Polyamorous Family on “Wife Swap”

A friend forwarded this to me (I love my friends!) and I just finished watching it and have a couple of things I’d like to note.

Firstly – the kids from both families get an A+ in my book for being complete rock stars. Despite being from two very obviously different families, they all seemed to really encompass some of the values I think those of us in education have really been trying to instill in their generation, particularly respect. They met moms very different than their own, and when time came for the moms to call the shots, the kids pretty much rolled with it. Love it. Gives me lots of hope for the future.

And then, secondly. There’s a moment at about 16:20 where the oldest child of the polyamorous family, Brooke, is answering the religious and political family mother, Gina’s, questions about how she feels about her family. The conversation goes like this:

Gina: How do you feel about having a family that’s kinda different? A dad, kinda two moms?

Brooke: It’s good to be different.

Gina: So what do you think about my different way?

Brooke: It’s fine.

(Cut away to Gina, alone, being interviewed separately.)

Gina: Brooke has had a lot of challenges in her life, and I just hate that she has to live in that defensive shell.

(Cut back to Gina and Brooke sitting together.)

Gina: Do you give your biological mom kind of, like, a little closer? Do you give her like, a special place, over Ashley?

Brooke: No, they’re both the same.

Gina: Interesting.

I literally gave a little cheer when Brooke said, “It’s good to be different.” I mean, again, I work in education, and that is exactly the kind of thing we try to help our students realize: differences are okay; celebrate them, accept them, respect them. Brooke voiced it, and the other kids showed that they could do it. And then, as if to drive the point home, when Gina asks about her own “different way,” referring to her religious, political, conservative family, Brooke tells her the truth: “It’s fine.” Yes, it’s fine! No, it’s not that my family is right and yours is wrong, or the other way around, it’s that our families are different,  and that’s absolutely fine! hashtag-winning

I don’t know if the cutaway was taken out of context; there’s no way to know. For the producers of the show, though, to have an adult voice cut in right after such a great statement from Brooke, to say that those kinds of things represent a “defensive shell” …ugh. I hate that such a wonderful revelation of intelligence in a young person was so quickly dismissed. And if she was being defensive at some point during the exchange – I’m not surprised! Gina’s plastic smile puts up my defenses, and I’m looking at it through a computer screen!

As with these shows, we all know they’re extremely edited and never a true representation. Even without considering that, no one polyamorous or conservative family should be seen as a representative for all families of that kind. And yet, though you and I, dear reader, may know these things, I often worry about the average viewer, who does not, and the impression given them of both sides.

At least the kids were awesome.

Polyamory and Marriage, my Short Version

I appreciate cozy domestic intimacy as much as a monogamous girl, but I’m an introvert who requires blocks of time alone. And one of the things I have always loved about being poly is knowing I can turn to my partner and say, without a shred of compunction, “Darling, I love you, but why don’t you go see your other girlfriend for a while?”

Oh man, what a great line from Mistress Matisse in her post about a month ago titled “You May Now Kiss the Bride and the Other Bride and the Other Bride and the Other Groom – Why Poly Marriage Is Never Going to Happen.”

I know that I’m always late to these things, but I think that article really does add to the realizations that I’ve been coming to. There really are infinite ways to love, infinite ways to “be”, and infinite ways to live. None are “right” or “wrong,” they just “are.” When we assume that polyamorous people want to mold polyamory to fit the current acceptable relationship models around us (cuz we have “forever” relationships leading to marriage, right?) we are doing that thing…you know…that thing that makes an ass of u and me?

Have I posted this here yet?

Yeah, so, while I can hardly call this a post of my own, there is what I’ve done today. Now I must get back to learning how to identify trees before Tuesday, because Monday I’ll be busy leading low ropes activities, belaying kids up a climbing wall, and then taking them on a night hike through the woods. And, of course, the weekend is for weekending, sillies!

I Love This

Jus sayin’

 

Other than that, I’ve been connecting some points on human matriarchal societies, and perhaps the reason why we don’t know of any on our planet is because they look like egalitarian societies, and collecting evidence to support that…theory?

Will report when I get around to it. In the meantime, slut on!

Diversity in Polyamory

Some thoughts on  Progressive Polyamory: Considering Issues of Diversity . (Funny how, even though it’s only been a few days since the passion of research overcame me in regards to polyamory and race, it’s faded just as quickly, and this post feels old and late. I am, however, still reading Is Marriage for White People? and find that there are entirely different things going on there than covered in the specific realm of polyamory.)

First off, Noël had a completely different approach to analyzing issues of diversity in polyamory than I did. I’m not just talking about the fact that she pulled out the books whereas I simply sat down and freewrote – I mean that we came in at completely different angles entirely. Here are my thoughts on her piece.

Noël asks a lot of questions which she does not answer. This bothers me, not because I was always told not to do that in high school (I’m a fan of breaking rules on writing here and there), but because I really, honestly do wonder if she has any answers to the suggestive questions she asks, or at least a way of attempting to answer them. Her argument is basically that, as middle class, white, educated, able-bodied Americans, authors of the few polyamorous texts that exist often use language and make assertions that can be exclusive to others that do not fit their demographic.

Well, firstly, many, many authors are guilty of that. That doesn’t make it right, but I feel the need to point that out, as it is not some isolated evil of polyamorous authors. (Perhaps I’m being defensive, but I guess my concern is that someone will inevitably point the issue out as a negative quality of polyamory when really, it’s a negative quality in society as a whole.) Secondly, and this may be due to my own white, middle-class, educated, able-bodied and American-tinted perspective, but the examples she cites seem a bit weak. She critiques the use of words like “tribe” and “jungle,” and the insinuations that polyamory is based on “non-Western” traditions, and asks, “how might a diversity of readers respond” to these things? Well, I don’t know, Noël. . . perhaps we should get a diversity of readers, sit them down with these books, and find out, eh?

Noël genuinely wants polyamory to be more inclusive; so much so, that it becomes an American norm. Homegirl did her homework, and found a piece by Lisa Duggan entitled “Holy Matrimony!” in which Duggan suggests moving from our marriage-based community plan (each household has a married couple = family = benefits) to a more “‘flexible menu of options’ that redistributes the ‘1,049 automatic federal and additional state protections’ to all persons, not just those who are heterosexually married.” Basically, let adults decide for themselves who and how many people they want to share their familial benefits with, and which benefits to share, whether those people are lovers, best friends, actual blood relatives, etc.

Apparently, in other countries, health care and other benefits are not extended to who you are married to, but who you live with. It’s all about the household: who shares a roof with you and is your “family”? If you’re willing to live with the person, you must like them enough to at least consider sharing benefits with them, right? I thought that was an interesting tidbit, and it’s stuck with me. I can’t help but think about how non-traditional families now outnumber traditional families, and according to Is Marriage For White People?, marriage is surprisingly uncommon in Sweden, where parents generally live together to raise their children, but aren’t “married.”

Interesting. A late review (my apologies), but interesting nonetheless.

Monogamy is Militarily Advantageous

You learn something new every day:

Why We Think Monogamy is Normal (Psychology Today)

“…a plausible answer is that it spread because historically, monogamous groups were advantaged militarily over polygynous groups (Alexander, 1987)…. the imposition of monogamy produced bigger, better armies, because monogamous groups can grow larger than polygynous ones. Why can monogamous groups grow larger? Because men want wives, and if you need a lot of men on your team, you must offer them something that they want.”

So, basically, the idea is that monogamist armies were bigger than polygynous armies, kicked polygynous butts, and “Yay! Monogamy!” happened.

I’ve always been fairly anti-violence, personally…

And, right, there were less men in polygynous groups because many men who didn’t have high enough status/attractiveness to attract a wife had to leave to look elsewhere for one. This is why the idea of allowing men and women to have multiple partners if they so wish (polygamy, if we’re talking about “marriage”) is what I like to call. . . a crazy idea.

Other thoughts of the day? I’ve been reading those two books on marriage, The Future of Marriage, and Is Marriage for White People?, and I feel the bubbling of opinions starting to form on my part. Will share later.

Oh! And I owe a review of the Polyamory and Diversity paper I read. It’s in the drafts folder. I’ll get back to it. Promise.

Race and Polyamory

I did do my homework; I did read the research piece I found on Polyamory and Diversity. I wanted to include my personal thoughts and my thoughts on the piece in one entry, but I just can’t do it. My approach of the topic, and the approach of the author of the paper, are much too different to mesh. A review of her piece will be next, but first, my own personal observations, thoughts, and questions.

I once read in the livejournal polyamory community that someone had written somewhere that one could not identify as polyamorous without an internet presence. The polyamory identity was so entrenched in internet newsgroups, blogs, communities, forums, etc. that it was impossible to be polyamorous and not be involved online.

I don’t agree with that sentiment: I believe that someone can most definitely identify as polyamorous without being “plugged in;” though, I have to admit, I think most people discover the word polyamory on the internet, which does make it hard for people who are not on the internet to identify as polyamorous. If you’ve never seen/heard the word, how could you identify with it?

What’s more, having internet access wouldn’t have guaranteed exposure to the word even just a few years ago. Until recently, there were only a few places where people could gather to talk about this “polyamory” thing. Mostly, again, in blogs, newsgroups, forums, and communities. . . you know, where bloggers hang out.

When am I going to get to race? I’m glad you asked.

I don’t think I’d be surprising anyone if I said that I suspect that a majority of active bloggers are white. If that does surprise you, please do let me know, and I’ll try to dig up some research. It might be changing these days (or not), but the formulating years of polyamory coincide pretty darn well with the heydey of blogging, and let me tell you something about blogging conventions: they lacked color. It was more than a little noticeable.

If polyamory is, primarily, an internet movement propelled by bloggers and other online community members and activists, is it really any surprise that polyamory conventions have a suspiciously similar palate to that of blogging conventions?

And so, we have begun the discussion. Now. . . why haven’t we branched out? Sure, there have been issues of visibility until recently, but I do suspect that there may be other things at work here:

1.) There ARE white AND non-white polyamorists out there; they just don’t call it polyamory. They haven’t discovered the word. They’re doing it though, just like people have been doing it for centuries without the word existing. I’ve met them. I’ve talked to people who are in happy, open, “triangles” and “Vees”, as we call them. They called them “relationships.” They say it works for them. They don’t have special words for them, but they are doing. . . it. Polyamory. What’s even funnier? I share the word polyamory with these happy people for funsies, and often, they’re uninterested. “I don’t have the time for that,” they say, “I’ve got a life to live and lovers to spend time with.” Hah!

2.) There is hesitation due to the “representing my race” complex. It’s that whole “white privilege” thing. If a white person gets interviewed as a polyamorist, they will be “judged” by viewers based on what they say about polyamory. If a non-white person gets interviewed as a polyamorist, they will be “judged” by viewers based on what they say about polyamory, AND, in all likelihood, on their race. “Those crazy [insert race here] people; look what they’re up to now!” would be uttered in the privacy of (racist) people’s homes across the country.

3.) But, to be fair, [insert race here] could be [white]. One (nonwhite) friend who I excitedly told about polyamory when I first discovered it said, “Why do white people always got to name stuff? Why do you publicize it on the internet and do news interviews? Why would you want people all up in your business? Just do what makes you happy, and stop over-analyzing everything all the time!” Are we just “crazy white folk?” Is this what we are known for? Most active bloggers are also intelligent and usually have at least some college under their belt – is our love for academia and nerdiness part of what makes this seem like “our thing”?

4.) It’s a white wo/man’s world. I might be stretching with this one, but, the most popular and active blogs are about news and politics (That’s not the stretch part; that’s actually true. Here’s the stretch. . .); news media and politics are still run mostly by white people. It’s not very welcoming. The fact that there was SO much celebration, joy, tears, and overwhelming expression when Obama was elected shows that we still FEEL how hard it is for a non-white person to get “up there.” It doesn’t feel accessible. If that’s the world bloggers and polyamorists are operating in, we’re just doing the same thing that’s been done all these years – remaining exclusive, because we don’t know any differently. It’s, unfortunately, in our culture. (We do need to work to change that, by the way.)

5.) Is time constraint an issue? Another friend suggested that, historically, middle-class white females have often had the time to spearhead movements that non-whites didn’t have, since non-whites generally made (and still make) less money and had to work harder. I haven’t looked into this deeply enough, and something about it makes me feel. . . iffy, but I thought it was worth putting here. I do think back to the friends from my first point, but I think that’s a time thing mixed with a lack of interest for the reading, writing, researching, and debating that is part and parcel of the blogosphere. (What are the numbers these days on race demographics among college grads, anyway?)

And now, I am forced to ask myself and the polyamory community in general: Why did we name this thing, anyway? I know that it’s so we could talk about it, but honestly, I wonder if we should have to. Couldn’t we just do it, like everyone else who isn’t calling it polyamory is doing?

It’s a scary thought for me; if the word hadn’t existed in 2007, I wouldn’t have found the polyamory communities that helped me on my path of self-discovery, but perhaps what the world should really be talking more about is actually being true to ourselves, and allowing those around us to be true to themselves, and giving people permission to feel what it is they want without being told what they want.

There are actually times where I hesitate to use the word “polyamory,” because I know that I’m in company that will never have heard it, and it’s a label that I have to explain, and honestly, I’d much rather just say, “oh, well, yes, I’m dating this person, but that doesn’t mean you and I can’t date. No, it’s okay, I’ll let him know that you’re picking me up Friday at seven. Awesome!” Why use the word “polyamory,” when I can just. . . do it?

Best part of this post: I’m doing exactly what I’m writing about. Creatures of habit, we are, we are.