I sprained my foot last weekend and since then, I’ve been spending so much time sitting on my butt that I’ve basically exhausted the internet. One of my particular interests of late has been religious fundamentalists and lately, polygamists.
I read both books by Carolyn Jessop, Escape and Triumph and bought the series Polygamy USA. I watched a couple seasons of Sister Wives ages ago and wasn’t too impressed and Polygamy USA left me with that same ‘why is everyone lying?’ feeling.
[If you haven’t watched the series, read the reviews from the Sister Wives Blog, which are really funny and apt (though I think she’s still missing a few episodes).]
“We’re happy!” They insist. “It’s not always easy, but nothing worth having is!” “Being polygamous is an expression of our religious freedom! It’s a tenet of our beliefs!”
When I hear them talk, I think of how I felt when I practiced attachment parenting. I was deeply unhappy. But if you had asked me then if I was happy, I would have said I was because the exhaustion and lack of time to myself were exactly how I thought motherhood was supposed to be. Since I didn’t expect anything else, I had no idea that I could feel any different.
When I started seeing a therapist to deal with my postpartum depression, she told me that in one session when I was trying to defend my AP practices that she has treated Jehovah’s Witnesses before and she always has to tell them that she can help them, but only if they’re willing to question some of their beliefs. If they aren’t, then there is nothing she can do. Later, she told me that a lot of the things I was experiencing were similar to what people who have left their religion experienced.
I really, firmly believed that attachment parenting was the one true way to raise children and the only way I could ensure my kids would grow up healthy, well-adjusted adults. For that, I was willing to sacrifice my happiness.
How lucky for me that I came to realize sacrificing my happiness is not necessary to achieve that goal! I can, in fact, have my cake and eat it, too. Since undergoing therapy and changing my parenting to create more room for me, I am literally the happiest I’ve been since before Alpha was born. And I know my kids will be better off for it, too. As my therapist said, they don’t need the perfect mother, they just need a mother–preferably a happy one.
I wish the women in Polygamy USA would realize the same. They do not need a man to enter heaven–they can get there on their own. If living polygamy is so hard and challenging, wouldn’t they rather have one happy life here, on Earth (which is, by the way 100% guaranteed to actually exist. I know of no such guarantees attached to the afterlife, YMMV).
The sad thing is that Polygamy USA and the earlier documentary by Lisa Ling (which is also linked to on the Sister Wives blog) are meant to show religious polygamy in its best light. And, at best, it comes across as a system that results in women having a ton of children, which they raise basically as single mothers. This is caused by the fact that one man simply cannot support 3 adult women who have at least 5 kids each–it’s impossible. In the Cawley Family, both the husband, two of the wives and the oldest daughter work. This leaves the first wife, Rose, at home by herself with 9 kids under 5.
The “Thomsons”–real last name Timson, I believe, portray themselves as the Model Polygamist Family. They’re young! They’re hip! They wear really high heels and make up! And they disturb me. Marlene is about my age, 28. She states emphatically that she and her husband are not from Centennial Park, but moved there. This is not a lie, but it does not appear to be the entire truth either. I don’t get the feeling that they converted to polygamist mormonism. Instead, I get the feeling that they moved from the Salt Lake area–where a good number of polygamists live–to live in Centennial Park. In fact, until the late 80s, “The Third Ward” was part of “The Second Ward” (as the Centennial Park group is also known), which in turn split from “The First Ward,” which would be the FLDS right down the road from Centennial Park in Colorado City, AZ. The fact that Timson is the last name of one of the founders of Centennial Park supports this and my belief that changing their last name was meant to be intentionally misleading.
At anyrate, Marlene has become a spokeswoman for polygamy and their goal of getting polygamy decriminalized. Note that they want it decriminalized, not legalized. She’s been popping up all over the internet lately and even had a reddit thread where she answered questions about her faith. She asserts that people in Centennial Park aren’t getting government benefits or using food stamps, but I find this to be highly suspect. If they aren’t, then why don’t they want it legalized? It is defacto decriminalized considering the fact no one has been arrested for polygamy in ages and Utah has stated they won’t go after polygamist, just abuses arising from polygamy. I find exactly nothing she says about it not being abusive convincing. Just because there’s no physical abuse, doesn’t mean there isn’t emotional abuse or spiritual abuse going on. “It’s not always easy, jealousy are human emotions I have to overcome, but I chose this life!” She and her sister wife keep saying. What they don’t realize is that they can also unchoose it, but just like me choosing to AP, it’s hard to un-choose something you firmly believe is The Best Way to Live, even if it really makes you miserable.
Also rather inaccurate appear to be all the claims by Tiffany, girlfriend to Ezra. She talks about how her parents are not polygamous and she’d never really been religious before. This gives the appearance of wow! A non-mormon girl who’s not particularly religious is willing to consider and accept polygamy! Except she’s not. From the comments on the Sister Wives blog, it appears she moved to Centennial Park 2 years ago and while her parents may not be polygamist, plenty of her relatives are. She certainly didn’t grow up without religion the same way I grew up without religion. Since Tiffany is 17, I have little doubt her parents had to give their approval for her to be in this show and that she receives no small amount of support in her decision to enter into a relationship with a polygamous man.
[Before I was born, my family was Mormon, but they left the church for various reasons. Thus my religious exposure consisted of my mom buying me a bible coloring book and telling me that it’s important for me to know about the bible stories and other kids trying to convert me on the playground.]
Even worse is Rosemarie, oldest daughter of the first wife and Michael Cawley (who has become known as the Applesauce Tyrant. Heh.). She has just turned 18 and has been praying for two years for God to find her a husband so she can get married. But since no name comes to her, she ‘turns herself in’ to the Brethren–the men who are in charge of Centennial Park and are responsible for approving all marriages in the community–to allow them to pick a name for her. I can’t help but wonder several things: 1) Why is she so damn eager to get married? I get the dim feeling that life at home isn’t so smooth at all–maybe her mothers don’t along well. Her father certainly seems creepy enough on TV. Maybe she’s tired of taking care of everyone’s kids. Whatever the reason is…it seems odd. 2) If she hasn’t gotten a name yet, maybe she should take that as a sign that god wants her to go to college and do something else with her life instead of getting married and popping out babies. Except for the fact that they’ve been told everyday of their lives that being in a polygamous relationship and having babies is woman’s only purpose and the only way for them to enter the highest level of heaven. She and her sister discuss not being able to have babies in the kitchen and her sister– who is only 15!–breaks down crying at the thought!
Lastly, there’s the one telling line that National Geographic left in where Hyrum asks a girl to dance and he jokes to her that he was afraid she would say no and she replies, “We’re not allowed to say no.” He quickly covers by saying, “you’re allowed to say no. Women have all the choice! It’s us guys who don’t have a choice!” This line rang tons of bells from Carolyn Jessop’s book, Escape, in which she describes community dances she attended as a teenager. These dances had rules and one of those rules were that girls were not allowed to say ‘no’ to any man who asked them to dance–largely because they were likely to say no to older men and favor the younger men. But they were allowed to stampede. Whenever an older man would approach the single girl’s, a girl would give a signal and they would all bolt out of the gym and come back only when the coast was clear, or if one of their numbers missed the signal and ended up dancing with the old man. These dances she described took place before the FLDS split into FLDS and “The Work,” as Centennial Park is also known. I have a very strong feeling that the same rules Carolyn Jessop described are still in place in Centennial Park. Women aren’t allowed to say no.
This rather blows a hole into all their protests that women have the choice! Yes, women can pray for inspiration, but the Brethren make the final decision on who they marry. And according to Rosemarie’s mom, Rose, if the brethren pick a man and you don’t like the name, you cannot say no. You do nothing. You have to accept that choice.
As a libertarian, I’m totally cool with consenting adults doing whatever they want. I don’t think government should be involved in deciding who can and cannot be married–whether the marriage be between one man and one women, two men, two women, or 15. However, I do believe government needs to be involved in making sure that these marriages are entered into with informed consent. Both parties consent to the marriage and both parties enter the marriage knowing what they are getting into–having a good idea of who the other person is and being reasonably sure they can live with them. I don’t see either of this in Centennial Park. The one couple who does get married in the course of this show has two weeks to get to know each other before they are married and they admit in the beginning they don’t know each other at all. Not a good sign. If Hyrum doesn’t like his bride, he can’t say no. He just has to hope that eventually, the Brethren hook him up with a wife he does like. If Rosemarie doesn’t like her husband, she doesn’t have a choice. She’s stuck. She doesn’t get to hope for a second husband, a second chance at happiness. And that goes for here and the hereafter.