Sister Wives from a feminist perspective?

Our class discussion on Thursday regarding reality shows immediately got my mind racing to one of my guilty pleasures, Sister Wives.

I’ll admit I watch the show purely for the entertainment.  It’s one of those guilty pleasures that I just can’t stop watching. Our discussion got me thinking: exactly what purpose are the Sister Wives serving  for society?  And how does their reality show retreat women’s advancements?

I stumbled across this blog post (entitled Sister Wives from a Feminist Perspective) in my struggle with rationalizing Sister Wives.

The author writes:

But that doesn’t mean judging people– especially women– on an individual level for the choices they make…The Sister Wives are simply choosing to live a certain lifestyle for themselves– they’re not actively pushing it on other people. Even though I would never make the decision to be in a polygamous marriage myself, and I definitely don’t think it’s empowering (in fact, it has a tradition of commodifying women), I’m hesitant to typecast the Sister Wives as brainwashed or stupid. Like wearing a hijab, dieting for aesthetic reasons (as opposed to for health), or shaving your pubes, being in a polygamous relationship is just another choice women make. It is what it is…Who am I to call out other women for buying into sexist ideals and traditions? Am I so liberated?

I’m still struggling with how I would justify the purpose of Sister Wives, but I would have to say that at this point, I agree with the author.

I don’t think the Sister Wives are advancing women in terms of creating greater gender equality.  The show can be very absurd at some points that I literally yell at the screen.  I get aggravated with the women’s need to defend Kody (the husband); I really do.

But I’m not sure if we should be quick to condemn them either.  These women have made a conscious decision to enter into a polygamous relationship.  It was something they wanted.  Even the intro shows Christine (one of the wives) saying, “I like Sister Wives.  I wanted a family; I didn’t just want a husband.”  They were aware of the implications of their marriage.

Furthermore, the family does not force the daughters into this lifestyle; in fact, the one daughter, Madison, repeatedly states she will not enter into a polygamous relationship.

I am torn.  Every part of me instinctively argues that their relationships create an attitude of acceptability.  It’s okay for a man to be married to five women, because clearly, the Sister Wives are normal, functioning people.  But, shouldn’t the Sister Wives also be allowed to have the ability to make a personal decision regarding their marriage?  As a frequent watcher of the show, despite my many protests to their relationship, I don’t think these women were brainwashed into their marriage.

What are your thoughts on Sister Wives?  Or what is your reaction to polygamy?  Does this program need to be cancelled before it creates a greater societal harm?  Or is it simply a guilty pleasure?


One thought on “Sister Wives from a feminist perspective?

  1. I too watch the show partly for entertainment and partly to see a different lifestyle then my own.
    I think that there is nothing wrong with polygamy as long as you are not forced into it, you are not underage,there is no physical or mental abuse, and you feel as though you have made an informed decision.
    I don’t see that it is taking women backwards no more then “giving” yourself to a man in a monogamous marriage. If you are comfortable in a relationship and you do not feel belittled by the relationship why should “the world at large” have the right to tell you that you are belittled by the relationship.
    I think that if we all learned to be more comfortable with ourselves then we would not be so judge mental of those who choose to live differently then us.

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