I have seen the feminist revolution and it is … polygamy?
Watching “Sister Wives,” TLC’s latest addition to its collection of Very Large Families, I found myself thinking not so much of HBO’s “Big Love” as Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” in which a patriarchal revolution has left women literally secondclass citizens, assigned tasks by the government.
The book came to mind not because Kody Brown, his three (and counting) wives and their 13 (and counting) children resemble such a society but because they seemed to embody its opposite: a matriarchy.
Oh, sure, Kody bounces around kissing kids and keeping the conjugal schedule even-steven but he’s a far cry from “Big Love’s” authoritarian Bill Henrickson. All floppy hair and Hollywood smile, Kody’s way too surferdude to take very seriously as a patriarch.
It’s the three wives — Meri, Janelle and Christine — who form the solid center of the family and the show. Their bonds appear far stronger than the casual fondness with which they treat Kody. All three of the women were raised either in or surrounded by polygamist families and are tired of hiding or apologizing for a “lifestyle” that allows them more free time and familial support than any non-polygamous marriage.
Janelle and Christine say that it was Meri, Kody’s likable, organized and very direct first wife, who drew them to become Browns. Janelle is unapologetically grateful that she can work long hours outside the home, because Christine is happy to care for the kids. Christine never had any interest at all in being an only wife, or even a second wife. The third wife is emotionally the easiest, she says, adding that during her teen years, “I wanted the sister wives more than the husband.”
It’s impossible to believe that things work as smoothly as the Browns would have us believe — for one thing, there are 13 kids, ranging from teens to toddlers. And when Kody decides to go a ’courtin’, his wives swing between loving the potential new sister-wife and hating the disruption it will cause in their lives.
But it’s the matter-of-fact assertion that one man is quite enough for three (or four) women because what a gal really needs around the house is more women that takes your breath away.
Interestingly, religion is not at all a part of “Sister Wives.” Beyond Kody’s earnest (and no doubt lawyered) explanation that he is not a Mormon and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rejects polygamy, there is no discussion of any sort of religion. “Lifestyle” rather than “the Principle” is how the Browns refer to polygamy. Though “childcare choice” might work just as well.