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This essay seeks to defend Elizabeth Joseph’s thesis ‘polygamy is a good feminist’. In her article, Elizabeth supports the practice of polygamy by arguing that same as the husband, polygamy is also good in the view of the wives. Elizabeth is a lawyer, and being in a polygamous marriage means that she is in a better position to talk about the subject of polygamy. In defending the thesis, the essay will relate to relativism and absolutism.
Polygamy, also referred to as a plural marriage, refers to a marriage that involves over two partners. The various forms of polygamy include polyandry and group marriages. Questions amongst scholars have been raised regarding whether or not polygamy favours women. Apparently, polygamy itself is not the basis of problems in marriages, and, in fact, research has evidenced that oppression and abuse never or rarely arises in polygamous marriages. Relativists base their arguments on the wrongness or rightness of an action. They put forth that societies are characterized by varying moral beliefs thus individuals beliefs are greatly swayed by their culture. Relativists believe that there are no general moral principles, that is, principles that can generally apply to all persons. To some extent, this is true in that some societies highly believe in polygamy marriages and has even been recognized by law. It is apparent that the family institution is a social structure of the society and, according to Rawlsian Liberalism, must be subjected to the law (Arthur & Scalet 53). In cases where one marries above one wife (polyandry), he will provide a chance for the core wives to love each other, while their children receive care, love and protection from the other family members. Besides, the wives have an opportunity to share with the other co-wives regarding their lives, work pressures among other significant issues. For women, polygamous marriages are characterized by less frustrations and abuses, and the husband tries to treat all his wives equally and, at the same time, making sure that they treat each other with love and respect.
On the other hand, the absolutists base their arguments on God’s teachings. Certainly, polygamy was practiced in the Old Testament - a factor that makes most polygamists suppose that plural marriage is mandated by the Old Testament. Religious freedom allows all individuals to hold certain beliefs or religious views. In as far as polygamy goes, and whether it is moral or not, it needs to be examined from both historical and religious perspectives. Many philosophers however believe that the constitution is the supreme law and must override all other political and religious beliefs. Moral relativism has to remain distinct whether within or outside philosophy. It has been often viewed as a criticism of the other fields within philosophy (Gowans 2012).
Elizabeth Joseph affirms that for the contemporary career woman, the lifestyle of a polygamous marriage is much more attractive as compared to a monogamous marriage. This is certainly true in that most women who are in a monogamous marriage usually try to balance between their career, motherhood as well as marriage. In a polygamous marriage, this is not the case, with the husband and children having other familiar people (co-wives) to take care of them, there are no problems of balancing the aforementioned factors. Feminist philosophers have over the years argued that the institution of marriage is a perfect avenue for the oppression of women and have thus formed a basis for justice issues. An example is in 1940 when the appointment of Bertrand Russell's to an academic post was rejected on moral grounds. Apparently, the views held in ‘Marriage and Morals’ rendered him unfit for office. Marriage can be defined from many points of view, but mostly it is a social contract that leads to a civil status. The kind of definition given to marriage depends on the jurisdiction, the type of cultural practices and the religious beliefs.