequent wives as "passe" or "dated".

Remember the movie several years ago called THE FIRST WIVES CLUB, where Diane Keaton, Bette Midler and Goldie Hawn played divorced first wives who wreaked havoc on their exhusbands and their younger trophy wives!

How times have changed!
IBIS

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Choisya
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Re: Many wives and other questions

There seems to be so much dissension between modern divorcees and second, third wives etc. that I wonder at the American term 'blended', which seems to imply that everything in the family cooking pot is tasty! The effect of this 'blending' on children is yet to be seen. My children suffered in my one divorce, I hate to think how children will survive several 'dads/mums', step and half siblings etc.:smileysad: Literature is full of stories about wicked stepmothers and fathers, we have yet to read stories about multiple ones!




IBIS wrote:
Anita, thank you for your insight into the dynamics of a polygamous marriage.

It's also interesting that in our contemporary "blended families", first wives are not treated in any special way from second or even third wives. If anything, they're older and sometimes dismissed by subsequent wives as "passe" or "dated".

Remember the movie several years ago called THE FIRST WIVES CLUB, where Diane Keaton, Bette Midler and Goldie Hawn played divorced first wives who wreaked havoc on their exhusbands and their younger trophy wives!

How times have changed!


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Rachel-K
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Re: Many wives and other questions



IBIS wrote:
I found the polygamist husband's lifestyle very interesting, and complicated.

Jacob was kind to all his wives, and they received protection from him. But certainly his treatment of them was not equal. They were treated fairly, but not equally.

There was a hierarchy in the status of the wives... so each deserved treatment equal to their status... just as the children born to each wife had a standing in the family structure that was commensurate with their mother's status.

Jacob is portrayed as a kind, just and fair husband. He addresses each wife with the respect that their status in the family hierarchy deserves. That's amazingly tough to do, and Jacob's diplomatic skills must have been of a high caliber.

Imagine the fine line he walks if he showed undue favoritism. Since Jacob originally desired Rachel, the loveliest of the sisters, I sympathized with him. His every action was closely observed; and how skillfully he had to negotiate conflicts that would arise if he exhibited any sign of favoritism.... towards either wife or child.




This is an interesting point, too, Ibis, because Jacob's own background story is one of having "wrongfully" taken the father's blessing that was intended for the older brother. Anita's fictional Jacob made perfect sense to me, because I imagined him developing such sensitivity (and cunning) around issues of status and propriety over a lifetime of culling the rationalizations for and ramifications of this particular action?
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IBIS
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Re: Many wives and other questions

Rachel, that's a very interesting point you bring up. When we get to meet Esau's family, the jealousy that his wives exhibited was in such a contrast to the harmony in Jacob's family.

You are absolutely right that Jacob must have developed much sensitivity (and cunning) "around issues of status and propriety over a lifetime of culling the rationalizations for and ramifications of this particular action".

Thanks for pointing that out.

IBIS
IBIS

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IBIS
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Re: Many wives and other questions

Choisya, I agree that "blended families" brings up images of cohesiveness, and multi-generational bliss.

But I am reminded of cookbooks' directions .. whip, or beat, or mash, or slap.... until perfectly blended(!) I wonder if those directions could apply to blending families?

Reminds me when I came to the US, as a bright-eyed immigrant 10-year-old girl, I came across a popular phrase: "New York City's meltingpot". Visions of multi-colored sugar plums and multi-ethnic smorgasbords melded into a utopia of multi-cultural joy and contentment.

Today, I think the text books call New York City's huddled masses a "tossed salad."
Maybe we should adopt that phrase and call our multi-level families "tossed families"?
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
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Peppermill
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Re: Many wives and other questions

IBIS wrote:
Choisya, I agree that "blended families" brings up images of cohesiveness, and multi-generational bliss.

I am certain the term was chosen to suggest the possibility of positive outcomes.

But I am reminded of cookbooks' directions .. whip, or beat, or mash, or slap.... until perfectly blended(!) I wonder if those directions could apply to blending families?

I certainly hope not.

Reminds me when I came to the US, as a bright-eyed immigrant 10-year-old girl, I came across a popular phrase: "New York City's meltingpot". Visions of multi-colored sugar plums and multi-ethnic smörgåsbords melded into a utopia of multi-cultural joy and contentment.

Today, I think the text books call New York City's huddled masses a "tossed salad." Maybe we should adopt that phrase and call our multi-level families "tossed families"?


I suspect the terminology will evolve as the stories and experiences do. Thankfully, I have seen families be as functional "blended" as "unblended", to make up a phrase, difficult as that can be coming out of situations that usually have been acrimonious to some extent or another.
"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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Choisya
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Re: Many wives and other questions

Thanks Ibis - great analogies!




IBIS wrote:
Choisya, I agree that "blended families" brings up images of cohesiveness, and multi-generational bliss.

But I am reminded of cookbooks' directions .. whip, or beat, or mash, or slap.... until perfectly blended(!) I wonder if those directions could apply to blending families?

Reminds me when I came to the US, as a bright-eyed immigrant 10-year-old girl, I came across a popular phrase: "New York City's meltingpot". Visions of multi-colored sugar plums and multi-ethnic smorgasbords melded into a utopia of multi-cultural joy and contentment.

Today, I think the text books call New York City's huddled masses a "tossed salad."
Maybe we should adopt that phrase and call our multi-level families "tossed families"?


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JesseBC
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Re: Many wives and other questions

This thread is starting to crack me up.

I mean...is, seriously, no one aware that polgamy is still quite commonly practiced all over the world, both in countries where it's the norm and those in which it's subcultural or countercultural?

You're talking about it like it's something that died out back there in the "olden days" and the entire world now operates under the social mores of Garrison Keillor.

It's all well and good to make choices for oneself and know what you want in love and relationships, but the tone of this thread is bordering on ignorance.

How can you possibly talk about what women "must have wanted" in Biblical times without any apparent awareness of the variety of situations in which women are making choices (and being precluded from making them) today, right now?





DSaff wrote:
I honestly don't think I could live in a polygamous relationship. I like having my husband to myself and having to work out our challenges together. Life was different during the book's time frame, but I still wonder about the jealousy aspect. While it may have been an accepted practice, one that may have even brought status to the man, it is hard to believe that the women didn't want more from their relationships. Cultures and traditions differ, but love usually wants it all.


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JesseBC
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Re: Many wives and other questions

I've never understood how the counterculture polyamorists seem to consistently fail to see the point you're making here.

There's a chasm between the two groups, with traditional polygamists defining the polyamorists as sexually libertine and the latter defining the former as brainwashed victims, usually the byproduct of backwards religions.

Perhaps it's a class thing. Most of the polyamory world is, if not middle class themselves, from largely middle-class nations while polygamy is practiced in, among other places, countries whose economies still rely on goat-herding.

We think of polygamy as the product of uneducated fanatics in desperately poor countries and fail to distinguish that practices which seem (or perhaps even ARE) repressive also have a more complex definition to the people who live them.

That said, it's not like polygamy is all roses either. There are women fleeing it all over the world, often in countries where women's rights are non-existent. But, presumably, in someplace like Turkmenistan, there are also cultural resources that absorb various bad and abusive situations.

In someplace like the US, their situation may be, in some ways, more difficult because, while the rest of the culture should seem like a natural haven, people's ignorance that polygamy even EXISTS in the US leaves them very isolated. (Try telling a family court social worker about your sister-wives.)

Then again, monogamy isn't all roses either and there are women fleeing it every day. They're called battered women's shelters.






Choisya wrote:
Why not imagine polygamy as a boon to women who had to work so very hard?

I agree. I have a Muslim friend who is in a polygamous marriage and she was very pleased to welcome a new young wife, able to have another baby, into her household. They share the household chores and the baby care as well as the husband and he is duty bound to treat them equally, in and out of bed. As she entered her menapause she was quite pleased to relinquish some of her 'wifely' duties, to have companionship and help around the house and a baby who she could hand back to the mother. Both women had been brought up to accept this state of affairs, so jealousy - perhaps we should call it selfishness? - did not enter into the equation.

(BTW polygamous marriage is not legal in the UK so such marriages are performed according to Islamic procedures, which are considered legal within their communities. Only the first wife can claim tax advantages or other state benefits however, which can be disadvantageous to the other wife/wives.)






Anita_Diamant wrote:


rkubie wrote:
In an interview, Anita said that one challenge in writing historical fiction, is that of trying not to misplace contemporary ideas into characters set in another time, and she mentions polygamy as an example of something accepted in this setting as "a simple fact."

I was surprised at how easily I also accepted some very foreign ideas, such as polygamy, in the novel. I found myself instead wondering more at the mechanics of it--how did these women live and work together, talk with each other, etc.

How did you accept life, customs, manners, and morals that differed significantly from your own?




It's a challenge to set aside our own values and expectations. If we don't, however, there is no chance of entering into a world that is profoundly different from our own.
Why not imagine polygamy as a boon to women who had to work so very hard?





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Choisya
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Re: Many wives and other questions

Very true JesseBC and both polygamy and polyandry are practiced amongst other ethnic minorities in our own societies, albeit unofficially and without sanction of law, let alone in other parts of the world.

'Love' does not necessarily enter the equation at the beginning of arranged marriages because what is aimed for is compatibility, not just between the couple but between the families. Love can grow if the couple are otherwise compatible. My long time Asian lodger, a Muslim, had an arranged marriage when he was 23 and she was 20 and they have now been happily marrried for 25 years. Their families knew each other and he had seen his bride at family parties but had never spoken to her. He says that they were both very shy and got to know each other slowly over a couple of years and that gradually 'love came'. He says that he would never take another wife but that sometimes wives want their husbands to take a younger wife - for sexual reasons sometimes, so that there will be another baby in the house, because of infirmity, or to share the chores etc. Wives in these marriages are brought up with different expectations of their husbands and the married state so their cultural 'wants' become different to ours.

The practice of separating men from women at social gatherings, even within the family, also seems to have the effect of bonding the women together and they are extremely supportive of one another when difficult situations arise. (This may also be true of the men but I have not observed this.) We often complain about the breakdown in Western family kinship structures but the practice of arranged marriages, polygamy etc. keeps these bonds intact. (Although, they can also be stifling if people wish to break away from them.)

I am sure there are just as many happily married couples in arranged/polygamous marriages as there are in our conventional monogamous marriages. There is also more effort put into keeping the marriage together when things go wrong because both families have been involved in the 'arrangement', whereas in our societies divorce seems all too easy nowadays.




JesseBC wrote:
This thread is starting to crack me up.

I mean...is, seriously, no one aware that polgamy is still quite commonly practiced all over the world, both in countries where it's the norm and those in which it's subcultural or countercultural?

You're talking about it like it's something that died out back there in the "olden days" and the entire world now operates under the social mores of Garrison Keillor.

It's all well and good to make choices for oneself and know what you want in love and relationships, but the tone of this thread is bordering on ignorance.

How can you possibly talk about what women "must have wanted" in Biblical times without any apparent awareness of the variety of situations in which women are making choices (and being precluded from making them) today, right now?





DSaff wrote:
I honestly don't think I could live in a polygamous relationship. I like having my husband to myself and having to work out our challenges together. Life was different during the book's time frame, but I still wonder about the jealousy aspect. While it may have been an accepted practice, one that may have even brought status to the man, it is hard to believe that the women didn't want more from their relationships. Cultures and traditions differ, but love usually wants it all.





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steelmagnolia
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Re: Many wives and other questions

I'm hardly ignorant, nor do I believe women who are in mongamous relationships are ignorant,are blindly subcribing to social mores forced upon them by the likes of Garrison Keillor, or have had better choices precluded by someone more ignorant still.

I think Ms. Diamant did an excellent job describing a world we can only visit in our imaginations, whether we subscribe to polygamy, monagamy, or something else altogether. The Old Testament world was both harsh and beautiful. So was Dinah's story. The thread should be about the story, not about insulting someone's lifestyle, intelligence, etc.
pll, steel magnolia
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Choisya
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Re: Many wives and other questions

To add my proverbial "two cents' worth" on the subject of jealousy: I have long thought that polygamy was simply a tool men used boost their own egos, status, etc.

Polygamy is usually practiced where there are far more women than men in a society, often due to prolonged wars. It then becomes custom and practice. Similarly, polyandry occurs where more men are born than women, or where women die early in childbirth etc. Polyandry is currently on the increase in both China and India because the custom of either killing or aborting female children, due to certain birth control legislation and cultural preferences, has led to a shortage of women.

http://in.news.yahoo.com/071030/48/6mm6l.html

One of the strange things about population trends is that in general the numbers of males and females born to a society is usually in balance but every so often something happens to send it out of kilter. In the Great Depression in the UK, for instance, certain 'female trades' prospered, like shoe and shirtmaking, and women who followed those trades became more healthy and prosperous. Over a couple of generations this led to a predominance of girls being born in the counties where these trades dominated. Similarly, the wholesale slaughter of young men during WWI led not to polygamy, because that was not a Western custom, but to an increase in various forms of promiscuity and to more boys being born to the succeeding generation.




steelmagnolia wrote:
To add my proverbial "two cents' worth" on the subject of jealousy: I have long thought that polygamy was simply a tool men used boost their own egos, status, etc. Someone commented on polygamy being an okay arrangement for women if we could manage to control our own jealousy, sense of competition, whatever. I wonder how often jealousy enters the picture for the husband in such arrangements. Is he ever jealous of the genuine affection the women feel toward each other? Jealous of time they spend together in communion/companionship?...........Just a thought.


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JesseBC
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Re: Many wives and other questions

Yes. Something that's commonly regarded as a dysfunctional or abusive dynamic in polygamous relationships is attempts by one partner to split the others up or pit them against each other. (From the families I've known, I'd say this is more common in strictly polygynous relationships -- where one man has many female partners who are sexually involved with him and not, in theory, with each other. But it's probably more readily acknowledged in polygamous relationships -- where a group of men and women are sexually involved with one another.)

But a common misconception about polygamy is that it involves some superhuman ability to overcome (or, if necessary, forcibly suppress) natural feelings of jealousy. (And I think the counter-cultural polyamory movement perpetuates this misconception in order to counter stereotypes about themselves, even though it isn't very realistic.)

They just define and cope with jealousy differently than monogamous people do.

And don't be fooled -- even in strictly polygynous relationships, there are plenty of Boston marriages, if not outright lesbianism, among the sister-wives. It's just not talked about because polygyny often goes hand-in-hand with religions that forbid homosexuality.






steelmagnolia wrote:
To add my proverbial "two cents' worth" on the subject of jealousy: I have long thought that polygamy was simply a tool men used boost their own egos, status, etc. Someone commented on polygamy being an okay arrangement for women if we could manage to control our own jealousy, sense of competition, whatever. I wonder how often jealousy enters the picture for the husband in such arrangements. Is he ever jealous of the genuine affection the women feel toward each other? Jealous of time they spend together in communion/companionship?...........Just a thought.


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JesseBC
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Re: Many wives and other questions

Even arranged marriages are evolving, especially among Muslims who have immigrated West or in urban areas like Tehran that have been heavily influenced by Western norms.

It's pretty common for a marriage to be "arranged" by the families, but leaving the kids with the option of saying no if they don't want to marry the person their families picked out. Or for the kids to pick each other out and then approach their families for approval (not much different than asking Dad for "her hand in marriage").

The lines get blurry. My mother-in-law (quite literally) chose all her children's spouses, except me (a fact for which she makes our lives miserable every opportunity she gets).

Were those "arranged marriages"? They would say no, but it might as well be.

And while she's extreme, she's hardly uncommon. The overbearing mother-in-law is an archetype in Western culture.

I think one perfectly normal tendency that makes these things so fuzzy is that it's easy to view foreign cultural norms as black-and-white, while the familiarity of one's own cultural norms allows for all the shades of grey that are far more realistic.





Choisya wrote:
Very true JesseBC and both polygamy and polyandry are practiced amongst other ethnic minorities in our own societies, albeit unofficially and without sanction of law, let alone in other parts of the world.

'Love' does not necessarily enter the equation at the beginning of arranged marriages because what is aimed for is compatibility, not just between the couple but between the families. Love can grow if the couple are otherwise compatible. My long time Asian lodger, a Muslim, had an arranged marriage when he was 23 and she was 20 and they have now been happily marrried for 25 years. Their families knew each other and he had seen his bride at family parties but had never spoken to her. He says that they were both very shy and got to know each other slowly over a couple of years and that gradually 'love came'. He says that he would never take another wife but that sometimes wives want their husbands to take a younger wife - for sexual reasons sometimes, so that there will be another baby in the house, because of infirmity, or to share the chores etc. Wives in these marriages are brought up with different expectations of their husbands and the married state so their cultural 'wants' become different to ours.

The practice of separating men from women at social gatherings, even within the family, also seems to have the effect of bonding the women together and they are extremely supportive of one another when difficult situations arise. (This may also be true of the men but I have not observed this.) We often complain about the breakdown in Western family kinship structures but the practice of arranged marriages, polygamy etc. keeps these bonds intact. (Although, they can also be stifling if people wish to break away from them.)

I am sure there are just as many happily married couples in arranged/polygamous marriages as there are in our conventional monogamous marriages. There is also more effort put into keeping the marriage together when things go wrong because both families have been involved in the 'arrangement', whereas in our societies divorce seems all too easy nowadays.




JesseBC wrote:
This thread is starting to crack me up.

I mean...is, seriously, no one aware that polgamy is still quite commonly practiced all over the world, both in countries where it's the norm and those in which it's subcultural or countercultural?

You're talking about it like it's something that died out back there in the "olden days" and the entire world now operates under the social mores of Garrison Keillor.

It's all well and good to make choices for oneself and know what you want in love and relationships, but the tone of this thread is bordering on ignorance.

How can you possibly talk about what women "must have wanted" in Biblical times without any apparent awareness of the variety of situations in which women are making choices (and being precluded from making them) today, right now?





DSaff wrote:
I honestly don't think I could live in a polygamous relationship. I like having my husband to myself and having to work out our challenges together. Life was different during the book's time frame, but I still wonder about the jealousy aspect. While it may have been an accepted practice, one that may have even brought status to the man, it is hard to believe that the women didn't want more from their relationships. Cultures and traditions differ, but love usually wants it all.








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JesseBC
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Re: Many wives and other questions

I wasn't trying to insult you or anyone else.

I was just pointing out that the thread reflected virtually NO awareness that polygamy currently exists in the Western world or that it could be the province of anything but brainwashed fanatics in Third World backwaters.

I mean, really, doesn't saying that "those women must have wanted more for themselves" strike you as kind of self-righteous?

Again, I'm not trying to insult you. I'm just saying that, no matter how much you try to couch that in I-choose-a-different-lifestyle, it's still sort of culturally imperialist and doesn't acknowledge that women in other parts of the world really do have minds of their own.





steelmagnolia wrote:
I'm hardly ignorant, nor do I believe women who are in mongamous relationships are ignorant,are blindly subcribing to social mores forced upon them by the likes of Garrison Keillor, or have had better choices precluded by someone more ignorant still.

I think Ms. Diamant did an excellent job describing a world we can only visit in our imaginations, whether we subscribe to polygamy, monagamy, or something else altogether. The Old Testament world was both harsh and beautiful. So was Dinah's story. The thread should be about the story, not about insulting someone's lifestyle, intelligence, etc.


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