Consumables #136 Reading and Watching Sister Wives

I don’t even remember why I started watching Sister Wives on TLC, but you guys, I AM IN IT NOW. I have watched seven seasons and am not even sick of it yet. I also checked out the book that they wrote from the library and read it in two days. I NEED HELP, MAYBE?

Here are the things about Sister Wives that I find compelling.

1. There are four wives, one husband. WAIT, JUST STICK WITH ME.

2. These are not the Ingalls-dress-wearing, child-bride-having sister wives. The Brown family distance themselves way, way far from that and present themselves as a progressive form of polygamy. Diversity within polygamy family structures- FASCINATING.

3. Division of labor! Everyone works outside the home except one wife who does not wish to, but she wants to take care of all the littles so everything is taken care of. OK KIND OF BRILLS.

4. Polygamy seems patriarchal, right? But when watching this show, it seems pretty clear that the husband is hella inconsequential to anything and the ladies are running it. He sees each of them maybe once or twice a week and they seem so, so good with that amount because they are busy doing their own damn thing.

5. On the downside, I do not feel like the ladies are all besties. They do seem like sisters though- just the kind of sisters that love each other but don’t really necessarily like each other.

6. They are big on polygamy being consensual and they aren’t into any brainwashing stuff, so they have all these kids who are teens and young adults that are not pressured to be polygamists at all. One of them so far wants to be a polygamist, one of them doesn’t want to be married at all, and the rest are wanting monogamy. They all seem like totally well adjusted, happy young people, so you’re not watching kids in peril, which I could not deal with.

7. They all share this dude but there are so many, many boundaries. Like, they all live separately and he just rotates where he stays. There is no kissy face stuff in front of any of the other sister wives, or even a mention of kissy face stuff. The wives discipline their own children but have ways of dealing with how to handle when they are taking care of another wife’s kid. They all have their own money but they have ways of sharing when needed. Like, so much structure to think through, and they have thought it through.

8. COOPERATION. Oh, so much of it I am exhausted just thinking about it.

9. Talking about sexy business is totally off limits which is super smart of them but also super difficult for the viewer because THAT’S WHAT EVERYONE IS THINKING ABOUT IS HOW THE SEXY BUSINESS POLITICS WORKS.

Basically, I can’t say I am a fan of polygamy, BUT I am not mad at the Browns. They seem like fine people. And the show makes me think about big things: like how we are socialized the way we are to think about relationships the way we do, and how gender is performed based on the ways we think about what a woman is supposed to do (and also a man, but this show is really about the ladies), and what it means to be a parent and not expect kids to make the same choices that a parent makes and let them be their own people, and what parts of a relationship are dependent on the partner and what parts we can choose to remain independent. and the ways that each person in a family has different types of status for different reasons, and the ways in which we use that status, consciously or not. Yeah, that’s right, all of that.


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