Intro to Women's Studies 2010

etsu: 2011-2014

Family Structure

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We have all heard the term ‘normal’. We all want to live ‘normal’ lives with a ‘normal’ job and a ‘normal’ family. However, what does being normal imply? What does the term mean? Everyone has his or her own concept of normality based on culture, lifestyles, and previous experiences. Something that is normal for one person is more than likely completely foreign to another. This week in Women’s Studies, we discussed a variety of family structures and it made me think of how far-fetched the term ‘normal’ actually is.

In regards to marriage, I have always considered a monogamous relationship between one man and one woman as the norm. This is the atmosphere I grew up in and, therefore, have become accustomed to. I have heard of other types of family structures, especially polygamy, and, in all honesty, I looked down on it because it was not what I considered normal. During class this week, we talked about monogamous relationships, homosexual relationships, polygamy, polyandry, and polyamory. I was not familiar with many of them, but it was quite interesting to learn about these different family structures and how they function.

One video, “Are Five Husbands Better Than One” by Kimber McKay, particularly stood out to me during the class session. McKay, a cultural anthropologist, studied in the Himalayas and spoke on her findings of their diverse marriage customs. She mentioned that they were extremely accepting of all types of marriages, but she focused on one family that practiced polyandry. I found it interesting that this Himalayan family focused so much on marriage serving a practical purpose. One woman had three husbands in order for them to support the family and manage their land. The marriage served as somewhat of a survival strategy for the family and it was the norm for them. McKay mentioned how the Himalayan women found it odd that she was in her twenties with no children and not a single husband. They found it foreign that McKay wanted to study instead of start a family, just as many of us find it foreign that this Himalayan woman had three husbands. This just goes to show how the concept of ‘normal’ differs from culture to culture and person to person.

At the end of McKay’s video, she mentioned that she was not advocating for polyandrous marriages. She simply wanted us to see the flexibility and acceptance of another culture and to reevaluate our own culture. I somewhat agree with McKay. I believe society has such harsh rules and regulations of what is the right way to live and, sometimes, the right way to live is not right for everyone. Different people have different reasons for living how they live and they deserve the same respect from us that we demand for ourselves. For me personally, I chose to live a monogamous lifestyle…one man, one woman. That is right or normal for me. However, after this class session and McKay’s video, I believe I will be more understanding and accepting of cultural differences because I now realize that the norm is completely individualistic, never universal.

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