A Saviour & Protector - That Old Marriage Trap – Part 1
Thoughts of wedding gowns will attack their brain like a virus that spreads everywhere, erasing all non-family related dreams, wiping out all other ambitions, homogenizing all ideals. A slow burning virus that was laying dormant ever since childhood, and which has been planted in their head the minute they heard their first fairy tale, their first love story. Each and everyone urging them to “marry young and then retire”, as the old Janis Ian song goes.
Art & words by Fanitsa Petrou
It is a “fact universally acknowledged” that a woman’ s value is sadly still directly related to her marital status, and so the lack of a husband, is automatically still being seen as a bad (in fact the worst) life choice for a female. Even a longtime partner does not define a woman as a “normal” one, and the commitment she shares with him, is not seen as “real” or valid. Only a marriage certificate will legitimise such a relationship and only a “proper” husband, will ultimately legitimise her own existence in this world, which is otherwise seen as worthless, pointless, or at the very least “wasted”: she was created in order to serve a man as the scriptures and modern-day Right Wingers never fail to remind us… Such notions are hardly dated and are globally making a come-back let us not forget!! (see:# 1)
And even married women who have somehow managed to be close at breaking that goddamn glass ceiling, are still being judged not on account of their accomplishments, their education, their intelligence, their abilities, or their work, but foremost by the kind of marriage they have. It is a well known fact for example, that if you want to keep a female politician from becoming too powerful, all you have to do is attack her marriage. Just look close enough, for long enough with a magnifying glass and something will come up. Which is another way of saying: just wait for the husband to cheat on her… And if he doesn’ t, throw some mud about him being “neglected, overlooked, disgraced, and emasculated by having such a wife who would rather go around speaking to strangers about social change rather than take care of him”, and let the public see what that says about the “kind of woman she is!”.... And if her husband is cheating on her, blame HER: “she is a workaholic / know-it-all / cold / sex-hating bitch who “let herself go” (that’s code for: “doesn’t look like a Barbie doll and is older than 35”) who therefore practically “forced him into going after other women”. Now, if she knew all about it and did nothing, “she is a liar and a manipulating, ambitious woman who was trying to save her career, rather than her marriage". Which might mean, "a feminist!!”. If she had no idea, then she is “clueless about the going ons of her own home”, so “how can she be trusted to run a country”? And if she stays with him after his cheating is made public, just call her “weak, and therefore unfit for office”. Not to mention a "bad feminist". If she does divorce him, call her “too liberal”. One who is “against family values”. One who “doesn’t stand by her man”. A “cold, unforgiving, spiteful, calculating woman who throws him under the bus for the sake of her career”. Plus a female divorcee for a President? Or God forbid a single woman? Who has ever heard of such a thing, right?!
Hilary Clinton for example, is still shamed, blame for, judged about, and ridiculed on account of her husband’ s (her husband’ s, not her OWN let us not forget!) cheating which took place some 20 years ago, while Trump who has been married three times, has cheated on his wives on multiple occasions, has been accused of sexual harassment, (in fact had been caught on tape admitting it!), as well as of domestic violence, rape, has been elected by Americans as their President, shamelessly and - for reasons that defy logic – convincingly waving the “family values” flag… But then again, he is a guy…
What is infuriating is that the mud on the marriage of the female politicians (and the unquestionable support offered to the cheating male politicians), will be thrown by the hands of many women as well. Because women have systematically and for generations been brainwashed to see marriage as their own domain, and everything else, in fact the entire World, as a man’ s oyster… And if a woman has failed to keep her marriage together then she is just betraying her own gender and she needs to be punished…
Personally, I have started writing about feminism and Women’s Rights when I was in my early twenties, that is, nearly 30 years ago. I have written about domestic violence, femicide, gender based infanticide, paedophilia, the rape culture, prostitution and pornography, sex tourism, child brides, human trafficking, the horrors of female genital mutilation, sexual harassment, gender inequality in terms of education or medical care, sexism in pop culture, and about all kinds of laws and religious practises that humiliate, victimize and discriminate against women and girls, yet there are two subjects that are always guaranteed to cause strong negative responses in women: when I write about how we should stop being so obsessed with our looks and age, and when I write critically of marriage. Because sadly, women’s beauty and women’s marital status are the things that define them the most! None of the above issues that are directly or indirectly affecting the lives of countless women and girls out there, cause an outrage as strong, or hit a nerve as sensitive! Women who would stay silent when all of the above issues of gender discrimination and male violence are raised, (including that of grown men who marry girls who are barely 7 years old, whom they literally rape to death!) prompts them to react so passionately. Or at all! Yet they become suddenly pretty vocal and pretty eager to voice opinions and display indignation, even at times, disgust and anger, when the issues of looks or marriage are raised! They are prompted to defend their right to be seen as "pretty", and to be called a “wife” (these two being so linked after all to their sense of Self), with all they’ ve got. This offers I fear, a glimpse into the unchanged power of Patriarchy that has succeeded so triumphantly to convince most of us that nothing that happens to women is so terrible, so humiliating, so contemptible than refusing to attach their feelings of self worth (as well as their well being) to a man. Not even the endless variations of unspeakable violence, which so many of them face!
The truth of the matter is, marriage was and still remains, a hindrance to a woman’ s individual, social and professional development, stealing from her, most – if not all – of her non family-related dreams (let alone all of her time and energy…) guiding her towards a preordained fate, walking along a path that is both specific and predictable as well as claustrophobically narrow and inescapable. A path which generation after generation of women were forced or coerced to follow, so that they would keep away from exploring the wider avenues with their possibilities of spectacular vistas, which are considered any male's birth right... In every discussion a feminist has ever had about the equality of women, there is always for example, that predictable moment when the men (or the occasional “pious” conservative women) who are against it, will smugly indicate that there are just not many women featured in history books ("deserving to be included in history books" is what they really mean). They will continue by offering lists of names of great male inventors, male scientists, male artists, male philosophers, male explorers, male politicians of past centuries. They will also go on and claim that the lack of female names in such lists, proves brilliantly and without any doubt, that women are just not adequately intelligent, capable, talented, or brave as men, and so obviously “by nature” not equal to them. Giving them similar lists of the admittedly fewer women who have excelled in these areas through the centuries is not enough. They need to be reminded that women having “marginal roles” in history, and not excelling at science, Art, or politics, etc. is not a proof that they are not equal to men, but a proof that they were not allowed to. It is not a proof of their inferiority but of their disenfranchisement.
The reason why there were not more Madam Curies in the world for example, is not because there were not that many clever, talented, exceptional, brilliant girls out there, it’s because they were living literally enslaved inside their marriages: they were for endless generations denied an education, and then married off at 16 (or possibly younger), and then spent the biggest part of their lives cooking and cleaning and nursing, and being pregnant and being silent, and submissive, and compliant and docile. And if not all that, then beaten like a dog. Their abilities - let alone their rights – were being ignored by the law, and their status as human beings was ridiculed by scholars, intellectuals and scientists, and doubted by all-powerful religious leaders who all gave into the hands of men total power over them. As a result, a great number of them were being daily abused by their husbands (and possibly fathers and brothers too), and living their lives in constant fear. Their thirst for knowledge, for adventure, for success, for reaching the higher things, (or for existing in a world that recognized them as actual human beings) was therefore never satisfied. It was on the contrary discouraged, ridiculed, denied and punished! Their abilities and talents would because of that remain unacknowledged, undeveloped, wasted. Their dreams were forbidden and their self-confidence was systematically crashed. While the great explorers were out there discovering new continents and rivers and new worlds, and the great philosophers were spending their days contemplating on the great questions of Life and Death, their wives were at home, washing their dirty underwear. Care work (for children, infirm, elderly and of course above all, their masters and commanders: their husbands) which women performed for free, and for the entirety of their lives, not only kept them from reaching their potential, it helped men to reach their own!
This is still a reality for millions of women out there: in every country in the world, each generation of girls that is being given the (for many of them, sadly, still rare) opportunity of going to school, is according to studies (see: #2) doing great at it, being academically more gifted and OUTPERFORMING boys on all levels, even in countries in which there is a severe case of gender bias and inequality. Each one of them, full of promise and tremendous potential, which will be predictably wasted soon enough, (usually around or right after puberty in Third World countries, and usually right after college in the West), when they will be either forced, or else seduced to marry young, when a boy crosses their path, and thoughts of wedding gowns and wedding parties (not necessarily love, and this distinction needs to be made!) will attack their brain like a virus that spreads everywhere, erasing all non-romance related dreams, wiping out all other ambitions, homogenizing all ideals. A slow burning virus that was laying dormant ever since childhood, and which has been planted in their head the minute they heard their first fairy tale, their first love story. Each and everyone urging them to “marry young and then retire”, as the old Janis Ian song goes.
The sexism of fairy tales and rom-coms with their tales of beautiful and passive princesses and girls in permanent need of a rescue, who are predictably saved by princes (or in contemporary myths, by rich men) would of course have no hold on them, unless they were not also told that they are not much to begin with… Unless their self confidence was not crashed early on. Unless their insecurity - mostly about their looks – was not carefully cultivated, turning them into desperate creatures. Perpetually hungry for approval. Getting them ready to be seduced by anyone who would feed their hunger for it. Numbing momentarily their pain, and keeping the fear that they are just not pretty “enough” and so obviously also not “worthy of love”, at bay.
The message that comes from every direction is loud and clear: they can only be “someone” if a man says so! If a man chooses them. If he finds them sufficiently worthy of his time. Which is another way of saying “fuckable”. That’s how it goes. It started back when their mom promised them that if they were “good and pretty girls” they would too, one day, get to wear a magical wedding dress and get to have the most perfect of Days. A “Day” that would be “theirs!” (already implying that all the rest would not be so…) and be saved (from the misfortune of being born females obviously) by a man, who would come bearing rings and promises of ever afters. Giving them a home. And a purpose. Making their life finally worth living! The message was clear: “Beauty and youth are rewarded with men’s lust. Which leads to marriage. Which leads to a feeling of self-worth.” No alternatives available. Not for girls anyway…
The same narrative was repeated later with little variation in every romcom they’ ve ever watched as adults, and in every conversation they’ ve ever had with other women, in every magazine article, in every trashy romantic novel, in every Self-Help or even “serious” book on psychology they ‘ve ever read, punctuating the message again and again and again, branding it in their brain like a permanent neuro-tattoo. A compliment about their looks by a random mediocre stranger they would have never even noticed otherwise, and they would be goners. They would automatically assume that he is madly, completely, and eternally in love with them (instead of possibly just horny) and by that, they would convince theirselves also, that they too are in love with him, and would make it their mission to become his wife and the mother of his kids. They would want nothing more than get on that train that runs in endless circles, keeping them busy, making them feel like they are actually “going” somewhere: that they are finally important, and their life is finally making sense! And they would from then on, make sure to convince him to take that same train with them (it goes without saying, in the driver’s seat) by offering him a great deal of “adventurous” sex, or by denying to offer him any (not without a ring on their finger! No sir!) – depending on where they were born. (Both can work wonders BTW. Both can fog a man’s brain. Both can lead to marriage proposals… It’s THAT simple actually…)
So women of every generation embraced marriage and placed it in the center of all their concerns. Made it their own dream. (In fact, if not their ONLY dream, then certainly their most important one. The one that defined them.) And they went on and had their parties, and they wore their wedding dresses and the rings and the flowers in their hair proudly (and with relief), and by that, gained the right to look down on those who haven’t done the same. That was their prerogative! It wasn’ t much, but they have damn well earned it! (By enduring all kinds of daily indignities and losses) And in return, they've learned how to shut up when it came to men and sexism ( busily adding #notallmen #notmyhusband in feminist social media posts). They've learned to defend their "protectors". They've learned to make their world smaller. And by that, safer.
That’ s how marriage came to become the foundation of Patriarchy. The rock upon which it was built. By persuading women to become complicit in their own devaluation, in their own imprisonment! Whether we care to admit it or not, marriage and Patriarchy are interconnected and go-dependent: each exists because the other does. So much so, that if you are in doubt whether or not Patriarchy is having one hell of a great day again, all you have to do is look no further than to the marriage industry that is providing all the necessary bells and whistles to a wedding ceremony, which is more powerful than ever, as weddings are becoming bigger, more spectacular and over the top than ever before.
To this day, regardless of where you were born, what kind of education you have had, what kind of dreams or career, if you are a woman, no news about your life will EVER be so exciting as the news of getting married (even a pregnancy can out-shadow such an announcement!) A woman can graduate from an ivy league college with top honours, get her dream job, go on and become a CEO or even the president of her country, travel around the world, gain international recognition at her chosen field, be involved in politics, philanthropy or activism and affect positively countless lives, find love, or accomplish the most precious of achievements: live consciously, yet it is never enough! She can go out there and end world hunger, while bringing Peace to the Middle East, saving us from Global Warming AND curing fucking cancer all at the same time, she will still not be seen as equally “successful” or quite as “happy” as the girl who got married out of high school (not necessarily to a great guy mind you, but to ANY random guy) and spends her days cleaning after him. Because the girl who got married out of high school is still legitimated in her time-honoured patriarchal choices: there is no need for her to daily “prove” to the world that her life is indeed “happy”, because her choices were the “right” ones! Her lifestyle is "valid". It is self-proven! Her worth has been validated by proxy so to speak: she’s been chosen by a man! She got married. And that’ s enough for the world to see her as a “fulfilled” woman (Even when she is daily facing domestic violence!) She did things “right”. She can retire. She is done… She did what she was “supposed” to do! She fulfilled her “gender destiny” just like the women were forced to do in Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” which - let us face it - is an exaggerated reflection of our present. (see: #3) While the women who went out there and faced the world, and even had a go at changing it, and decided for a multitude of reasons that they could, and wanted to do it without a husband, will have to defend their every choice every single day, and for the rest of their lives (and hardly ever be convincing…) “How could such a stroke of bad lack (namely: living without a husband) have been a choice?” they will be told. “Who chooses THAT?!”Their own feelings about it, not counting at all. Because their life as actual individuals (as females!) doesn’ t count either…
That’ s how Patriarchy got to be around for so long. Because it was built on women’s roles as “wives-and-nothing-more”. It was built on women’ s lack of actual (political, economical, emotional) power and therefore on their lack of feelings of self worth. It was built on their fears and insecurities - which it made sure to keep feeding. And it was built on the constant threat of violence that was always larking out there, aimed at them. And because of that, on their need for a saviour. A man who would protect his “property” from other men, who in return would get to have authority over her body and her life. It’ s a nice little arrangement and it has worked for thousands of years.
In a world that denies them the right to have choices, the only remaining option for countless women out there, is in fact, marriage. Many of them, even today, while still being kids: each year, 15 million girls (28 girls every minute, 1 every 2 seconds!) are married before the age of 18, and are being denied a childhood, an education and a normal development. According to the ‘United Nations Children’ s Fund’, over 700 million women alive today, were married before 18, including some 250 million who wed before 15 (some as young as seven!) and usually to a much older man. Which makes this no more than legal paedophiolia!
As I have written in an older article (#4 ) millions of women are still literally being pushed into the marital cornerby the very fact they are denied the right to work or own property: according to a World Bank study (#5) "women's economic prospects are specifically limited by law, in 155 countries out of the 173 studied" Women own less than 20% of the world's land. (Though other statistics reveal a much grimmer reality especially in certain parts of the world, like for example the one conducted by FAO (see: #6) which refers to ownership of land and agricultural ownership. Additionally, according to the World Bank study: “In 100 economies, women face gender-based job restrictions. In 18 economies, husbands can legally prevent their wives from working”. Also, “lower legal gender equality is associated with fewer girls attending secondary school relative to boys, fewer women working or running businesses and a wider gender wage gap” . Which is to say, women and girls are still discriminated against in matter pertaining to their education and because of that their pursuit of a career. An estimated 58 million of primary school aged children, are still out of school, 31 million of them are girls. Gender inequalities in education are greatly increased in older ages. In fact, two-thirds of the world's illiterate adults are women. According to “The World’s Women” 2015 study (see: #7) 496 million women are illiterate.
Furthermore, in 100 countries, there are laws that specify which types of jobs women are allowed to have, and which are forbidden to them. In 30 counties, men are by law seen as the “head of the household” making all decisions on behalf of their wives and daughters, while In 19 countries, women are obliged by law to OBEY their husbands in ALL matters. In Cameroon, Chad, Chile, Indonesia, The Philippines, Sri Lanka, Togo and Zambia it is still illegal for women to own property, while others allow it only on paper. In Zimbabwe for example, their dead husband’s family forces widows out of their homes. A practise that is also common in parts of India. In Saudi Arabia, women need to have a “male guardian” who gets to make all major (or minor) decisions about their life. In 32 countries, women are legally obliged to get permission from their husbands to apply for a passport, (let alone use it!) Not to mention that most women in the Muslim world, need to have a father or husband’ s permission just to step out of their home,and they have to be accompanied by a male member of their family at all times (even a small boy is seen as a suitable guardian of their virtue, because even a small boy is seen as more important than them). In many Islamic countries, women are also not allowed to travel, study, marry, work, drive or even seek medical care when they are sick, unless their father or husband gives them the permission. In Saudi Arabia, it is still forbidden to women to drive a car or ride a bike, rendering them permanently dependent on their husbands and of course housebound. Riding a bike, is also forbidden in North Korea. In Nepal (and other countries), where women are seen as the most insignificant members of their households, they are only allowed to eat their husband’s leftovers - a fact that punctuates nicely the message that they are seen as worthless….
Yet, even when women are legally allowed to work they still face all kinds of dangers and discriminations, such as sexual harassment at work, which is incidentally not even illegal in nearly one-third of the world. A recent poll commissioned by the nonprofit humanitarian organisation CARE (see: #8) as an afterthought to the #MeToo movement, revealed that nearly one out of four men (23%) across eight countries from ALL continents (Australia, Ecuador, Egypt, India, South Africa, the U.S., the U.K. and Vietnam) “think it’s sometimes or always acceptable for an employer to ask or expect an employee to have intimate interactions such as sex with them, a family member or a friend”! Incidentally, the same poll also revealed that “in the U.K., 35 percent of people aged 25 to 35 years old believed it was sometimes or always acceptable to pinch a co-worker’s rear as a joke..." This shouldn't surprise us: according to a different study by UCLA’s WORLD Policy Analysis Centre, (see: #9) 235 million working women (living in 68 countries) are exposed to sexual harassment at work without any legal protection. Women living in 25 countries are also completely unprotected when it comes to “gender-based discrimination in compensation, promotions and/or demotions, or vocational training at work”. Even in the Western World, studies reveal that there is not only a serious wage gap between the sexes, but women need to have an extra degree (which translates into years of more studying and working and mountains of additional students loans) in order to get a chance (if at all) to earn as much as less educated men do. (see: "Women Can't Win" Study by the Georgetown University) #9b)
In short, in a world that denies them ALL other alternatives or in any case allows all kinds of obstacles to come between women and their professional goals, marriage remains for millions of them out there, the ONLY alternative. Yet it is hardly a safe one. In fact, it is often the very opposite of that, because the man they trust the most who was supposed to keep them safe from all the endless gender-based violence that is out there, is the very person they should fear the most: according to The World Health Organisation (see: #10), 1 in 3 (35%) of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence more often than not in the hands of an intimate partner or (more often than not) a husband. According to the World Bank study: 46 of the 100 countries covered have no laws specifically protecting women from domestic violence. Globally, as many as 38% of murders of women, are committed by a male intimate partner / husband, often as the result of domestic violence. The numbers go up when it comes specifically to American women: according to a new report released by CDC (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention see: #11) today 55% of all murders of American women were committed by a former or current partner / husband (or his family or friends!), while 93% of these cases were “related to intimate partner violence” which means these women were literally beaten to death! 15% of them while being pregnant! In short, women have less to fear from scary strangers than from their own husbands!
Conclusively, marriage as an institution, is the physical result of women’ s subordination and social exclusion: for thousands of years women existed in a world that denied them (that STILL does, in many parts of the world) the right to earn their own living, have money in their name, inherit their family’s property, or pretty much do anything without their father’s or husband’s permission. Marriage was created in order to give men (regular and "lawful") access to women's bodies and in return, keep women “protected” by the sexual violence that was specifically aimed at them by random men (which would “disgrace” them and by that “dishonour” their family), because the violence they would experience in the hands of their husbands would be justified and legal: he was acting within his God-given / law-given rights after all!
Marriage was in short created in order to keep women housed, fed, and in order to keep men sexually gratified on a regular basis. (Not to mention make them considerably wealthier as they got to be financially rewarded with dowries on top of gaining the right to inherit the property of their wife’ s family). The men were after all, the ones who would get to have a say in their choice of spouse, so marital sex was for, and about them – and that’s a detail we conveniently avoid to mention, when talking nostalgically about “traditional marriages” that used to last “for ever”). Women (underage girls really), were for endless generations being “given” to men in marriage (who were to them often complete strangers) like goods, without being allowed to have a say in the matter. (A phenomenon that gave birth to all those fairy tales about monsters who would marry young princesses – see “Beauty and the Beast”, Werewolves / Vampire / stories and all the rest which attempted to romanticise the phenomenon) And once they got married, these girls had no say in anything relating to their daily routines, finances, or sex life. They were no more than slaves: their life and their body was their husband’ s property. And that is the bottom line.
Men have trouble understanding how horrible, hopeless and horrifying it can be for a woman or a young girl to be given (or sold!) to a complete stranger who will be granted by a marriage certificate or his money the “right” to rape her. Possibly because they have trouble understanding what’s so bad about rape anyway? Sex is sex, right?! Plus most of them wouldn’t mind being “raped” by a woman (never mind that this is not even any woman's thing - let alone technically possible...) What if I offer this example to help them realise how a young girl would feel in such a situation? What if they, as young boys of say 14 or 15 (or as young as seven!) were being offered or possibly sold to a man (it has to be a MAN in order for make this analogy work... raping being their domain after all) who was twice their size and and possibly decades older than them, and had society, religion and law on his side too, who would get to rape them for the entirety of their lives and they would additionally be forced to obey him in all matters in exchange of being offered food and shelter? And to stretch further the analogy: what if their bodies and their souls as males, were somehow more complex machines and another body just being “there” would not do it for them, and they also needed intimacy and connection and having a choice in the matter, in order to enjoy sex? What if the entire world was structured in such a manner that it told them there was no need for them to feel sexual pleasure, and also that there were no alternatives for them, no escape routes, no salvation? What if they were totally dependent on their husband / jailer as they had no right to own property of have money of their own, and so should just shut up and take it up the ass and be OK with it? And what if they were also being brainwashed to think that this particular prison, this particular nightmare was in fact the most wonderful thing on Earth, because it was the only option available to them, because they were not good for anything else anyway? Plus they would get to wear a fancy tuxedo on their “Special Day” when the ass raping by a complete stranger would begin! And wouldn't that be lovely? Wouldn't that just be the best?!! Now imagine this: what if the brainwashing was so pervasive, so relentless, and had lasted for so long that it became part of their identity as males? And also what if all the above was happening to countless generations of boys and for thousands of years, resulting in their complete disenfranchisement and disempowerment? What kind of “spirit” do you think they would have? What kind of appetite to conquer the world and fight back? (Or open their eyes to the realities of this sick arrangement?) Does this make it any clearer? Does it answer the great question of why women LOOOOVE marriage?
For those of you who claim that this is a “dated” practise, and "not all marriages are like that” I remind you that “Rape of a woman or girl by her husband, is still expressly legal in at least 10 countries: Ghana, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Lesotho, Nigeria, Oman, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania, though one might add that it is considered “morally” legal in every single country in the world: a husband having sex with his wife even when she is not willing, is still widely considered being a husband’ s “right” and wife’ s “duty”” (see: #4) This is the sexual abuse nobody talks about. This is the #MeToo movement that will probably never happen. Because wives just would rather not admit to it publicly… Even after they’ve escaped their marriages.
The more or less obligatory sex a husband expects, if not demands – often legally - from his wife (who pretty much to this day, considers it “her duty”, as much as he considers it “his right”, (and all for the "sake of the marriage" of course!) is still by the way, the biggest incentive for guys to get married: who are we kidding? The woman is still in it for the social validation (when not for the financial one), the man is still in it for the regular sex! Which explains why there is a fast declining rate of men who are opting for it (a whopping 13% drop from 2000 to 2014) on account that they get their regular sex “fix” from other sources: namely from prostitutes, dating sites, but mostly, from Internet porn. (see: #12) This proves what we already knew: what most men are really looking for, going into marriage, is not companionship, family, intimacy, connection, or “growing old together”, but just sex with a woman who won’t have the freedom (or the guts) to say “No”. (On top of a laundry service!)
Marriage was also created in order to constrain female sexuality and to guide it towards procreation, never pleasure. Young, chaste, virginal, women who have never experienced sex (and so had no measure of comparison between their husband and other men, and therefore no demands…) were “rewarded” by marriage, while "experienced" women, were discarded as used goods... That’s how it went. That’s how it still goes for countless women out there. And NOT just in the Islamic / Third World. (Think of the “Virgin Pledges” young girls are actually signing and offering to their fathers in modern-day USA!!!) On the other hand, a man’ s loyalty and “enforced” monogamy was guaranteed (in theory at least) only by a marriage proposal, while his staying married, was guaranteed by the threat of social / religious consequences, and in recent decades, by the complex economic consequences of a “messy” divorce.
Sadly, marriage still makes sense because the world is still a hostile place for women. A world in which women have no insecurities and are given a fair chance of being financially independent, is a world in which they have no use for men’s rings, men’s names and men’s money (only their love) is a different one from the one we know. And because of that, it is a world in which men are forced to become worthy of them… But alas! this is not the world in which we live: ever since we are little girls, we are told that being a female is a dangerous thing. We are told we need to be scared. We are told that we are in permanent danger (and sadly, we ARE!) and it is implied that we are because of that, also in permanent need of a male protector. Who will get to save us from other males. That’ s the way it goes! Above all else, we are taught in a thousands ways that we are no more than our bodies. We are taught how to be insecure about them, how to hate them, how to compare them constantly with other women’s bodies (because men will do too!) We are taught how to live our life as if we are on a never ending, life-long beauty pageant, competing daily with other women for the attention of men. Because their attention is always short-spanned. And therefore precious. Which automatically makes THEM precious to our eyes. (And us insignificant!) We are taught how to feel like we are just never pretty enough, or slim enough, or curvy enough, and before you know it, young enough. This alone, can force us into submission even more affectively than our fear! This alone can force us into attaching our life to the first horny guy who proposes. Not because we really want it, but for the simple reason that he might be the last one who asks us. Who sees us as worthy of his lust… Even if he doesn’t wake up ours…)
As soon as we grow up, we also discover that pop culture, Art and literature (created by men), see us also as nothing but bodies (as sexual objects or fertile wombs), while religion assures us we are inferior, sinful things. Largely ignored by God, and deeply (in fact obsessively) despised by His representatives on Earth… And then we notice that we are overlooked as an actual demographic by politicians and law makers which view men as the default human beingsand their own needs, as the only ones that are worthy of consideration. Laws and everyday life, both tell us that we are not equals to men (not really!): even in First World countries we won’ t get paid the same. We won’ t be given a fair chance. We won’t be rewarded for our intelligence and talents and hard work. (Only for our looks! And only for a few years…) Our voice will not be heard in meetings. Our ideas will be ignored, ridiculed, stolen. (And explained back to us by those who have stolen them). Our minds will be underestimated, our opinions dismissed, our spirits crashed, our humanity disregarded, our dignity humiliated. Our bodies will be leered at, and groped and entered by men who will feel it is their right. Until it finally dawns on us: we won’ t be allowed to succeed (not unless we identify “success” with a wedding ceremony…) We won’ t climb up that corporate ladder. Not on our own! Not without a man pushing us and because of that, feeling free to look up our skirt - and help himself to what he fancies. And if by some miracle we will do it on our own, we need to understand that we should be ashamed of ourselves. We should feel guilty. And be ready to be seen as selfish, cold-hearted bitches. Too clever for our own good. The kind that scares men away. Because men don’t like a know-it-all. Someone who earns more money than they do. Someone who is powerful on her own right. Someone who is averse to flattering their ego. Someone whose existence in the world is enough of a reason for that ego to be deflated. Someone who is not OK with being harassed. Someone who is not in need of a rescuer. Someone who has no real need for a “provider”, but for a partner. Men don’t want a woman who is self-sufficient. Who works “too hard”. Who has ambitions. Dreams. A life of her own. Who is not satisfied with a life of washing his briefs (and if he’s rich, supervising those who do), and organising dinner parties for his clients. Looking pretty. (Because the 50s never really left… Not really. They are frozen inside of us all, beckoning on…) Spending her days shopping, or at spas and gyms and plastic surgeon’s waiting rooms. Being Istagram-worthy. With her selfie hand perpetually extended. Being grateful. Looking great. Keeping ageing and fat dutifully at bay. The world tells us that men don’t want intelligent girls. They don’ t want funny girls. They don’ t want girls who talk back. Who have ideas about things. Who have a smart mouth. The world tells us we need to keep our mouth shut, and our head down. To wear heels, and handcuffs and have Brazilians. Because women in porn, do all that. To be pleasant, and smiling, and eternally ageless (or else be OK with being replaced) and when it comes to sex, be up for anything. Fulfil our husband’ s porn fantasies. Be OK with him hitting us, humiliating us “recreationally”. In order to “keep him”. In order to “save the marriage” (which is permanently on shaky ground. Always in need of saving. And always by weird porn-inspired, violent sex acts). Not to “nag”. Not say what we actually feel, think, or - God forbid – actually need. To be manipulative instead of direct. To fake orgasms instead of saying what we actually like in bed. To wear our high heels and our thongs and play along. Pretend that cooking for him is the highlight of our day and our reason for living. And at the same time, pretending we like sports, and drinking beer with his friends, and playing video games and watching porn. (Or at the very least, re-enacting it) Pretend we are the kind of woman who is not offended by rape jokes. The kind who would gladly service him without needing anything in return. Other than designer bags and his name that is. Because we are “cool” girls. Aren’t we? We have no inhibitions. We are “adventurous”. We are “different”. The kind of wives men stay married to. We are as the song says (as so many, MANY songs say these days!) “worth it!”
The world still tells us we ought to be perpetually young, and pretty, and fertile, and “good sports”, and even if we are all that, it assures us that it won’t last long. That loneliness is the price of independence. Plus these are STILL the only things we are allowed to be, the only things that are of any actual use to us, in a male universe. Our only currency. Our only power - the power over a man’s hormones! We are told that even then, this power has an expiration date! There is a bomb inside our uterus that starts ticking the minute we hit puberty and that can go off at any minute. So we better hurry up. Not be picky. Not be demanding. Not think too much. Not wait for Mister Right. And for crying out loud, not be a fucking feminist! Just get on that train before it leaves the station. Get our man. Wear that ring. Save ourselves while we can! Maybe no other trains will be coming along. Maybe this train that is old and rackety and mediocre, and has weird smells, will be the very last that will stop by our station. We better get on it then. Find someone to give us a ring. And a reason to have a spectacular party in a spectacular dress. Someone to take care of us already. Pay the bills. Face the world for us. Fight our battles. Protect us from other men. Give us a name. A chance to brag! Save us from a life of pitiful unmarried existence. Make us feel we are like other women.
And men on the other hand, are told they have no expirations dates, no grounds for feeling threatened, disenfranchised, scared. Not when it comes to women at least. They are told they are good enough. Because they are men. Even if they weight 300 kilos. Even if they are octogenarians. Even they can hardly spell their own name. (And yes, even if they look – and act - like Henry Weinstein, Woody Allen or Louis C K…) Even if they are sex offenders or have been convicted for murder. There will always be a sufficiently desperate woman who will marry them. Even serial killers get dates, right? And get to walk down the prison's chapel aisle, with a woman holding tightly onto their arm. Expecting eagerly those good old conjugal visits. (Not even a pile of mutilated corpses can get in the way of a woman and her wedding day! Because, yes, women will marry ANYONE. As long as they are married...)
So men have no reasons for worrying, trying, adjusting, empathising, evolving! Young, willing, desperate, insecure, hungry for compliments, scared-out-of-their-fucking-minds women will always be out there. Panting for a ring.And a stranger’ s name they will take as their own, without a second thought. (Like theirs never existed. Like their own self never meant a thing!) They will always be out there hoping for their “Special Day”. For a respectability that would otherwise have been denied to them. They will always be out there. Being eager. Being bodies. Being what they need them to be. Gladly silencing their real self. Looking for a savior. (Any savior!) A father to their kids. A protector. A “provider”. A home. A feeling of belonging. A hallow promise of “eternity”. A red rose on Valentine’s (they will have to buy with God only knows what series of creepy one-sided, porn-inspired, violent sexual acts). A lie they need to hear. A husband! A name that’s not theirs, replacing their own. Someone to proudly take back home on holidays. Someone to stand bored beside them at weddings and funerals. Someone to smugly show off at family gatherings and high-school reunions and facebook posts. Someone to brag about for godsake! ANYONE! A generic someone with a set of XY chromosomes. That’s all it takes. That’s all they need from this world. And this need of theirs to be married no matter what, is the very thing that had kept men from evolving. From being accountable for their actions. From developing empathy! From facing the mirror and finally be faced with what their entire gender is reflecting into the world.
The bottom line is: in a world in which men are non violent and do not feel perfectly within their rights to discriminate against, threaten, control, buy, sell, stalk, harass, beat, rape, and kill women, (and largely go unpunished when they do!), and therefore in a world in which women need no protector; in a world in which men want more than a sex provider who cooks and cleans and looks good while doing it; in a world in which women are seen as more than just the sum of their body parts; in a world in which women are TRULY not condemned for their sexuality and face no prejudice when they have sex and kids out of wedlock; in a world in which men are looking for life partners instead of sex slaves, and women are looking for life partners instead of providers; in a world in which men are worthy of women’s trust, and their loyalty is not so fragile and short-lived that it needs to be secured by the legal complexities of marriage and divorce; in a world in which women have the right (which all men possess!) to actually age without that being a factor that diminishes their value as human beings and limits their options, forcing them to panic and make rash decisions; in a world in which women have the freedom to pursuit a career on TRULY equal terms with men, get an equal pay as them, and be rewarded for being intelligent, ambitious, talented, tenacious, hard working - instead of being condemned and despised for it; in a world in which women are not seen as cattle and motherhood is not seen as their higher and only TRULY legitimate purpose in life; in a world in which couples share housework and parental duties equally; in a world in which fathers understand that they are responsible for the lives they bring into the world, and there is therefore no need for them to be blackmailed into taking on the responsibilities of a parent only within the context of marriage – and even then reluctantly; in a world in which working single mothers are supported by the State and so still able to work and therefore not be in need of compromising solutions for the sake of their kids; in a world in which women have a healthy self-esteem and believe it their right to choose the best guy for their own individual (emotional, intellectual and sexual) needs, not just any guy so that they get have the coveted title of a “Mrs”, or the best financial solution for them and their kids; in a world in which women are seen as truly equal to men by law, society and religions, marriage just becomes immediately obsolete. In fact, it becomes a laughable relic.
No wonder it is still so popular!
A Saviour & Protector - That Old Marriage Trap – Part 1 - Art & worlds Copyright © Fanitsa Petrou. All Rights Reserved. Any unauthorised use – copying, publishing, printing, reselling, etc – will lead to legal implications.
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