The new season of Big Love has begun on HBO, and I could not be more excited. As most of you probably know, Big Love is a show about a family of suburban polygamists.
I should note, as many people do when discussing this show, that the LDS Church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church) does not condone the practice of polygamy, and these people are not Mormons. Some of them call themselves "Fundamentalist Mormons," a designation the LDS Church does not approve of. By the way, no one who watched the show could possibly come away from it thinking that the LDS Church approves of polygamy.
The show is great as a show, and I recommend it for the fascinating explorations of the wives' reasons for getting into polygamy and their reactions to the challenges it poses (which are many--intra-family jealousies, fear of exposure of their illegal lifestyle, disapproval from neighbors and relatives, psychotic relatives from the nearby polygamist cult, etc.).
But I also use the show as a jumping-off point for thinking about polygamy more generally. Is it a legitimate lifestyle choice? Is it inherently sexist or abusive? How many people really practice it in the suburbs rather than in some isolated compound? Would a sane woman ever choose it freely? How should it be treated by the law? How many of its problems are caused by its marginalization? Is it sustainable, what with all those extra men?
Some interesting links:
Here's an article about a real-life family of suburban polygamists. (link fixed now, I think)
Here's an interview with another former plural wife (and pro-polygamy activist) who still believes in the practice.
Here's a blog by a former plural wife who still believes in the practice.
Here's an interview with a writer who says she went undercover in a polygamist compound to research a book. (Some have questioned her credibility, so take it with a grain of salt.)
Go here to find the Television Without Pity thread for discussing polygamy in the context of the show.
The Salt Lake City Tribute has a plural marriage blog and a polygamy section.
Tapestry against Polygamy is probably the best-known anti-polygamy organization. Many of members are refugees from polygamous upringingings, and they REALLY hate polygamy. They're also critical the LDS church for not doing enough to stop polygamy in Utah.
Principle Voices is the best-known pro-polygamy organization.