We Have Brains - Marriage, 2002-09-09, 6:54 a.m.
Here from before? Click here to pick up from the new part. Just reading now? Best way to start is at the beginning.
We have brains asks:
Marriage seems to be a hot topic in my life recently. I've read about it, heard about it from my friends. Even within this group: over the past few weeks, some of us have been engaged, separated, married. We've been everywhere.
So, how does that relate to our feminism? I'm curious how each person's other beliefs impact the decision to marry and how that can be generalized (if at all). How have feminism and gay rights effected the way our generation (defined loosely as people who've grown up since the 1970's) views marriage and commitment?
Of course, this is not just a question of heterosexual relationships - as if that's not obvious. In fact, it can almost be generalized to the question of monogamy: what is the meaning of commitment and "love" as seen through the lens of your other beliefs?
I, as always it seems, am pro choice with issues such as marriage. For me, marriage is right. For others, it would be a bad choice and one that they shouldn't be pressured to make.
I don't think that anyone needs someone else to be worthy. I don't think you need to be married to start your life, to start someone elseís or to be considered accomplished. Marriage should be the joining of friends who want to place each other in a different position in each otherís lives. It is a starting of a new chapter in each otherís lives. There are other ways to accomplish this and so many ways to do it all. I'm focusing on marriage between two people in this discussion.
D. and myself once overheard a female talking. Rude yes, but I will share as it shocked me. She made the statement that now that she was living with her boyfriend and had a child that her life had begun. That was the term she used. Finally, her life had begun. D. and I looked at each other, shocked. This girl was my age. She was born in the mid-seventies, grew up through the eighties and nineties and lived in the same era as I. Yet, her life was beginning because of the entrance of others into it.
I don't believe marriage has that power. Marriage is a celebration of two lives - presumably you need to have already begun yours to be able to celebrate its joining with another.
* As Astridiana points out, marriage is not anti-feminist. Marriage is, as I've stated, a celebration of your relationship. This means you enter as equals - or at least it should. And as equals, you hold your own opinions and thoughts that you don't sacrifice when you marry. Or at least you shouldn't. When I got married, I sacrificed none of my principles or beliefs. I did not expect that D. would either. And if he did, he wouldn't be the man I married. Marriage is part of my life. So is feminism. Both are parts I hold dear.
There is a quote that is often attributed to Gloria Steinman, but was first stated by Irina Dunn in 1970 - "A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle". I have to disagree on some fronts and agree on others. I need a man to get me through life as much as a fish would need a bicycle. I make my own money, I am independent. But I do need a companion. I need support. I need someone to hold me when I cry, to make me laugh when I'm blue and laugh more when I'm happy. I need someone to share a past with and plan a future with. I could and should, quite easily, substitute 'want' for all of those needs. I don't really need that. I can survive without someone else. But why? Life is better with someone, at least for me. Perhaps it's due to the someone. There are many that would make me crave life alone. Having a partner who is supportive, emotionally and financially when you give up working and go back to school is great. Having a partner who will work with you when you're holding back sewer water from your apartment for fourteen hours is amazing. Having someone who will hold you through the depression that occurs when your kitten cat dies and support you through the happiness of raising another baby cat is lovely. Having someone to laugh with, to repeat funny lines from television shows over and over again, to hold tight when mourning, to cuddle close when cold is wonderful. Life can be perfect by itself, but why not have someone to share it with? At the very least you have someone who understands all your stories without the need of to much background information.
There is plenty of my life that I forge alone or in different relationships. I am a teacher, a masters student, a daughter, a sister, a mentor, a friend, a womyn, a friend, a reader, a singer, a feminist, an activist, a geek, a shoe lover, a barefoot enthusiast, a vegetarian - a plethora of definitions for those who wish to define me. I was all of these before marriage and I am all of these things after marriage. Living my life entwined with someone elseís does not change that, nor does it alter that. A fish may not need a bicycle, but damn, sometimes they they're have a bit of fun riding one.
That said, if anything goes wrong - if I feel the relationship has lost the equality that it needs to survive, I will leave. I will try to fix it, but there are lines that cannot be crossed. I doubt they ever will be - I choose my lifetime friend carefully. I just had to make that point. Perhaps this is what feminism has brought to marriage. I can survive financially and emotionally on my own. I am strong and I am independent. This is different, I believe, from marriages where the effects of feminism have not impacted. If I felt my life began with my wedding, I don't think I'd have the strength to leave.
I say that I do not need someone. I'm not going to specify a gender. For me, a male is whom I've chosen to live my life with. For others, they may choose a female. Same or different sex, living a life with the support of another can be wonderful. I believe we should live life like Alyssa Jones states in Chasing Amy and not half our options based on some preached upon decree. It is, as the tagline states, not who you love but how.
To me, once again, marriage is a celebration. It is also a formalizing. D. and I decided to marry because it felt right. We lived together for four years before that. We could have lived together for 50 years and made the decision for that formal ceremony and the celebration. We had our wedding our way and did it surrounded by those we love. The judge made many remarks about marriage being a joining of two lives and how we will live our lives separate but together. We spent some money on it, but that wasn't the point. It was providing a venue for those we love to celebrate in our love. We wanted to be able to celebrate our marriage, not concentrate on the wedding and leave it at that.
Which brings me to a part of weddings that bothers me. The cost. Considering that that the average cost of a wedding in Canada is 22,000$ (in the US, it's the same or a bit higher - I can't remember)and that 1 in every two marriages end in divorce, that's a lot of planning gone into weddings and less gone into marriages. Or at least a lot of money gone into weddings. We planning our wedding in a little over a month and brought the average down a whole lot. And I think, if we evolve as we are and as we have been, we'll stay together. So often, we look at the details of a wedding - the favours, the bridesmaids in differing pastel dresses, the cold plate. We look and we wonder - will they make it? For 22,000$ you know that there was a heck of a lot of spending gone into the wedding, thus there must have been a lot of planning. Then the couple breaks up. And we wonder why. Perhaps they didn't know each other. Perhaps they did but changed. Perhaps they weren't ready to start that chapter of their lives - maybe they skipped ahead a few chapters in haste, hoping to get to the end. Or, perhaps they saw this chapter as the beginning and missed out on the opening details.
As I read in a magazine, it's sad that people can state exactly what favour they will give out at their wedding but not if they'll raise their children in a particular religious faith. They can describe the exact floral arrangement they desire, but not who is going to do the taxes and who is going to take out the trash. I'm a big fan of sex and living together before marriage, just to help emphasise the need for planning for your life together. This doesnít work for everyone and everyone has his or her own way of planning. It's better to know you can't live together before you've spent the 22,000$ rather than after.
But I digress. A wedding is not a marriage, nor should the planning that goes into one be considered a replacement for planning for a marriage. And within this planning, you need to understand the ideas that the other person has on what is important to you. You need to sort out money and housework and not go in with expectations which are unachieved and which disappoint you. You need to be equal partners in this relationship, realizing that you are both different people with different needs and backgrounds. You need to learn to make it work. And you have to remember that the lines 'for better and worse, richer and poorer, sickness and in health' weren't written on a whim.