Cassie Yusofi – MANILA – What? You’re not scheming daily on ways to catch a man? You’re not dreaming about and counting down to your wedding day? What on earth are you doing with all of your free time? You should be out there trying to get some poor loser with a steady job to give you a ring he can’t afford to throw a wedding party you’ll be stuck paying off for years to come, to impress people you don’t care much for?
The older a woman in her mid-twenties (sometimes even as you just hit your twenties) becomes, the more frequent the question gets. It almost feels like a hazing ritual based on how skill-full you can become at avoiding an answer and thereby not satisfying this great sudden interest of your 3rd aunt from your mother’s grandfather’s side of the family. The expectation of the question is that it’ll make you rush in your quest for a husband as the ticking of your biological clock is impending like doomsday.
Personally I am quite lenient with marriage, I think that if two people want to make their relationship formal in front of a group of people they consider themselves close to – it should be possible. And whether they are either male or female shouldn’t matter, only their commitment to each other. However I am conscious of the fact that my lenient stance against marriage is due to my traditional upbringing where marriage is considered the highest a woman can achieve. My entire life I’ve tried to fight this gender stereotype that is deeply embedded in the essence of my culture and family life. Girls don’t get asked how well they are doing at school after their twenties, it’s all about how many men have come to ask for their hand or who the lucky guy is.
The other day I read an article of G. Kelly about a survey of 5500 singles aged 21-76 of the University of Western Sydney showing that women have become significantly more selective in choosing a mate than men, across 20 different categories. The conclusion of the study by Peter K. Johnson was that ‘women are likely to be more selective about their relationship partners to avoid costly impregnation by low-quality mates’ though somewhat clinical, I found it a refreshing!
Does this mean that women are becoming more aware of their position in today’s society? We are freer than ever to make our own decisions, much to the despair of an older generation of parents that still consider marriage a safety net. Marriage is generally disliked by mainstream feminism because it’s an ancient institution that comes from fathers treating their daughters as property that could be handed over to their husband for a weighty dowry. Monogamy and commitment to the marriage was just the simplest and safest way of determining paternity of (legitimate) children and whereby the husband could claim sexual and domestic services from the wife, explains L. Miya-Jervis in MS Magazine (2000). S. Sahagian also raises the male practice of asking the parent’s approval for marriage before asking the woman herself… why not ask the woman first? This still stems from the belief that women are not competent enough to make their own decisions. You may think it’s a romantic practice, but at most it’s a tribute to a time when fathers had legal dominion over their daughters.
There are a couple of reasons why feminists in general are against marriage. It’s still a serious commitment that comes with its responsibilities, consequences and expectations – most of them not exactly in the benefit of women. Firstly, marriage has been shown in studies to result in better health, wealth and happiness for men, whereas women experience no change for the better. Secondly, the expectations for men in married life are far less than for women as domestic issues are handled more often by the wife than husband. In the work environment men are seen as more responsible by employers thereby increasing their chances at a promotion. Women on the other hand, are regarded as ticking pregnancy leave time bombs. It’s presumed they’ll let their family take precedence over their work, S. Cox writes in the Feminist Current (2016). Thirdly, the working life of husbands gets prioritized over the wife’s, as they’re likely to be earning more. Even in the case of an unemployed wife, her work and time spent doing domestic chores in the house is valued less than the husband’s, because the husband’s monetary contribution has more merit.
This is exactly also the reason why 69% of women are now initiating divorces, according to a new survey of Stanford University. Men are still expecting their wives to do the majority of the household and children’s work and wives are pressured in the private and public sphere to take on their husbands last name. The survey’s head Michael Rosenfeld concluded that ‘the results are consistent with a feminist critique of heterosexual marriage as a gendered institution in which wives find less satisfaction than husbands do’.
But if we are not even benefitting from marriage, why do we still do it? Are there ways to change marriage from its current shape and sow it a new jacket that fits modern times? According to A. Richards in Feminist.com, society has put a certain value to marriage and made it attractive to women in the form of for example tax brakes & healthcare. However this value goes so far in society that women are unable to escape unstable and sometimes even dangerous marriages out of fear of judgment. Further, marriage doesn’t guarantee you anything within a relationship, such as kindness, support in housework or safety. M. Murphy even believes that if women are ‘truly embracing feminism’, they should abandon the unnecessary practice strongly rooted in sexist customs and ideas. She finds in her article in xojane.com that marriage has done women more harm than good.
L. Miya-Jervis on the other hand, doesn’t agree with that. She thinks that society is ready to change its view to marriage. For example, cohabiting partners are gradually more accepted and the upcoming visibility of same-sex relationships are also adding some flavor to the old recipe. Just as the work of feminist in the past managed to give married (and unmarried women) access to their own bank accounts, own healthcare choices and anti-conception, so can women today challenge the way marriage looks like: starting with not asking “The” question anymore. First of all women should be enough on their own; they do not need a partner tied to them to make them a better version of themselves. Next, a man isn’t needed in a relationship to feel completed or accomplished. Lastly, it erases the accomplishments, goals and achievements of women if having a man is all that’s on your mind. Single people don’t sit around thinking about how to get a guy. They have lives, careers, close social circles and dreams.