How the FLDS brings a lot of my concerns together. April 20, 2008Posted by phledge in family, feminism, phlegm.
First and foremost, there’s always more than one side to a story. See, today I was talking to someone at my church who has a friend who has a friend in the FLDS community (small world, non?) and he said that there are actually “normal” people in that group who do not practice polygamy and are actually devastated that their children have been taken from them. I’m not sure I understand how they can be involved in a community whose religious beliefs mandate polygamy and not actually engage in it, but meh. Not my pig, not my farm.
However, as a feminist I’m liable to point to this group as evidence that patriarchy hurts everyone, regardless of gender. It’s easy to grasp how the women were hurt by this arrangement, but if you read around you’ll find that, first, young boys are cast out of the community under the guise of excommunication due to some bullshit ruling on the part of one person (in this case, Warren Jeffs) that these teenage males were engaging in sins like watching movies! looking at girls! Yeah, that’s how the math works, dumbfucks—if you want three girls for every boy (oh, shit, now the Beach Boys’ll be stuck in my head) then you gotta get rid of some of the Y chromosomes, but fast. Second, this “prophet” could take your wife and kids away from you at will and give them to someone else who he felt was more deserving. Now I think it’s likely that a lot of people won’t have any sympathy for someone who has been complicit in keeping women imprisoned and now is eating the fruits of that labor. I sort of feel the same way, but I also wonder how much of this is just an inability to see the world as these people, of any gender, do. I don’t think it’s possible to comprehend being someone who truly honestly believes that going to heaven is predicated on polygyny and harsh treatment of your children and listening to every word that comes out of a fellow mortal’s mouth. I cannot comprehend being a good parent and happy human in those constructs but who am I to say?
Which brings me to religious freedom. I am okay with children being removed from a situation that is abusive, a situation that guaranteed that the boys would grow up to be kicked out of the community and the girls would be raped by older men. I think the core issue is that laws that violate the physical and mental agency and safety of the people supercede religious law, but then religious law supercedes what for lack of the appropriate legal vocabulary I call “consensual laws.” So you believe that it’s your spiritual prerogative to have sex with a lot of different grownups? Great! So you want to smoke a bowl and jam with the Wailers because your Rastafarian friends have convinced you that’s the way to live? Excellent! So you want to kill yourself because Sky God Daddy says you should? Knock yourself out—if you’re 18 and you don’t take anybody with you. “But Phledge, these kids were brainwashed! They can’t make that kind of choice!” Okay, y’know what? When I was 18 I was seriously considering my own brainwashing, courtesy of a fundamentalist Christian youth ministry, and I was bucking it. I know that not everyone can do that, but sometimes you just can’t save people. You can’t save people from smoking weed or fucking around or just being general all-purpose assholes if that’s what their religious impulse tells them to do. All you can do is make sure they don’t take anyone out in the process; that’s why, at least for me, the FLDS thing is NOT about polygamy (which, among consenting adults, should in my opinion be a valid choice—not for everyone, natch, but it shouldn’t be illegal) and it’s not about religious freedom. It’s about children being violated, sexually, physically, spiritually. Can’t prove the last one, nope. But the first two? On target. I’m really struggling with identifying with the parents in these groups. On the one hand, I want to think that they really believed in their heart of hearts that allowing their young girls to be raped and their young boys to be excommunicated was the will of their God, that they were considering the eternal implications of resisting the commands of this person who, to the outside world, is clearly a megalomaniacal douchebag but was really the voice of the divine to his followers. On the other hand, what about rape and banishment is healthy? As a parent, didn’t your alarms go off? And if they did, why didn’t you do anything about it? And if they didn’t, how can you be a good parent?
Final vote: I don’t know. I wasn’t there, I wasn’t them, I can’t say. I just hope everyone emerges with the ability to heal.