Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Contract called Marriage and Blah

These are just a few questions. And it is not an exhaustive critique of marriage as an institution.

1. The very institution of marriage is a private property version for sexuality, more so for a girl, what with they calling it "kanyadaan", which literally translates to donating a virgin. So much for virginity! What gives anybody any right on the virginity of any girl, their bodies and how they should be regulated? All their lives, parents are protective about this so called virginity of their daughters, which is amazingly hypocritical in its confinement only to girls, there seems to be no such concept of male virginity. If they are really so bothered about it, shouldn't they have made it equally applicable to guys? Why such selective regulation for one gender? And why such regulation in the first place?

2. Marriage takes the sexual orientation of people for granted. It outright excludes lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders.

3. "Infidelity" in marriage. The relationship may end for many people in a few years after marriage and they live dead lives fulfilling obligations. They might both want to break up but they can't because of unreasonable social pressure. And usually it's easier for guys to have extra marital affairs because of greater unrestricted mobility. If only the ladies also had that freedom! How many break ups don't we see in college days? Imagine if all of them had to still stay together because of social pressure. It's so convenient to break up and start life anew if it's just a relationship. No additional baggage. Families are also like organizations, they seem to have to exist forever whether they have a purpose or not.

4. And children, poor children. Everywhere while talking of children's rights, the most ignored question is the oppression of children at home. How family as an institution acts on children because of the institution of marriage. Children are rendered vulnerable from day 1 by being put in this institution called family without choice. They are trained to accept the power of elders over them from the very beginning. Love and power are often confused with each other.

5. And then there is that hypocrisy of confining respect only to sisters, mothers and others' wives. It's like the 'propertied' females deserve respect while those who are independent do not.

6. Relationships vs Marriage. Why is the latter legitimate while the former isn't considered so? Because they do not have wide social approval when it's not an official thing like a marriage? Because it allows scope for engaging physically and mentally with more than one person? In relationships, as against marriage, people can break up peacefully without all the divorce drama. Of course, women who are vulnerable and are likely to get adversely affected by a break up need to be protected, given that many women do not have access to any share of the family's assets or income though they contribute to it through their work that is rendered invisible because it is not valued, like for example, household work or are denied any opportunity to get their income or even when they do, it is not under their control.

7. And, in a marriage, one has to bear the stupidity and fight for one's freedom with another family. Especially for a girl who has done this fighting business for the slightest things like going out for an hour, it can be doubly irritating.

9. And finally, arranged marriage perpetuates the status quo on many problems in the society and promotes them further. One only has to look at the matrimonials to confirm this. People want spouses from the same caste (casteism), fair (racism), earning in lakhs (class inequality), education too (meritocracy). Why don't people only interact within their own caste then? Why send them to schools where everyone comes? Why benefit from a society where people from all castes are contributing? Talk to only fair people, make only friends with them? Do not eat food grown by farmers, do not depend on a society which consists of people other than your own community for anything, do all your work on your own!

10. There are many other evils perpetrated by marriage like dowry and domestic violence which are widely understood as problems to be dealt with but marriage itself is not seen as the root of these evils.

11. Lastly, looking at it for what it really is, marriage is actually a contract enforced by society by all means possible - religion, family, state (whether you get married or get a divorce, the state needs to know and approve it), you name it! Some might argue that marriage is protection for women. I disagree, the very idea that only marriage gives women a respectful position i.e. by accepting the idea of being someone's property or accepting someone's control over one's sexuality alone gets you respect is highly problematic. I hope this is not confused with opposing any of the various protective laws that are there for women who suffer in marriage and who need protection by the institutions of the state or voluntary institutions of women (however piecemeal efforts these might be). Here, the very cause of women's vulnerability and suffering is because of patriarchy and patriarchal institutions like marriage. So, if there was no marriage, more than half the problems wouldn't be there in the first place.

For opposing marriage, some take it for granted to view single women as sexual objects for perverted pleasures. Some take to that interpretation that women who do not use marriage and hence subject themselves to the risk of a less respectful social status want to objectify themselves for the pleasure of all perverted men. Frankly, this is trying to justify the perverted instincts of some men by blaming it on women.

I really wonder why this institution hasn't lost its legitimacy yet, so strongly enforced it is, in spite of being dysfunctional to the 'l'. There could be exceptions to this sorry tale of marriage. I mean no disrespect to those who are married or getting married or want to get married. I only wish to empathize with those who share these questions irrespective of their marital status. 

1 comment:

  1. marriage followed private property. men needed to know who their progeny were to whom they would bequeath their property. that is why female sexuality had to be controlled and that continues to be the main rationale still. unless there is a commune and private property is banished so that children become part of the commune and are raised collectively its very difficult to do without an institution such as marriage.