So everyone must firt go read this:
Kind of coincidence that I came across this post because I was just having this same conversation with my mum yesterday. Her take is:
1) Men will be men (then she gets shouted at by me)
2) Maybe what’s happening is unfair, but you cannot change everything in one go but work on it slowly. (probably true but gahhh)
3)So much has changed since she was married so I am being too negative.
What I was trying to tell her is that while yes things have changed (eg – men do share the housework, nappy changing, say politically correct things about women being equal) I’m surprised that so much has NOT changed. My experience is that today’s Indian man, especially when you’re dating him, exudes the aura of egualitarianism (for want of a better word)and probably even believes that he believes in fairness and all that.
I think when that actually begins to crack for most women is in the run-up to and during the actually wedding. It is here that contact with the family (both your own and the guy’s) becomes inevitable and you are generally faced with a blast of patriarchy. The majority of wedding traditions are patriarchal and you are faced with two options: go along with them or go to battle (and it can get really bloody). Most guys choose to cop out at this stage and commonly, instead of taking on their folks and standing firm for what they had implied they believe in, try to smooth everything over sans confrontation which is pretty impossible.
From then on, there is no avoiding patriarchy at every turn because marriage as an institution is patriarchal. So while over the years we have tweaked it to make it less unfair, we still have lingering traces of unfairness to women. Add to that the very obvious statements that you have to contend with from the extended family – and whether you care what they say or not, it gets annoying to listen to this drivel all the time and not react.
Marriage continues to be unfair because women are still stuck in their gender roles of ‘giving in’ and men (when they actually think about these things and confront them which they are generally loathe to do) prefer the status quo because it’s nicer to them. I mean – if the arrangement leans towards them spending more time with their folks on holidays than yours or getting a load of cash when they marry you (which was not done in my case but is extremely common in some form or other) why turn it down? It’s like being in a job where you get more perks than a colleague who you are really good friends with – how many of us would turn down the perks because it’s unfair?
About marriage as an institution itself – the family in India is like social security elsewhere. The whole thing has been geared up so that you have security when you’re old/ill etc. In Scandanavian countries, the state takes care of that and so the institutions of marriage and family have collapsed. In the US, where social security may not be that great and where family is not great either (this may be a generalization so discount if untrue) people are stuck in credit (loans, mortgage, credit cards etc). As people (especially women) get more financially and emotionally independent, and rid themselves of the idea that children are security for the future, the institution will collapse.
Marriage also provides stability for child rearing and propogation of the species is something that society has to ensure. Except in India where there’s too much propogation so frankly, again, marriage may become a redundant.
All the love and cuddly stuff is to dress up this cold hard fact – social institutions serve a definite social purpose. Of course, societry through the media, myth and fairy tales makes it seem that love and happy ever after is the sole purpose but it’s not. That doesn’t mean that the love is not a part of marriage – because it is made to seem like the main part, it seems to have also become it and maybe in the future it will become the main reason but really – do you need to be married to love? I would love V regardless of whether I was married or not and would (probably) stay with him for the rest of my life too. The key is the “probably” – marriage tries to make that “probably” a certainty.
I guess that’s where the idea of marriage as a trap comes from. In purely individualistic people terms, it doesn’t make any sense. As the legendary Eunice D’Souza said to us once: “People change. How can you expect two people to stay together forever.” And apart from that – I’m nto entirely sure it’s possible or worthwhile for two people to stay sexually faithful to one another for like some 40 years. Of course, if V ever cheated on me would probably not be able to handle it.
But I’ve also seen the other extreme and I don’t think it’s entirely positive either. I’ve seen people commit to marriage or a serious relationship and then just walk out when the going gets tough. In India, our relationships last longer because we have the ideal of marriage and the whole social she-bang that goes with it to at least make us think a thousand times before opting out.
Ultimately, marriage is a contract – whether you do it in court or the whole religious thing – and binds two people together under certain conditions. For example, one of the big factors that pushed me to get married when I did was because my boyfriend was going to be in another city and I refused to move there without some (legal) security because I just don’t trust men and their promises. It’s not that I don’t/didn’t love him or thought he was ‘the one’ (sigh I actually thought that) but I wouldn’t have done the whole wedding when I did it it hadn’t given me what I wanted to move to another city – security.
I have to be very honest though – when V asked me to get married I said yes without a thought. It just felt like the right thing to do. Maybe it was the fabulous sex, maybe it was that I thought he was my soul mate (which I have unthought now), maybe both. And I think that’s the only way I could have done it – if I had actually thought it through, wouldn’t probably have gone through with it at all.
In the future, we will need to rethink the whole purpose of marriage – especially since women are beginning to question whether the stability is worth the unfairness of it all. Our children may not see the need for it at all. Or maybe we will rework it so that it serves a new purpose and the roles are redefined.
For the present generation, the best way we can argue for marriage is companionship. You trade off a lot of things just for having a person to come home to every day (hopefully) for the rest of your life. I just wish guys had to trade off as much as well.