President Of South Africa & His Wives By Nomalanga Mhlauli-Moses Today, as I opened my eyes and pondered starting my day, I was very tempted to just pretend that all my responsibilities had disappeared and I could just go back to sleep. Those who know me and my workaholic tendencies know that that would actually be a punishment, but I digress. The reason why I was struggling to get out of bed was that I reckon my body is fighting off some variation of a cold, cough or flu. So I got to thinking…what if I could stay in bed and someone else other than my husband could get the kids ready for school, make breakfast and do my chores for the day? Because I had recently engaged in an interesting conversation about polygamy over the Thanksgiving holiday, the thought of it came to my mind. I thought, what if there was another woman in the house who could do everything that I did and I could, just this once, have the luxury of staying in bed and resting for a while longer? Now, unlike some other women, I did not immediately reject the thought. Maybe it is because I recently saw a rerun, on OWN, of an episode of “Our America with Lisa Ling” as she visited some polygamists who seemed perfectly happy with their lives. Maybe it is because my grandmother was one of two wives and my mother has constantly told me how much she loved and appreciated her “other mother”. Maybe, maybe, maybe…I could go on but the truth is that I honestly do not have the strong and almost always very negative reaction to polygamy that a lot of “modern” women have. Before anyone suggests that I feel that way because I am “African”, let me be the first to tell you that in Botswana, where I was born and raised, I did not know of any other family that had two mothers or two grandmothers. In fact, most of the women that I have spoken to, who were also born and raised in Botswana like me, reject polygamy and say that it is an outdated and “backward” way to approach marriage. So, why would a seemingly “modern” woman such as myself, who grew up in a city with all the conventions of modern life and a mother and father who did not practice polygamy, say that she was not against it? Well, first of all, having been married for close to eight years, I can honestly say that I believe marriage is a good thing. But, just because I am in a monogamous marriage, it does not mean that I reject polygamy. I had a Moroccan co-worker, some years ago, who also happened to be a Muslim and had an in depth knowledge of polygamy . Of course, being the curious being that I am, I had to ask some questions. What he explained to me was that polygamy was originally allowed primarily as an exception rather than a rule. He went on to explain that at times of war, women often lost their husbands or young men simply died before they had even married. What this created was a situation where there were more women who desired marriage than there were men available to marry them. And so, because at that time women depended heavily on men to provide for them, it became necessary for men to take on more than one wife so that the women could be taken care of. Even now, if you speak to anyone who is knowledgeable (and I have) about polygamy, as it is practiced today, they will say that it is necessary for the man who takes on more than one wife to have the means to provide well for all of them. While I have very limited knowledge of the many polygamous communities here in the U.S., the glimpses that I have seen of them, usually show the “sister wives” living in what are, by American standards, huge homes and they typically seem to be well provided for. When I ask some of the very angry women who are strongly against polygamy why they so strongly oppose it, they usually say that they don’t wan to share or that they think that there would be too many problems with the women not being able to contain their jealousy (which to me still sounds like “I don’t wan to share”). One woman told me that the Bible says “one man and one woman”. To that, I simply countered, what if the person practicing polygamy does not look to the Bible as the source of what they accept as the truth? And so, we are back to square one. On the subject of jealousy, I will ask you to bear with me while I direct your thoughts a little. Consider this: When a child is born, they typically feel possessive of their parents and that usually becomes very apparent when the second child is born. After a while though, the older child eventually learns to co-exist with their sibling. I reckon the same happens in polygamous families-they learn to co-exist. Many people who oppose polygamy oppose it because they think that it is forced upon the women who are in the marriages and maybe some women are forced. But to cite that as a reason is like saying you hate Muslims because they go around bombing buildings. Have some Muslims bombed buildings? Sure, but so did Timothy McVeigh, a White man from Lockport, New York and I reckon there are more Muslims who do not bomb buildings than there are those that do. When I married my husband, our agreement was that we would only be married to one another and that is what we are doing. That being said, every time I hear a discussion about polygamy, I never hear anyone who opposes it give a solid reason as to why it is “wrong”. The danger that I see with polygamy in modern times is that I often hear men who don’t understand it saying that the would love to engage in the practice because the don’t think that being faithful to one woman is realistic. While I am certainly not an expert in the subject, what I can say, is that the practice is not intended for men who are only pursuing it because of their lustful “appetite”. Instead, it should be approached with a desire to ease a woman’s suffering, much like marriages between two people. Anytime people walk into marriage thinking only about themselves and what they stand to gain, they are heading for trouble and I don’t believe polygamy is any different. What those men with big “appetites” would do well to recognize is that being unable to control your “urges” is not a reason to marry more than one woman. In fact, a man who has more than one wife should be a man who has excellent leadership skills, the ability to provide well for his family and he should also be fair and just. A man who wants multiple wives because can can’t control his urges is certainly not going to find the answer to his “problem” in a polygamous marriage. In fact, I reckon he would probably be more likely to lack the leadership skills required to be the leader of a plural marriage. As for the women who say that they don’t want to share, I can respect their choice, but I also think that we could also do well to learn to respect the choice of those who embrace the polygamous life style. It’s certainly not for everyone, but for some people, it works and I don’t see anything “wrong” with it. Nomalanga helps Black Women thrive in their lives and careers. She is a Social Commentator, an Editor at Your Black World , Assistant Professor of Professional Studies and the reigning Mrs Botswana. Visit Nomalanga’s blog at successfulblackwoman.com
Nomalanga: Can a Modern Woman Be in a Polygamous Marriage?
Today, as I opened my eyes and pondered starting my day, I was very tempted to just pretend that all my responsibilities had disappeared and I could just go back to sleep. Those who know me and my workaholic tendencies know that that would actually be a punishment, but I digress. The reason why I was struggling to get out of bed was that I reckon my body is fighting off some variation of a cold, cough or flu.
So I got to thinking…what if I could stay in bed and someone else other than my husband could get the kids ready for school, make breakfast and do my chores for the day? Because I had recently engaged in an interesting conversation about polygamy over the Thanksgiving holiday, the thought of it came to my mind. I thought, what if there was another woman in the house who could do everything that I did and I could, just this once, have the luxury of staying in bed and resting for a while longer?