NYT article on evolutionary psychology tries to debunk the notion that it’s only men who rack up multiple spouses by looking at the Pimbwe tribe in Tanzania. Here’s the passage I find interesting:
“In her analysis, Dr. Borgerhoff Mulder found that although Pimbwe men were somewhat more likely than their female counterparts to marry multiple times, women held their own and even outshone men in the upper Zsa Zsa Gabor end of the scale, of five consecutive spouses and counting.”
How does that compare to, say, our own culture? Why is the writer citing Zsa Zsa Gabor (married 9 times) as an example, if the norm in Western culture is that it’s men doing the serial-marriage thing? And why is it that the other obvious reference would be Elizabeth Taylor (married 8 times, twice to the same guy for a total of 7 husbands)? Who are the famous men who’ve married 5 or more times? I can’t think of one off the top of my head.
Now, perhaps that’s because it’s so normal for men that we don’t consider it remarkable, whereas a woman with 5-plus husbands is fodder for tabloid gossip. But still, I can’t think of a famous man (or indeed, any man) with 5-plus wives (further research shows Mickey Rooney married 8 times, while Larry King did a Liz Taylor bit, marrying 8 times to 7 women, but Zsa Zsa has them both beat).
None of this invalidates the premise of the story — indeed, it may suggest that what’s true of the Pimbwe tribe is equally true of our own, and perhaps is generally true everywhere in the world. But it’s interesting that the writer displays such an interesting blind spot. Funny how we can clinically dissect someone else’s culture, without noticing that our own has the same tendencies.
(Note: My helpfully Googling wife tells me that the all-time record for marriages is 29 for a man, 23 for a woman — and their 29th and 23rd, respectively, marriages were to each other. That seems like a weird dynamic — like “Highlander” or something.)
(cartoon via Greeting Card Universe)