7/25/07

marriage

I don’t see myself getting married. Not in the near future, at least. Okay, not in the remote future, also. Fine, make that never. I also don’t see myself having children of my own. Now I don’t hate kids. But I don’t particularly nurture a hidden spring well of fondness for them either. Anyway, I’ll save my precarious views on children and child-rearing for another post.

Speaking about my views on marriage on a public-ish domain, admittedly feels a little weird. But I wanted to get it out of my system, you know, like a regurgitation of sorts. I personally think that marriage is notably overestimated and that ‘til death do us part’ is a crafty, unattainable, socially constructed ideal, at best. There. The gauntlet has been dropped.


----Begin Caveat----

Before you jump down my throat and brand me a baby roasting spinster termagant, who dares befoul the holy sanctity of the institution of marriage, remember that these are my personal reasons for not wanting to get married. Mine, yeah, mine. This post is not a blameful finger pointed at those who are married or have kids. That is their choice, and if they are happy and content with their choice, it is not in my place to criticize them. So if any of you who are married or have kids plan to flame the living daylights out of me, remember that the snarky and caustic allusions I make about marriage in this post is in no way an attack on your decision. It is my observation on a socially sanctioned archetype which continues to oppress countless women even today, who are not, maybe, as happy or as lucky, as you are. It is about an often flawed but powerful, social and cultural institution which primarily eulogizes heteronormativity and presents it as the ideal. So ease up on them flame-throwers.

----End caveat----


Now, I will in no way deny that marriage is a legal, economic and dominant social institution, which provides a veritable treasure trove of rights, privileges and responsibilities and it is also a significant cultural symbol of sorts. I mean, why wouldn’t anybody want to marry? Surely, it is understandable that people would want to partake in it.

That is not to say that it is without terrific flaws. For all the progressive ideals we frame in our minds as to the division of labor, the surname, work etc. and all the rosy ‘everything will be shared equally between both of us’ type plans, it never really happens, does it? Consciously, or unconsciously we fall back into the age old trap of performing duties which comply with heavily gendered roles and power differentials laid out for us by cultural and societal norms and practices.

Which absolutely does not sit well with me, at all.

And this brings me to,

Reason number 1: Marriage is terribly male-friendly.

It is. Internalized gender role-ing will tell me otherwise, but after a long and hard struggle with my inner demons, I’ve come to realize that marriage does in fact, overwhelmingly favor the guy. On the outset, it seems like we have entered into an age of elysian gender equality within marriage where men and women discuss equal sharing of duties and suchlike and stick to their plans, but that hardly is the case. Once things start sliding into gendered role and power differentials typifying the ‘traditional’ marriage, we tell ourselves that marriage is work, we tell ourselves to be realistic, we fit our brains around that power differential which heavily favors the male, and we settle.

Reason number 2: It is up to the women to make that choice to stay in the workforce or not.

Take childbirth, for instance. Irrespective of the job a woman is in, if there is a question of one spouse leaving his/her respective job to care for the child, most of the damn time, it is the woman who leaves her job. Childbirth just happens to be an extreme example. Take any circumstance which requires one spouse to leave her/his job. To no one’s surprise, it is the woman who usually forgoes her job. Now I do know that most women will say that it is their choice. But we have to look at the cultural relativism and the gendered power equations behind that choice, because most women will simply respond to an internalized gendering of power in such situations and call it their choice.

And yes, you can show me examples of stay-at-home dads’ who opt out of the workforce to take care of their kids. But the percentage of men who do actually opt out are abysmally low, no thanks to the power differential yet again, and the levels of ridicule such men face generally and in terms of them being called ‘henpecked’, ‘pussy whipped’ ‘husband to a ball-buster’ and so on, mostly by other men, extended family and even women, in some cases.

Your spouse may be different of course, but remember, this is not.about.you.

Reason number 3: The ‘wife and mother’ ideal.

Let me state on the outset that I have nothing against women who are good wives and mothers. I do have a problem however with the enormous pressure being ladled upon women, generation after generation to be the perfect wife and the mother, where both require a great deal of subservience on part of the woman, by societal and cultural standards.

A married woman is principally judged by how well she balances and performs her wifely and motherly duties, and there is little or no scope for anything related to her individuality. While in severe contrast, a married man is not judged by how he services his wife, but how best he establishes his individual hegemony in his household. Popular models of femininity, compliance and sexuality are built upon this unattainable ‘wife and mother’ ideal, over and over again and shoved down every women’s’ throats, lest they defy the norm and dare to act contrarily.

And I can’t take it anymore.

Reason number 4: The ol’ ball and chain.

Why is marriage supposedly the centre of a woman’s existence? Why isn’t it the centre of a man’s existence? But no, it never is. The wedding is always and forever will be a ‘bride’ thing, because it’s her day, a day when she gets to be the princess, a concept which I find, extremely problematic partly cause' all that the guy is expected to do, is show up. Because you see, when a guy is engaged to be married, he is perceived to have somehow lost his freedom, that the life ahead of him is sure to be filled with drudgery and venal boredom in anticipation of you know, being tied down to the ol’ ball and chain.

And then there is the pukeworthy sleaziness of the bachelor party. Spending the rest of my life with a person who desperately celebrates his last day as a free man by entertaining himself with contorting naked women, paints a rosy picture in my mind as to how our near-ambrosial future would be.

Right.

So as of now, I’m holding on to my get-out-of-marriage free card. I have nothing against loving monogamous relationships, but I am yet to see the necessity of going through a socially sanctioned practice to validate a loving relationship or to partake in a practice, which to me signifies nothing but a glorified social justification of that relationship.


Post Script: These are only a few of my reasons for shunning the ol' ball and chain, whoops I meant marriage. Not all. Not even close.

Update: Because mothers are inherently evil if they leave their kids locked in hot cars, but fathers, well they're just glorified baby sitters, so they abso-fucking-lutely don't deserve the harshness of the punishment meted out to mothers, even if they commit the same act.

So excuse me while I take a minute to scream.

(via Feministe)


Update II: the 42nd carnival of feminists is up and this post is in it (whoever you are submitter, thank you!)

So what are you waiting for? Run along now, go check the carnival out!

7/8/07

Manly man

Overheard at the cashier’s counter at my local grocery store:

Woman: Can you pick up Ashley’s ballet costume tomorrow? I have a meeting at 5pm with an important client and I can’t ditch the meeting. My boss will have my head if I do.

Man: I’m not going to pick up that darn costume! Who do you think I am?

Woman: But...

Man: Look. Haven’t we discussed this? That store is right next to Tom’s place. And you know what a pushover he is. I can’t be walking around with a tutu on my arm! Heck no!

Woman: Come on. You can’t be serious.

Man: Hey, hey, hey. I don’t want any old nutter thinkin’ I’m doing ballet or some frou-frou woman shit, O.K?

(I don’t usually eavesdrop or anything, I swear. They were speaking loud enough to be heard by the whole line, especially him, with his bizarre nasally excuse for a voice. Ok, enough digression)

And it went on and on; his whiny diatribe about not wanting to be perceived as doing ‘some frou-frou woman shit’ for about 2 whole minutes until someone from the back of the line yelled at him to get a move on. What stood out for me in his singularly bland albeit slightly ridiculous speech was his rabid need to not be apprehended as doing anything remotely feminine, even if it meant picking up someone’s else’s ballet clothes. The fact that he considered the simple act of picking up a woman’s or a girl’s clothing as an affront to his manhood (as indicated by his expression, his tone of voice and the vehemence with which he spoke) was a revelation, in itself.

I’m not a man (gee, you didn’t know?) and I can at best, base my postulations about conventional manliness on my interactions and observations with the male of the species and to an extent, the media. But I would assume that something must be frightfully amiss with the popular tenets of masculinity, if something as ridiculously straightforward as picking up a woman’s clothing from a store or whatever is deemed ‘unmanly’ and therefore avoidable.

And then I look at something like this, or this and I can’t help but gape with wonderment at the sheer idiocy of striving to be a manly man. As far as I can tell, being a manly man is all about –

+ Stifling all your emotions except maybe anger, as anger is a good, manly emotion.

+ Being in charge, all the damn time.

+ Cultivating an inner disconnect from anyone because god forbid a real man be perceived as ‘needing’ someone.

+ Always having the last word in arguments.

+ Trying to ‘fix’ everything in your wake, be somebody else’s problems or a leaky tap, without actually ever wondering if the ‘fixing’ is necessary or even called for.

+ Enjoy, follow and indulge in sports and only sports, because real men cannot pursue other forms of recreation except maybe hunting.

+ Never admitting you’re wrong for fear of being perceived as weak or vulnerable.

+ And finally, going out of your way to prove that women do not control you, be it your partner or any other woman in your life.

It seems* to me that manly men use all of the above to cope with their alarming insecurities and fear, and by the same tenets they also successfully enthuse this formula of fear and insecurity in other men, while basally upholding a pledge to manliness and men and the system of patriarchy as a whole.

Now, I am definitely not the poster-child of hyper-femininity, but I like guys who can emote. I like guys who are intellectual. I would prefer a guy who does not interrupt me a bazillion times with tips on ‘what I should have done’ when I’m talking to him about my problems. If that isn’t an example of ‘oh look you have the problems, I have the answers, so I’m totally in control’, then I don’t know what is. I would like a guy to understand that if I really want a solution, I’ll ask for it. I like guys who dress nice and groom themselves and not be ashamed about it. So obviously I guess real men just aren’t my type.

Which brings me to the following questions, which I have been mulling over for quite some time now:

What are your expectations of masculinity?

What should manliness represent, in its most positive sense?

And do you think masculinity is in a rut? If so, how? And why?

And I want you, yes YOU, O’ long-suffering reader to answer them for me in the comments space in any which way possible. You can answer them all if you want, or you can answer one and leave out the rest. It is entirely up to you.

The comments box is yours.

* For those of you planning to jump down my throat for that statement, it was only a thought. Hence the 'it seems'. Jeez.