All posts edited by Madeline Ricchiuto.

Friday, March 11, 2016

I Can't Handle a Trump Presidency

So the US primaries have been going on for quite some time now, but I've been avoiding them pretty much at all costs. With many debates having already happened, we're getting down to the final stretch and soon enough we shall have our nominees from each respective party. For myself and many others that means its time to start coming to terms with who 'the people' have chosen to represent themselves and start thinking further into the future about what it means should they be elected. Thats why there's recently been a surge in articles about Americans fleeing to Canada should Trump actually become president.

I have an admission to make. I am one of those people. And its not something I say lightly. To many it may seem like a joke - as if many of us wouldn't actually leave or aren't serious about following through but its true. I, and many other people, don't want to live in an America where Trump or anyone like him is able to come into power.

But its way more than just not wanting to live there. If my only objection was disagreeing with his policies then I wouldn't feel so adamant about leaving - a problem I'll add that I can't really have seeing as he doesn't have any real policies (those he has put up are vague and disastrous at best). The issue lies in what his election represents about the American people and their values they share with him.

Trump has placed himself as the bastion of the conservative, fundamentalist, base. He has taken some of their more ridiculous views (such as literally building a wall between us and Mexico) pushed them to their most extreme and many are just eating it all up. His politics represent all the negatives people associate with politics - avoiding answering questions, not dealing with the real issues, providing meaningless ideology and not actual plans: in essence he is just a balloon of hot air and empty words. But he's managed to distance himself from it all by insisting that he is just a frugal businessman - an outsider to the world of politics. Supporters see him as untouchable - so much so that he can only be brought down by himself.

He has shown time and again that he is overtly and explicitly racist. From his attitudes towards immigrants, refugees, and Muslims, to the more recent refusal to condemn the KKK despite half-hearted tweets "decrying" white supremacists, Trump not only represents modern implicit racism, structural racism, but explicit and direct racism as well. He is a cornucopia of racism. How many of Trump's supporters have said they support placing refugees and immigrants into concentration camps? Or, remember that time Trump supporters were OK with holocaust-style registries for Muslims and Jews? Trump's campaign pits minorities against each other and especially tries to get millennials on board with his anti-immigrant rhetoric. Only this past week we are seeing more and more of the violence at Trump rallies. Not to mention how much he is suppressing media and those who disagree with him at his events.

Think about what that means if he gets supported and eventually put into power. It means that many of the people who don't support some of his more racist views still voted for him. They would be complicit in furthering that agenda. It means that they saw Trump's racism, xenophobia, sexism and oppressiveness and thought that we could let them be for a while and instead focus on some other issue (probably some babble about the economy or 'making America great again') like a trade-off. It means to me that they are racist because they are willing to accept and encourage racism.

Don't get me wrong, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and the like aren't only problems with the Trump campaign. You'd be hard pressed to find me a single Republican political campaign on a state or national level that didn't have at least one extremely regressive prejudice. For example both Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio for example have shown definite racism, especially in their immigration policies, and prejudice against LGBTQ+ people with their positions on marriage, and particularly trans issues. However, though they are definitely extremely problematic they don't seem to be, in my mind, on the same level as Trump. Their policies are bad for all minorities but unlike Trump I don't see the same hostility in their supporters.

A Trump presidency scares me, not just on an ideological level, but on a personal level. People who turn a blind eye to such blatant racism will likely turn a blind eye to other social issues too. Racists tend to also be homophobic, transphobic, and sexist. With Trump as a president I worry not just for the American political system but more importantly that America's diverse population won't be safe walking around and being themselves. It makes me worry about my own personal safety and that of my friends. Trump's supporters have shown themselves to be extremists in all senses of the word. They are angry, rowdy, and most importantly violent. It terrifies me and I'm a white male, and if you saw me on the street you would probably assume I was straight. I can only imagine what others must be feeling in response but I imagine that it is immeasurably worse than what I feel.

I'm not giving up before its already done. I've still got fight left in me and I plan on fighting and being active against a Trump Republican ticket. I know that there is support of that cause from both liberal and conservative activists alike. Even much of the Republican establishment don't want him to win because he is so out of control but, if a non-partisan effort against Trump and the Democratic nominees political power can't win out against Trump then I think I'll be burned out. My fight will be gone and then, just like our autonomic nervous systems response to stress, my response will probably be to run. To avoid. To move away - back here to the UK.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Madeleine Albright, Gloria Steinem, and The Problem with White Feminism

Photograph: Agrees Latif/Reuters
It shouldn't depress me as much as it does, but I'm somehow always more disappointed when people who share my name do stupid things. Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinem stepped up this week to talk about feminism and how it relates to Democratic hopeful Hillary Clinton. Which is something that needs to be said, for all that Senator Bernie Sanders the sort of guy who practices what he preaches, he also has the benefit of being able to do so. Because he is a
white man, he has privileges others don't.

Where Senator Sanders and Republican hopeful Donald Trump can yell when they become passionate about a topic, Senator Clinton can't. She took a few moments longer than her male colleagues to get back on stage after a break during a debate, with a comment about the line for the women's bathroom, and was seen by some as "disgusting" for daring to remind the world that women pee too.

Senator Sanders even came out and criticized his own supporters for their comments about Clinton: "anyone who is supporting me who does the sexist things - we don't want them." Essentially saying that no one, not even Senator Bernie Sanders, wants the BernieBros.

That said, you can respect what Senator Clinton is trying to do, you can respect how much harder it is for her and fellow candidate Carly Fiorina than their male competitors, and still disagree with their politics.

However, that seems to have escaped Former Secretary of State Albright when she appeared on stage supporting Senator Clinton and went on to say that "there's a special place in hell for women who don't help each other." Albright's said this before, but the connotation this time is that no woman should vote for a candidate who isn't a woman. As if the fact that both Clinton and Fiorina are women surmounts any other obstacles one could have in voting for either candidate: Clinton's emails, Fiorina saying that Roe v Wade ought to be overturned, Benghazi, Fiorina's track record as CEO of HP, Clinton's voting record, Fiorina's tendency to ambush children for an anti-abortion rally.

The list of objections you could have to either of these candidates is seemingly endless. And none of those objections should be ignored simply because both Fiorina and Clinton are women.

On a similar note of "White Feminist Icons Being Terrible This Week" Gloria Steinem's "Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie" comment has earned her quite a bit of ire from young women who happen to support Senator Sanders over Senator Clinton in the Democratic race. Steinem did take to Facebook to issue an apology, but it has the same tone we've come to expect from these apologies. Its a classic "sorry not sorry" about how we should be proud of young women for being politically active and celebrate that, but not at all contradicting her implication that young women only think of how to gain favor with men. Which, for a feminist icon, is a pretty damning sentence. How much more sexist could you get than saying that young women will do whatever the boys want?

All this does is further highlight the gap between White Feminists and the rest of the world. Because Feminism is not about voting for women just because they are women. Nor is it telling young women what they should do with their votes, or even, with themselves as a whole. For Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinem to treat young women with this kind of condescension, well, its patronizing. It also hints at what lies at the heart of White Feminism - racist, classist, homophobic, transphobic selfishness.

For White Feminists, women get more radical as they get older and get pushed out of power, women should band together under the common cause of being women - bar all else. Its the sort of feminism that gives us a Suffragette movie without any mention or sighting of suffragettes who don't fit the straight, white, always-fashionable mold. Its the sort of feminism that can stand on a stage and support a woman who helped found the Prison Pipeline in 1994*, who takes money from Wall Street backers but refuses to explain why they want to hear from her, who uses her personal email to correspond as Secretary of State, who was against gay marriage until 2013.

We women do not exist in a vacuum, many women are not white, are not straight, are not rich, and can see Hillary Clinton only as a supporter of a system that would seek to suppress them.

That does not invalidate them from being feminists. It only prevents them from joining that exclusive club, White Feminism.

And who really needs that? No one. No one needs the feminism preached at us by Gloria Steinem, by Madeleine Albright, by Hillary "I'm not Establishment because I'm a Woman" Clinton.

We do need a woman President, but we need one we can be proud of. And for me, that woman is not Hillary Clinton. If she is for you, go right ahead and vote my friend, just don't condemn me for not following.

* President Bill Clinton's 1994 Crime Bill disproportionately incarcerated people of color, and since Senator Clinton is basing much of her experience on her husband's presidency, she must also take accountability for the mistakes made under his administration.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

7 Lessons We Need to Learn from Amber Amour

I think it's fairly non-controversial to say that rape victims deserve justice and respect. I've previously written about how we need to start changing the conversation surrounding rape victims and how they need to be recognized for their strength rather than seen as weak. Rape victims are not weak. They are amazingly strong and nobody I know proves that more than my friend Amber AmourAmber, a rape victim herself, started a non-profit to help raise awareness and support for girls who have been raped. She started the  #StopRapeEducate campaign where she has run workshops around the world educating people about the realities of rape and how to support victims, all the while raising awareness through her street chalk projects.

I met Amber while campaigning for same-sex marriage in my home state of New Jersey before she started the #StopRapeEducate project. During the campaign she was always upbeat and smiling. She really lifted everyone's spirits, especially mine, and truly made the work so much better. She is an absolutely amazing person and I have nothing but love and respect for her. You can imagine, perhaps, how startled I felt as my friend’s tear filled face started filling up my news feeds. It wasn't because I hadn't seen the picture (I'd seen it weeks earlier) but because it meant that Amber’s story was going viral.

Amber had been in South Africa working on her project when she was raped. Unlike many victims, Amber went straight to social media for support - putting into practice her activism, looking for support and human compassion - and she continued to "live-blog" her whole experience with the ordeal. I've been following her updates from the beginning offering my love and support to the choir of voices on her pages. 

I first saw the story on HuffPo, but now the Examinerthe Independent, the Daily Mail and many others have all jumped onto the story. Of course, the curse of getting mass media attention is that not all of that attention is positive. However, there are some lessons we need to learn from Amber's experience:

Saturday, December 12, 2015

How to Be An Ally

Fear of being wrong is one of the main factors that prevents people from being even halfway decent allies, they're just so overwhelmed with the fact that they may be called out for not being perfect that they don't even bother to help their fellow humans. I will freely admit that being an ally - to any group - is tough because it forces you to examine your own privilege. You are an Ally because you are a member of the privileged class who has decided to stand up for the marginalized. That means that you benefit from privilege. Even if you are a member of one marginalized group, no person exists in a vacuum. I'm an asexual, disabled woman and yeah the last part is hard for me to admit, but I'm also white and from an affluent family which makes me pretty damn privileged despite the non-hetero, disabled portion of my existence. I benefit from "benevolent sexism" all the damn time because of my whiteness and cisgendered-ness. Just because benevolent sexism is also sexist behavior, that doesn't mean I don't benefit from it.

So, I'm an ally to people of color, to the rest of the LGBTQ+ community, to people with less wealth than me, but I'm also an ally to other women, to other aces, to other disabled persons. Being a member of a marginalized group does not mean you get to speak for everyone else in that group.  As a woman, as an asexual person, as a disabled person, it is my responsibility to speak up about the discrimination I feel and see, but it is also my responsibility to listen to my fellow women (and that includes trans women), aces, disabled persons and help give strength to their voices. Which is what an ally does.

That doesn't mean all women are good allies to the LGBTQ+ community, or that all feminists are good allies to people of color. Women aren't always good feminists, because being a part of a marginalized group doesn't mean you are automatically an ally of that group. Allyship is hard. There is no manual that gets handed out, and its a process of trial and error. As an ally, you will screw up. Everyone screws up, its kind of inevitable. The key is to not let your personal embarrassment and shame get in the way of being an ally.

Perhaps the most important thing to not about being an ally is that you voice is not the important one.

This is probably the hardest lesson for an ally to learn, because we all approach problems from our own perspective. However, as an ally, it isn't your perspective that matters. As a male feminist ally, your opinion on street harassment has no bearing because you don't have the experience to make any kind of thoughtful comment. Anything you say will end up reeking of defensiveness because you are reacting as a man and not as a feminist ally. As a white ally to people of color, your voice as a white person is pretty moot when it comes to race issues as they do not negatively impact you.

That doesn't mean allies are voiceless. The job of an ally is to help boost the opinions of the oppressed group from your position of privilege, to support the group you are an ally of, and to call out prejudice when you see it. So, as a white ally to people of color, my job is to support people of color, to help their voices reach new ears, and to call out racism when I see other people perpetuating that kind of hate.

That can be as simple as just sharing blog posts from other activists, or by going out to Black Lives Matter protests and helping to physically show support.

There are some simple "dos and donts" of allyship, for people who need that kind of thing explicitly outlined. Being an ally means that you don't say "...but not all white people" because you recognize that the conversation is not about you personally, but about the racists within the white community. Being an ally means that you don't question the opinions and realities of people within the groups you are an ally to. You don't ask for proof when a woman says she was raped by a man, because you know that false accusations are unfairly reported and make up less than 2% of all rape accusations according to the very loose FBI standards for a "false" rape accusation. Being an ally means you aren't speaking FOR the oppressed group, you're helping spread awareness of the issues as THEY see them. Being an ally means calling out sexism, racism, transphobia, homophobia, and ableism when you see it. It also means calling out the system of financial inequality, the school to prison pipeline, the mass incarceration of people of color, trans erasure in pop culture, the erasure of black women in conventional "white" feminism, and the "edginess" of using a wheelchair as a metaphor for being limited by your own fame.

Being an ally should not be easy. Its a continuous process that requires a lot of self-examination and self-awareness. Being an ally forces us to confront our own privilege and none of us like to do that, but that's the point.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Is The Purple-Red Scale A Better Way To Come Out?

In honor of National Coming Out Day I thought I'd write about a new method thats been surging around the internet for identifying your sexual orientation. For anyone who is even remotely familiar with the study of sexuality, the name "Kinsey" should ring a bell. For anyone unfamiliar with it, Alfred Kinsey is credited with being one of the first people to study human sexuality and create a scale to measure it. After conducting countless interviews, he came up with what is now called the Kinsey scale. Although, originally the scale only applied to sexual experiences and not desires, it was easily adapted to allow people to plot their orientation on a number scale going from 0 to 6 with 0 being exclusively heterosexual and 6 being exclusively homosexual.

This is an example though asexual wasn't really used in Kinsey's original scale
On first glance, this might seem to be a good measurement system. However there are some concerns when dealing with it. For one, there is always the criticism that the Kinsey scale was supposed to measure sexual behavior and not desire. Secondly, it places sexuality on this hetero/homo binary - making it seem as if these are the only options and anything else is just another version of those categories. Third, it doesn't address what counts as homo- or heterosexual in the first place. It doesn't deal with the complexities that arise from the inclusion of those who don't necessarily fit within a binary conception of sexual orientation and gender. Nor does it any notion of asexuality. And these are only just a few of the flaws in the Kinsey scale.

A new scale has been making the rounds on the internet lately with many claiming it to be a solution to the Kinsey problem. The scale, seemingly originating on reddit, is called the purple-red scale and looks as follows:


Right away you can notice this scale is more complex than the Kinsey scale above. It sheds more light on the diversity that exists within asexuality - particularly showing that there are aromantic aces and romantic aces. On top of that, it also gives attention to those who are hypersexual - a group often either considered ill (similar to asexuals) or at the very least deviant.

There's certainly value in this type of scale. It shows some real growth in how people have come to understand sexuality. The mere fact that its getting attention is quite exciting! Not too long ago asexuals were still struggling to be recognized as an actual sexual orientation (not that they aren't still fighting for this recognition).

That being said, its not enough to just praise and focus on some improvements. As a feminist, a queer activist, and someone who understands what it is like to be disadvantaged; I can't just sit by when things are still leaving out or misrepresenting entire groups of people and sadly this scale is almost as inadequate as the Kinsey scale. It's always important to remain vigilant and critical.

The new purple-red scale has added in level of sexual attraction. In more colloquial terms it basically just added how big your sex drive is into the scale (though again, it isn't really that simple). Again, a great improvement, but not at all enough. The distinction between romantic and aromantic asexuals is important but the scale misrepresents others in the asexual community - demisexuals.

Demisexual people are those who often experience sexual attraction, but only after developing a strong emotional connection of some sort to their partner(s). In the purple-red scale this is somewhat encompassed by 'D' but not entirely in the best way. Though often the case, demisexuals are not limited to being sexually attracted to only romantic partners, and so, while attempting to be inclusive this scale kind of misses the mark.

This is of course not the only flaw in the scale. Let's be honest, the 'sexual attraction' side is the only new bit - it's really just a Kinsey Scale 2.0. Nothing else has really been changed.

That instantly raises a big red flag to me. Just like with everything else we have had to deal with, we seem to still be trying to stuff and limit our identities into teeny tiny boxes. Guys, it didn't work for gender and it's not gonna work for sexuality. We really should get over this whole need to box everything up. We've already started recognizing that humans are not simple creatures. Rather than just trying to make bigger boxes; why even bother to confine ourselves?

Speaking of gender - look at that Kinsey scale on the right. In most modern discourses sexual orientation is described as what gender a person is attracted to. Not sex. I've talked about the distinction a little bit in my intro post to sexuality and while not a huge deal...it certainly is a bit odd. Particularly, this chart fails to account for how sexuality is affected by the gender of our partners. It ignores trans experiences, completely erasing them from the picture. It erases all nonconforming gender identies. Agender, genderfluid, genderqueer, there are innumerable genders out there and their experiences of sexuality are not reflected here.

Even accepting sex as their basis of attraction the scale is still erasing identities and experiences. What about people who don't fit in our narrow definitions of 'male' and 'female'? Intersex people are often left out of LGBTQ+ discourse and this is just another example of that. Seriously, if you can make the effort to get an understanding about an often-erased group such as asexual people, is it really so much to ask that you learn about other erased groups?

And what about the nonsense of saying 'of the opposite sex'? That reeks of heteronormativity and sexism. Why are male and female considered opposites? Accepting another binary is completely ridiculous. They aren't opposite, just different. Saying they are opposite implies (or at least plays into) a whole plethora of assumptions that we make not just about sex but also gender and we can really just do without all that. Its not something I need to be reminded of when trying to illustrate my sexual identity.

Another problem with using the Kinsey scale as presented above as part of this chart is that it doesn't accurately represent bisexuals (and following from my point above about the infinite gender variations, it also inaccurately represents pansexuality). An important criticism pointed out by the bisexual community is that this scale makes them out to not be their own sexual orientation, but rather a mixture of two absolutes. Bisexual people are not half-heterosexual and half-homosexual. This idea that bisexual people need to quantify how attracted, or how often, they are to each gender (or sex) is ridiculous. It isn't about how much, because for bisexuals the people they enter relationships with are those they are attracted to. Period. They are fully attracted to the people they have relationships with. Measurements like this tend to give the idea that they are less attracted to someone because of their gender/sex.

Really, criticisms of the Kinsey scale are wide and varying. Thats why many academics, scientists, and even the person who created the purple-red scale (whoever they may be) have tried creating new scales. This is just another step in the process, but the purple-red scale - while a a step in the right direction in some aspects - just isn't very revolutionary or even that exciting for me.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Mental Health Awareness Day

Today is mental health awareness day. Having struggled all day to find what to say I'd like to share some thoughts as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, activist, and student representative.

Mental health is often something that is ignored most of the time. We only really talk about mental health when tragedy happens - like mass shootings or the recent shootings in the US (though this is disproportionately applied to white attackers). Even then this is only done to stigmatize mental health, leaving the impression that those with mental health problems are shameful and dangerous.

This is extremely harmful for us all. It makes people not want to talk about their mental problems. Oftentimes it stops many from seeking help and acknowledging that there is a problem at all. I know from experience how harmful this culture is. Having gone through a period of extreme depression, and having lasting social anxiety I know what it is like to think that you are broken, that your mind is working against you and feeling like you have nobody to talk to. I have watched others who feel like they can't talk to anybody suffer in silence.

Mental health is a huge issue for marginalized groups. In general 1 in 6 people in the UK experience mental health issues, but LGBT+ people are 3x more likely to suffer from anxiety disorders and 6x more likely to suffer from depression than heterosexuals? This is especially true for LGBT+ youth (including those in University) and even more so for trans people in particular.

This is a problem that effects everybody though. Everyone has their ups and downs. Especially when dealing with our complex societies stress and anxieties come and go. Some may experience more than others but what is wrong with having support dealing with these changes in mental states? We already have it for physical health.

Physical health is central to how we view the world. From a young age physical health is drilled into us. We are taught about brushing our teeth, washing our hands, watching our step, what we can and can't eat or touch. Really the list goes on and on.  We require physical checks to go to school, university, do sports, all sorts of things. This centrality and exposure lends itself to thinking that talking about and dealing with physical health is 'normal' and acceptable. We need to extend this thinking to mental health for all our sakes.

This mental health awareness day I encourage everyone to try to be just a little bit more open about mental health issues. Remind friends that you are there to talk to, make sure you all know about the support options that are available (at most universities there are counselors of all sorts to help). Stop yourself and others when using ableist language (like "crazy", and "retard(ed)").

Let's work toward building a society where taking care of our minds is viewed just as normal as taking care of our bodies. If we can do that we will all benefit and be better for it.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Why not Polygamy?

By now the news has spread everywhere about the United States Supreme Court's ruling on same sex marriage. The dust is starting to settle, but I want to kick it up again. What now? Not only for gay rights, but what now for marriage? Is marriage now a beacon of equality or is it still an exclusive club only for some, only now same-sex couples have entrance? Specifically, what about polygamy?

It's interesting that many liberals have been ecstatic about same-sex marriage being passed; but if I were to ask them about polygamy, they would instantly turn around and condemn opening up marriage to such relationships. This is not to say that gay marriage and polygamy are the same. They are different and there are different considerations required for each. Yet, even liberals use the same arguments used to oppose gay marriage against polygamy as if they would somehow be successful for one and not the other.

Why not polygamy? The arguments against it are pretty standard, but let's go through them one at a time. 

1. Children: Just as with same-sex marriage and inter-racial marriage, one of the key starting points for arguing against polygamy is that it's harmful to children. Well, there are several rebuttals to this: not the least of which being that it has been thoroughly established that marriage is not about children. Children can and do exist outside of marriage and there are plenty of marriages that never add children to the family. 

Those who use children as a means of arguing against polygamy not only misunderstand the role children play in marriage (none), but also the role that marriage plays in children's lives. Many studies have shown that children who have two married parents are often better off than those of single parents. However, the question is why. Most studies have concluded that it is stability which is the most important factor to childrens' development and wellbeing- not the number of parents. 

Think about it a different way. There are many children who already have 3 parents. Divorce and remarriage has been legal for quite some time and many children have step-parents. Many kids have as many as four ! I haven't heard of anybody saying that these children are somehow worse off than others. The reality is that having multiple primary caretakers is not a new concept and is actually not as uncommon as we like to pretend. But I'll repeat for good measure - marriage is not about children. 

2. Stability: Now as soon as I mentioned stability I could almost hear the tapping of keyboards with people waiting to say "but multiple partnered relationships are inherently unstable!" Please tell that to the many polyamorous lovers who have been together 30, 50+ years. Can they be unstable? Sure. So are many monogamous couples. Relationships come and go. That's how they work, but marriage (supposedly) is for those that aren't so fleeting. That's why we have enshrined an institution which makes it harder for those involved to separate. But just in case the anecdotal evidence wasn't enough: Elisabeth Sheff has done a study on polyamorous relationships and found a high level of support and stability for children in who are being raised by poly parents - not to mention that children raised in such arrangements seem to turn out well

I always find it interesting when people talk about stability and children as reasons against marriage. Surely if stability and children's wellbeing are your position you should therefore approve of allowing more kinds of marriage. Study after study after study can be found to demonstrate that marriage does benefit children. If stability and children's wellbeing is your main concern, legalizing polygamy is better than not.

The irony of using an argument about stability though, is that it assumes that monogamous marriages are somehow more stable than poly ones would be. While divorce rates aren't as high as widely believed those who do divorce often remarry, which obviously requires dating again. Sometimes adults get divorced and remarried multiple times. Children can have many 'parents' over the course of their lifetime. So why is that somehow more stable than a polygamous marriage with multiple partners who may come and go as well?

3. Oppression: Another common argument against polygamy is that it is an oppressive relationship structure. This is an important point to make as we can all agree that nobody wants to endorse or encourage abusive or oppressive relationships. However, it is important to distinguish that it is certain polygamous relationships that are oppressive rather than the actual structure of polygamy being inherently oppressive. 

For example, the vast majority of polygamous relationships that have been practiced throughout history have been polygynous ones. Many were in societies where marriage was extremely patriarchal and not at all like the institution of today. Women were in no way considered equals of men and were treated as property. But this was true of all marriages, not just polygamist ones. This history is hardly justification for restricting the rights of one group but not the other. 

Some may argue that polygamy is often times no better today than it was then. That it enables a power dynamic that is inherently unequal and will be all too often abused. However, once again these arguments often center on things that aren't just applicable to polygamy but also to monogamous marriage. Many of these arguments are also heterocentric and completely ignore same sex polygamy as an option (not that I would advocate that one is acceptable and the other not). 

Thom Brooks, an academic, argues that because women are already at a cultural disadvantage, they are more likely to be taken advantage of (perhaps not even able to give full consent!), especially in polygamous relationships. Not only does this completely ignore same-sex polygamy, but there is no reason why this would be the case.

Certainly polyamorous relationships offer a good example of how that could not be the case. Polyamory is all about having full informed consent, and treating all partners as equals. This often leads to many conversations about how everyone is feeling about how they are treated and their place in the relationship. Open discussions, respect, and -perhaps most importantly- relinquishing assumptions  are all key aspects of successful polyamory. This is true regardless of the form the relationship takes (such as a "V", or triad, or an open relationship, etc.).

Formalizing a relationship doesn't change any of those already existing qualities. Rather one could argue that marriage can offer many protections to women from such circumstances. Rights, security, stability, but also power to end the relationship with a no-fault divorce. Divorce and enforcing rights is often not simple and can be arduous. If your issue with polygamy is that women aren't protected enough or that marriage doesn't protect women enough, then advocate for expanding protections because thats what you really take issue with. Not polygamy.

4. Logistics: Probably one of the weakest arguments against polygamy is that our current system couldn't handle it. "What happens in the event of divorce?" Or a question about taxes and whatnot - reminiscent of those who complained that there would have to be a change in the forms if same-sex marriage was legalized.

On the surface this might be enough to give people pause. Because to many, logistics acts as a reality check. Non-monogamous people, no matter how much of a right they might have to marriage, simply don't fit and that's that. But why? If we can accept that there is a right to marriage how can logistics really be enough to stop people from fulfilling this right?

We've seen these kinds of arguments before and they clearly didn't stand up to the test of time and reason. With other rights we have dealt with serious logistical issues and come out the better for it. From liberating slaves all the way through to fully ensuring their right to vote (which we are still working on) and even all the efforts that went into ensuring women had a fully respected right to vote we have made significant logistical changes as has been necessary to our system. These required changes in law, and tax codes, and inheritance and divorce and many more things. Recognizing rights is often difficult and requires that we as society and our governments put in effort, monumental at times, to ensure their protection - it's an ongoing process and one we should never stop. That's what makes rights so special and dear.

Are there serious questions that need to be answered? Sure. How exactly should we structure taxes? How would divorce work? What about custody of children? Should there be limits on the number of people? All important questions. Logistics plays a role but it plays a role in deciding how we enact things not in deciding not too. Will it be complicated? Probably. Messy? Maybe. But everyone who has multiple partners should have the option to marry their partners just like monogamous people do.

5. Need: Many people question whether polygamy is truly necessary and whether or not marriage is something poly people truly want. You don't see or hear many polygamy advocates on TV or even around the mainstream internet. So why should we even consider it when it's not something they really seem to want? The answer is simple really. Because we value equality. On the principle of equality whether there is a large group or even just one person who wants a legally recognized polygamous marriage, then they should have the option and ability to have one. The question shouldn't be why should be advocate or care about this if we don't. That is the completely the wrong question. The real question to ask is why should we allow this inequality to exist. Should the 'gay marriage' movement only have gotten support when there was sufficient LGBT support of the issue? No. We should be supporting issues not because of the number of people who want them but because they are the right things to do. Because they are the right way to treat people.

The bottom line comes down to this: We as a society value people making free choices of their own accord and don't want anyone interfering with that ability. We make exceptions when the decision goes against a specific state interest (and this must be a particularly strong interest) or if it is a harmful decision. Does the state have an interest in preventing polygamy? Not specifically and certainly not under an ancillary interest such as protecting minors or women etc. What about causing harm? Who does it harm to allow people who freely love multiple people to choose to marry? To use an adage from the same-sex marriage debate: if you don't like polygamy then only marry one person. Nobody is forcing anything on anyone. It would simply be available for those who want it. So really - Why not polygamy?