Will the real Polygamists please stand up?
Do you see any?
You may think you do, but you really don’t. See all those men who just stood up, claiming to be polygamists, those are not polygamists. Don’t be fooled. They are dishonest, conniving cheats who are unable to commit to a marriage. They are trying to cover up their shortcomings with excuses such as ‘Men are by nature polygamous’ ‘It’s in their DNA’ ‘The unfair ratio between men and women; too many women, too few men’ … what hogwash! These men give polygamy a bad name – and I am no crusader for polygamous marriages.
Bona fide polygamy was practiced traditionally for many reasons. I understand that it had its place in the traditional African culture and that much, I can respect. I however believe that our modern society, our modern men and women are all not cut out for polygamous marriages.
Polygamy benefited society where the many wives and their many children assisted in planting and cultivating land to generate wealth for the family. The whole unit came together to ensure that poverty was kept at bay. That was part of the reason why a man with many wives and children was considered wealthy. This role of polygamy went out the window when white collar jobs were sought and the menial jobs of cultivation and cattle rearing were assigned to paid laborers. Moreover, traditional African societies were more community oriented and less selfish, which is a far cry from what you see today in our ‘to each his own’ mentality.
Women benefited from polygamy when widows were absorbed into the late husband’s brother or uncle or any such male relative’s household where she and her children were provided for. This helped to fill the void caused by the demise of their breadwinner that would otherwise leave them destitute. Lucky for women, various career opportunities abound now and in the event of death of the husband, she still is capable of providing for her children without necessarily entering a polygamous arrangement with the husband’s kin.
Let’s not forget that polygamy worked perfectly when women were docile and felt compelled to live with every decision their husbands made without raising any objection. That docile, voiceless woman, just like the polygamous man, are hard to come by today.
We, instead, have men who are hung up on polygamy and refuse to let go even when all evidence shows that they are not cut out for this lifestyle. They are the people with warped excuses on why they are and will always be polygamous.
This when they do not need more wives to sir them more children. They do not consider wives or children as a sign of wealth. Ask these cheats how many children they would like to have. “Two, maybe three” is the most probable answer. If anything, the wealthy are notorious for having one or two children. Remember the Cabinet list that was read by president Uhuru Kenyatta where almost all the appointees curiously had two children? Well, wealth is not equal to children is not equal to wives anymore. The many wives = wealth equation is obsolete!
Polygamy was not just about gaining a free pass to multiple sexual partners. It was about the belief in security in numbers and the manpower it comes with. It was to take care of taboos associated with having sex with a breastfeeding woman which gave the husband the option of sleeping with the other non-lactating wife. Polygamy was about ensuring gender diversity of the children, among other reasons.
Polygamy is not for men who are bored with their wives and are looking for a new thrill. Not even if their wives are not sexually appealing anymore having suffered the effects of childbirth, child-rearing, demanding jobs, more demanding family responsibilities and financial strains. Polygamy is not for selfish men who don’t think of anybody else but themselves.
Polygamy is not with us anymore. It died. Let’s go ahead and bury it already! It did not just die because of Westernization. It died with the economy. Today’s man is not cut out for polygamy because he cannot afford it. What happens therefore is that the first wife is neglected while the younger wife, who has demands from here to Nigeria and insists on donning a weave worth half a million while living in a lavishly furnished apartment in Kileleshwa, gets all the attention. He spends all his money on her while the first wife and her offspring suffer. Some men even depend on their first wives to keep the second wife.
So. Polygamists my foot! Please sit your a** down?
First published on the Storymoja Festival Blog