Intro to Women's Studies 2010

etsu: 2011-2014

Polyandry

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Imagine that you are old enough to be married, but instead of just marrying your husband you are about to marry him and all of his brothers. It seems like a pretty absurd idea here in the United States where monogamous marriages between one man and one woman rein supreme, but in small villages in places like Tibet, that type of marriage is the norm. To us that seems like it could be a double standard because it is ideal that a woman marries one man and stays with him for the rest of her life, yet here is a woman in Tibet that has maybe 6 husbands. She doesn’t have all of these men to cater to her every last whim though. For their culture, land is a very valuable thing because in the mountains, usable land is scarce and hard to come by. The land that is already owned and cultivated usually stays in one family. If every child married off into monogamous marriages, the land would be divided and sub-divided up until each family had just a tiny sliver of land left. By marrying a man and his brothers, they are keeping the family land that they have always had and don’t have to worry about sectioning it up for individual families. Also, the men aren’t all home at the same time. One husband might be out doing pedestrian trade, one might be working the yak field, and the other tending to crops while the wife does whatever her duty is. The polyandrous unit in the video we watched showed that they were very flexible with ideas on family and marriage. The women from the TED talks video explained that no one is expected to marry a man and all his brothers; if a woman wanted a monogamous relationship that was fine as well. Another example of their flexibility is the people might be in a polyandrous marriage, and as they grow older they realize that they don’t need to be married to just one wife and split off into individual family units. They are free to do these things without being judged by other members of the village; they do what is best suitable for their life style.   

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