Three Round Blondes and a Hot Brunette: The Sexualization of TLC’s Sister Wives

27 Sep

After weeks of waiting, I finally got to watch the premiere of Sister Wives last night.  My first thought when I watched it was “AWKWARD.”  Most Reality TV Stars seem to forget after a while that they are on television.  The stars of Sister Wives, however, seemed to be cognizant that they were presenting themselves and their lifestyle on TV.  As a result, we got a lot of bad jokes about children being “sistas from the same mister” and “brothas from a different motha” as well as a lot of awful banter how about how much they all loved each other and hoped that he was having sex with every one of them.

What I found most problematic about the show, however, was the way that the media and even the characters of the show have treated Kody’s three current wives.  At the end of the show, the polygamous father of the group announces that he is planning to marry a fourth wife.  One of the women announces that she is happy for her husband because he deserves a “cute girl.”  Another replies awkwardly that he already has a cute girl – her.

The media attention around Sister Wives has focused on Kody’s decision to marry a fourth wife.  The Huffington Post pointed out that the first three wives are all “blonde” and “round” and worried how they really felt about their husband’s decision to marry a skinny brunette.  The Houston Chronicle pointed out that Kody’s taste seems to have changed since he married his first three wives.

Although I too was drawn into the idea of adding a fourth wife into an already burgeoning family, I found myself wondering how the attention will affect the wives already in the marriage.  Many Christians criticize polygamy for devaluing women and turning them into nothing more than sex objects.  Yet, that is exactly what the media attention surrounding Sister Wives has done.  The show itself, and apparently, the family who is featured, tries to focus on each of the women as an autonomous human being.  Yet, much of the media attention has focused on the way that women look and the impending addition of a fourth.  The Huffington Post is much more to blame here than the Houston Chronicle.  It seems to be the outside world rather than Kody himself that has reduced the women to sex.

I wonder how Kody’s three current wives feel about the media’s designation of them as less attractive women.

12 Responses to “Three Round Blondes and a Hot Brunette: The Sexualization of TLC’s Sister Wives”

  1. Chris H. September 27, 2010 at 1:28 pm #

    I think that much of the popular interest in polygamy is related to sex. That said, it is sort of insulting and not much different than arguments about homosexuality being just about sexual perversion. While many things are about sex, I in a way tries to depict the matter as being something which one would not choose in a free and autonomous setting.

    I recently say The 19th Wife on Lifetime. You may find it interesting. The sex scene involving Brigham Young will forever creep me out.

  2. Chris H. September 27, 2010 at 1:30 pm #

    “Many Christians criticize polygamy for devaluing women and turning them into nothing more than sex objects. ”

    I think this is a feminist critique as well. I like how John Stuart Mill, many many years ago, asked how traditional marriage is any different in regard to many of the critiques of polygamy. He was on to something.

  3. ep September 27, 2010 at 9:32 pm #

    I’m a little disappointed that this was not blogged live.

  4. Jared T. September 27, 2010 at 10:07 pm #

    Nice post, Amanda.

  5. ep September 27, 2010 at 10:57 pm #

    Oh dear. It IS awkward. I just watched a clip where one of the wives was talking about how she met Robyn. Was she into Robyn? She was talking about knowing if things were right. I guess I shouldn’t mock her personal sense of rectitude, but is their polygamy religiously motivated or is this a lifestyle choice bunch?

  6. Angie September 28, 2010 at 1:15 am #

    This is so weird – and strangely on-topic – but, on my iPhone, your blog shows an ad for Russian mail order brides. Anyone else see that ad?

  7. ep September 28, 2010 at 2:53 am #

    That’s really amazing, Angie. I assumed such things were of the past.

  8. Thea September 29, 2010 at 4:29 pm #

    The Sister Wives are not, technically, FLDS but belong to the AUB (Apostolic United Bretheren) or Allred group: http://starcasm.net/archives/66761 The Allred polygamists dress like everyone else and, generally, try to fit into mainstream LDS culture.

  9. SUNNofaB.C.Rich October 4, 2010 at 10:32 pm #

    “I wonder how Kody’s three current wives feel about the media’s designation of them as less attractive women.”

    Oh i’m sure they got that message from Kody loud and clear when he announced he was in the market for #4 and she just happened to be about ten years younger than them…. I think those two articles do a fairly decent job calling it like it is: some dudes urge to get it on (in a cumbersome and old fashioned way) with multiple (never knew any better/ perfectly willing to settle for less) partners posing as piety.

    Incidentally both the articles cited above were written by women…

  10. amanda5245 October 5, 2010 at 7:40 am #

    Sorry to have been away for awhile. We moved to a new house, and I also did my first lecture and had to prepare for that.

    SUNNofaB.C.Rich,

    I’m not sure that the fact that both articles were written by women absolves them of any sexualization that occurs within their writing. Women perpetuate patriarchy just as much as men do.

    I’m not willing to comment on whether or not Kody just wants to “get it in.” What I find objectionable about the articles is that they perpetuate the degradation of these women. They seem to agree with Kody, as do you, that these women are less attractive than the next wife and then publicly broadcasts their judgment. I have always suspected that my sister is more attractive than I am, but I like to think that there are some people out there who think I am cute and might disagree. I would be mortified if a blog or a newspaper agreed and published that fact. I would feel belittled and embarrassed.

    Kody and his wives agreed to be in the public spotlight and agreed to have their personal appearances examined, but it still makes a bit uncomfortable to read articles that participate in the reduction of women to appearance and to their sexual value.

  11. SUNNofaB.C.Rich October 11, 2010 at 2:02 am #

    personally I think any frank and honest analysis of the polygamous lifestyle will ultimately recognize that it is an institution that does reduce women to their appearance and sexual value. I wouldn’t count on the media to “church it up”. That’s my assessment anyways…

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Main Street Plaza » Sunday in Outer Blogness: (too much) heart and brains edition! - October 3, 2010

    […] usual, the members of the CoJCoL-dS are concerned about how this affects their image. Some are also concerned about the sex aspect, but fortunately the polygamist ladies reassure us that they each sleep with […]

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