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
First it was Linda Muthama. And then Cecilia Mwangi, former Miss Kenya, followed hot on her heels. Celebrities (I use this term loosely) trying to ‘justify’ their place in society; the place of a second wife. Cecilia admits that Linda’s coming out on her polygamous arrangement emboldened her to do the same.
They are vilified unjustly and they urge the modern society to stop demonizing them since polygamy is a better, far much better arrangement than monogamous families who bear the brunt of infidelity. So a man won’t be faithful to his wife and what, we create a carnival for all promiscuous men to go on the rampage and legitimize their philandering?
When I read the articles where the two granted interviews to shed light on their lifestyle choice, I asked myself a few questions; Does the first wife have any say in this or do we give them the ‘put up or shut up’ ultimatum? Would the same women encourage their husbands to get a second wife had they been married as first wives? Better yet, if the said ‘husband’ sought wife number three, would they be ok with it? It’s still good old polygamy isn’t it?
Polygamy feeds two vices; that of a player, and a golddigger. Its hard to believe that such arrangements are borne of love when it happens only among wealthy men.We don’t see the average ‘sufferer’ trying to shoo away scores of women eager to take their (2nd, 3rd, 4th) place in their lives. If he can provide just the basics, why not give the poor man a chance?
Polygamy tells the player that when you settle down, you don’t really have to settle down. One guy even went ahead to tweet, “If Cecilia Mwangi, a whole Miss Kenya, can become a second wife, ladies who are you not to agree to such an arrangement?”
The argument that being Africans, we should not stray too far from our traditional practices, polygamy included, has been floated. Let’s not however forget that just like FGM, wife inheritance, and wife battery, some cultural practices were not really helping the society in general and women in particular. That’s why they had to be discarded at some point. Polygamy thrived in the days when women were considered as good as property. The more a man had cattle, goats, sheep, land, AND women, the wealthier they were considered. Polygamy was entertained in the days when women had neither voice nor choice. A wife had no say if one evening, her husband came home with a woman he had lusted after for a while and in a sexual gratification whim declared her his second wife. Polygamy meant that a woman could do zilch as long as cows had been taken to her father’s home to seal the deal.
It is commendable when second wives encourage their ‘husbands’ not to neglect the other family. Noble even. But it must be understood that sometimes material provision is not all a woman seeks from her husband, especially in this day and age where women are comfortably capable of taking care of their financial needs. All some women ask for is for their husband to prove that while married to him she will become his be-all and end-all, his credit card and stock market shares notwithstanding.
It’s very hard to believe that a woman would consider marrying a man if she knew that there was a chance he could bring another woman into their life and make her part of their marital home. Second wives are a result of infidelity in marriage, a breach of contract. They are always imposed on the first wife. I find that unfair.
We are trying to discourage the illicit and secretive affairs outside marriage by lauding polygamy, but aren’t polygamous marriages a product of ‘illicit and secretive affairs?’
Please help me understand polygamy will you? In my understanding, a polygamous man is a selfish man who convinces a woman to marry him. A few years (or months, doesn’t really matter) later, he gets bored of the whole thing (loving wife included) and he goes out to play. He then brings home his game and tells the missus “Guess what wifey, I like this one too (maybe even better) I promised you that you will always be my number one didn’t I? Well, she is number two. She stays. End of story.”
When this question was asked by Citizen Tv during prime time news, I frowned in puzzlement. How could they ask such a question? Polygamy is infidelity! Isn’t it?
The question followed a story that had been highlighted about a Pastor from Kisumu who has four wives. “My 4 wives and I” – the news segment was called. The party of five seemed to have it all figured out. The man, in all fairness, built four identical houses, one for each wife, complete with identical furniture.
It appeared that they were living their ‘happily-ever-after’. They all cooked and brought the food to their husband’s house where they ate like one big happy polygamous family! The wives got along just fine. Now, isn’t that the life!
Is polygamy the way to go in order to curb infidelity? Are we saying that men are totally incapable of being in a monogamous marriage? Helplessly unable to be faithful? Are we maybe, just maybe, asking too much of them?
Our forefathers by majority were polygamous. We shun polygamy now and look what happens; we have the Mpango wa Kando phenomenon glaring at us unblinkingly. Broken families abound. The spread of HIV is not only prevalent, but also persists among the married folk. What gives?
If the views I got from two guys are anything to go by, it is safe to say that men can indeed commit and be faithful to one woman. Monogamy is a possibility and so the myth that all men cheat is just that, a myth. Men are also familiar with the equation; more wives = more responsibility (financial and otherwise). Most men who have affairs want nothing more than an affair. To assume that polygamy is a solution to infidelity is to wrongly assume that all unfaithful men are itching to take on more responsibilities by marrying their mistresses. Furthermore, a man who marries his mistress creates a vacancy, doesn’t he?
If it is a man’s world, does it follow that infidelity is a man’s disease? Does offering a prescription for the husband alone heal a marriage? As long as the man is ok, the woman is ok? We want to believe that taking care of an unfaithful man by legitimizing his infidelity will make marriages last and everyone will be happy. But is that the case?
Our African society refuses to acknowledge that women do cheat on their husbands too. Mrs.Tuju, anyone? Too soon? We might never see the day that a bill in parliament will be passed to allow women to marry another man, with her first husband’s blessings to boot.
We should however understand that it takes a special kind of woman to make a polygamous arrangement work perfectly. To enjoy the kind of life that the man from Nyanza seems to enjoy with his four wives is no mean feat. Those four women are not your regular kind of women.
Polygamy was perfect in the 19th century because a woman lived for her husband. She spent every waking minute attending to him and his children and nothing else mattered. She was content with having nothing to her name. Zilch. She was happy in her cocoon where her imagination never wandered too far from her husband and their homestead. She was ok with cooking and feeding her children and attending to her ‘master’s’ needs. She had what her husband told her she could have, and she was what her husband said she was.
She was prepared early in life to fit into her role as a wife. Not just any wife, a good wife. She was taught how to cook for her husband, how to keep her house clean, how to please her husband in bed courtesy of the sex aunties at the time. She was even taken through pregnancy and childbirth by a mid wife who gave her tips on how to care for her children.
This woman was uneducated, people. She had never stepped into a classroom. Her husband was her life and her life was her husband. And that is the woman who would make polygamy flourish: the one who believed that marriage is the be all and end all.
Now where will our good men find that woman?
Maybe if their stars align themselves perfectly, they will find this woman tucked away in some hidden island or forest somewhere, away from civilized ‘corrupted’ minds. As long as she is kept in that unadulterated environment, she will make polygamous marriages stand the test of time like the women of yore did.
Take the “My 4 wives and I” guy from Nyanza for example. His wives are like peas in a pod. They wore long flowing dresses and donned headscarves on their heads as they made their way to church walking proudly beside their man. It was clear that they held their husband in awe. They congregated outside their houses to discuss what they should cook for him as he sat on a chair outside his house, possibly marveling at how lucky a man could get! When food was brought to him, he made sure not to deny any of his wives the privilege of taking a bite from all the assortments laid down before him. And that food was a lot!
I am not worried that polygamous marriages will gain traction any time soon. Not in this day and age. A woman in the 21st century has so much going for her. She is educated and she knows no limits to what she can achieve. She sees the world with a whole new pair of eyes now and has no qualms going for what she wants.
There can only be two reasons why a modern woman would agree to a polygamous arrangement: Either she is yet to evolve or it could be all about the Benjamins – in which case, just remember that when she leaves, she leaves with half.