Right-wing Catholic blogger Rebecca Crawford is furious about TLC’s My Five Wives. For her, it is all part of the Hollywood attack on marriage and the family.
As I read her vile post, I found myself repeating the line that many of the Williams family members mentioned during an interview with me: “Watch TLC’s My Five Wives and find out for yourself.”
Crawford’s hateful worldview, one which prefers Brady in jail rather than on television, cannot stand under examination. Why does she loathe shows like Sister Wives and My Five Wives? It is because these shows portray two polygamous families that do not match the straw man that holds up her argument.
Crawford claims that TLC portrays the Williams family as no different than Ozzie and Harriet. Clearly, she did not watch the pilot episode. The show portrays them as a family with the same struggles that many families face. It is a different arrangement, but that is why we are discussing this at all. In fact, their family arrangement appears to be a very difficult, challenging, and exhausting one.
Ozzie and Harriet are a fiction. Nonie, Robyn, Brady, Paulie, Rhonda, and Rosemary are real.
While Crawford, as a member of the Oklahoma state legislature, actively seeks to marginalize any family that does not meet the Ozzie and Harriet mold, I stand with the Williams family.
Meet the Williams Family
The Williams family is different from other polygamists in Utah and the American West in that they are no longer Mormon fundamentalists.
What are their religious beliefs?
“We accept truth wherever we can find it,” Brady told me recently in an interview.
“We are more spiritual than anything else,” added Nonie.
Yep, the politically and philosophically liberal or progressive Williams family are Unitarian polygamists.
But from their political leanings and their approach to religion and spirituality, they seem much more Unitarian than Mormon, let alone fundamentalist Mormon.
But…but…they are polygamists!!!
Yes, that is why they have a reality show. But they no longer associate with the fundamentalist Mormonism that they once did. In many ways their exit narrative from fundamentalist Mormonism is not all that different than the ways in which many people leave the faith tradition of their youth and young adulthood.
It was gradual. It took place over a period of years. Each of the six adults in the Williams family came to reject the tradition at different points and to different degrees over that period of time.
But they did not reject polygamy. Not because they still view polygamy as a divine principle, but because they are a family. The relationship they have with each other lasted beyond any religious basis for such a family relationship.
Their family is not rooted in revelation, tradition, Joseph Smith, or Brigham Young. It is rooted in love and shared experience.
“We want everyone to be able to live in the loving relationship of their choosing,” Robyn told me in that interview.
They view their struggle for freedom from government exclusion and persecution as no different than the struggle for gay rights and gay marriage.
“If somebody isn’t hurting others, why not let them love,” Rosemary said.
Brady has been vocal in condemning the abusive practices found in some corners of the Mormon fundamentalist community, including arranged marriages and child brides. Nonie, Robyn, Paulie, Rhonda, and Rosemary joined him in that condemnation at various times in my interview with them.
Can a polygamist family be egalitarian?
“Watch TLC’s My Five Wives and you will see a polygamist family that is trying their best to do so,” Brady told me is response to that question.
Like John Stuart Mill, I find that people like Rebecca Crawford dismiss and attack polygamy, let alone gay marriage, mostly as a means of distracting themselves from the glaring problems facing traditional Victorian monogamous marriage. Most of the charges of abuse, misogyny, and inequality made against polygamy can be just as easily made against monogamous marriage as an institution within our society.
My Five Wives will be joining my families Sunday night television routine. My Five Wives, The Amazing Race, and The Walking Dead. Can’t beat that.
The first episode of the first full season of My Five Wives
airs tonight on TLC.