Thursday, April 24, 2008

First they came for the polygamists

I want to be clear at the outset: I am not in favor of child abuse, rape, statutory rape, forced marriage, polygamy, incest, or brainwashing. I do think something needs to be done when young teenaged girls are essentially enslaved by their community.

But every so often, something in the rhetoric around the recent events in Texas makes me twitch.

"Sect members less mature than outsiders, psychiatrist testifies."

Well, less mature how? I wish I could trust the court-appointed psychiatrist that he's evaluating the "thought patterns" of ten-year-olds, but how can he help comparing them to the ten-year-olds he typically encounters? Take a ten-year-old who wears platform shoes and sparkly nail polish, sasses back like Hannah Montana, got to level 37 on Sonic and Mario Olympics yesterday, and always orders the bubblegum chai at Starbucks after school. Does she seem more mature than the ten-year-old who dresses like Holly Hobbie, plays hopscotch and tag with her siblings, makes clothes for her favorite doll, and helps her mother get dinner?

About the constant references to the long, flowing, pioneer-style, prairie dresses: why does this seem to rattle everyone so much? A long dress can be a very handy garment. Cool in the summer, warm in winter. With an apron, proper bathing, and the right underwear, you can wear it a few times before washing, and cut down on laundry. It's pretty. Relatively comfortable. Modest. Do I want my wardrobe dictated by a group of men who control my life? No. Is that what's happening there? We don't know. Is it worse than having my wardrobe dictated by a magazine or a department store?

I understand the impulse to resist the dominant culture. We have friends who think we should do it more, and friends who think we should do it less. There are no video games in our house. A recent experiment in watching Disney Channel shows has not had promising results so far, and the study may be canceled because of danger to the participants.

Yes, this is counter-cultural on a very small scale; but we also espouse a faith that many people find offensive. Because we follow its precepts, are we "less mature and less capable of making [our] own decisions"?

And will the state come for our children next?

4 comments:

Hamilton said...

Our country has a long, glorious history of crushing polygamous cults: Tripoli, Iraq, Utah. Why stop now? Before this decade is out, our armed forces may have liberated hundreds of millions of women from both the Burqa and the long prarie dress fashions. Right thinking men everywhere will be grateful.

BlueDun said...

A sane society would have broken up the compound because of polygamy, which is sexually deviant. You're onto something that the objection to this cult is instead often based on taste instead. Something in the media (or our culture) cannot quite bring itself to condemn the cult cannot quite bring itself to condemn the cult on sexual grounds or in defense of marriage. If that were to happen, it might require admitting that there are other sexual practices between adults that ought to be treated as immoral.

Jay said...

I actually don't believe there are any sexual practices between adults that the state should be legislating. Rape is not sex. There is every indication that what was happening to young teenage girls in that compound was rape and the government does have the right to stop rape. They don't do it nearly often enough for my taste.

I come at this from the opposite viewpoint: if we weren't so accustomed to being rape apologists in this country, we could clearly identify what happened as rape, have adequate justification for imprisoning the rapists and move on. I'd also like to see blanket condemnation for limiting the autonomy of women, but that's not going to happen. I've stopped worrying about what the media chooses to focus on in a story - any story - because it's whatever people find titillating.

I don't know what they meant as "mature" but to me it means capable of independent thought and analysis, and having some sense of oneself as an individual. Not the veneer of pseudosophistication that I, too, find off-putting in some of my daughter's peers.

We also don't watch the Disney channel or Nickelodeon, and have no video games (unless you count the hand-me-down damaged Leapster). There are lots of different reasons to make those choices.

BlueDun said...

Momvee did not mention a single reason or claim as to why there were no video games in her house. It was merely a reference to being counter-cultural, so why take issue with that or point out there may be more than one reason for the choice? Momvee made clear that she is in favor of the state intervention for rape and plenty of other reasons. Her comment was about the secondary observations in this community. This country is not full of rape apologists; that's absurd. Rape is talked about incessantly on places like college campuses. I can think of few things of which people are more "aware." That said, if there were a lot less tolerance for polygamy and other sexual practices, society would understand sex in its proper light, providing an atmosphere that makes rape less likely.