Monday, June 2, 2008

Feminism, Love and Marriage

There was once a time when a marriage proposal might sound something like this:
...being, as I am, to inherit this estate after the death of your honoured father, (who, however, may live many years longer,) I could not satisfy myself without resolving to chuse a wife from among his daughters, that the loss to them might be as little as possible, when the melancholy event takes place - which, however, as I have already said, may not be for several years. This has been my motive, my fair cousin, and I flatter myself it will not sink me in your esteem. And now nothing remains for me but to assure you in the most animated language of the violence of my affection. To fortune I am perfectly indifferent, and shall make no demand of that nature on your father, since I am well aware that it could not be complied with; and that one thousand pounds in the 4 per cents. which will not be yours till after your mother's decease, is all that you may ever be entitled to. On that head, therefore, I shall be uniformly silent; and you may assure yourself that no ungenerous reproach shall ever pass my lips when we are married.
Sure, the above excerpt from Mr. Collins' proposal to Elizabeth in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is exaggerated a bit, for laughs. Yet, when taken with Charlotte Lucas' acceptance of a similar proposal,
Without thinking highly either of men or of matrimony, marriage had always been her object; it was the only honourable provision for well-educated young women of small fortune, and must be their pleasantest preservative from want,
Mr. Collins' certainty that he cannot be rejected - his sense of entitlement - gives us a glimpse into what marriage has sometimes been.

Yet, this weekend I celebrated my one-year anniversary, and I have to say - marriage is wonderful. Seriously - marriage has meant recognition of the fact that we mean to plan our lives together - not to mention a great honeymoon and someone to watch Star Wars with whenever we want (the original trilogy, of course). Yet, as we sat drinking sangria and reminiscing about our first year this evening, my husband said, "You know, the opportunity we had to fall in love and get married free from all those social and financial obligations and responsibilities is a real luxury, even now." He is right, of course, and I have the sinking suspicion that he's a better feminist than I am.

So tonight I ask, how has feminism intersected with other people's love lives? Are you married, opposed to marriage, or still struggling for the right to be married? Have you managed to find a romantic relationship that is freeing rather than confining? Do you believe those types of relationships even exist?

14 comments:

uncensoredfeminista said...

I am in a domestic relationship with a wonderful man whom I would love to marry and am helping to raise his child. If you've ever seen Sex & the City, this man is Mr. Big when it comes to commitment issues for the same reason as big: burned in the past by women. What pisses me off to no end is that I'm the one that has to be burdened with the faults of another. I'm 31, I want to have children pretty badly-which probably goes against all feminist ideology, but it's my choice and something that I've always wanted for myself- and I don't care if I marry him before I have kids with him, but he's pretty insistent on it because his first child was not planned and was not in the way he would like it to be. He's already done things the non-traditional way, so now he wants to do things in the proper order, but he's so traumatized from what she put him through that I have to wonder if I'll ever get my shot at a family.

Ok, so now that I ranted about my issues, I think we do have a pretty free relationship, because had we been dating some 50/60 (or maybe less) years ago living together and raising his child from a previous marriage would be seen as obscene. I think the fact that we're able to live together as a family without being married yet, is incredible, and the fact that I'm doing this while working full-time and am and undergrad is equally amazing. This would not have been an option nor an availability to me some decades ago.

La Pobre Habladora said...

Wanting to have kids doesn't go against most modern feminist ideologies, I don't think. It doesn't go against mine, anyway. The struggle mostly seems to be getting the opportunity to invest time in family despite the ever-increasing demands of work. It sounds like you and your Mr. Big are already doing that part of the balancing act pretty well, though, all while juggling work and education. It's a big job.

It is also great that we are becoming more open to recognizing more types of families, although it can still be a struggle in some environments. Is your family pushing for a 'traditional marriage' as well?

uncensoredfeminista said...

My family would be happy at this point if I just popped out a kid. I keep getting the, "when am I going to see grandkids!?" comments from my parents. They don't even care about the marriage portion anymore, they just want to see me have kids, but I have a theory behind that. I was married and that was disastrous. I left the relationship after furniture started flying at me, so I think they realized that the marriage portion wasn't all that important anymore, now they just want the kids.

I think at this point they just want to see me happy. If that means having kids outside of a marriage, so be it.

Dee said...

Happy anniversary!

Having gotten married in my mid twenties an "older man" I found it a bit of a struggle in the early days of my marriage especially since I had a son within the year and was working. But hubby stepped up to the plate eventually, taking it on when I got back to work and supporting me when I took a few years off.

Now he seems more domesticated than I am and that suits me just fine.

I would say however that maturity is highly recommended when one is thinking of entering a marriage and one cannot assume that the older party is the more mature :-) Ha, ha.

Further financial obligations and constraints can have a real negative effect that never fear can be overcome with commitment, love, a sense of responsibility and of course good old maturity.

Lynn said...

Wait- I have to question why uncensoredfeminista thinks having children goes against feminist ideology.

That's not true and kind of upsets me when I hear that. Feminism is about choices, and making choices possible for all women. Not being pushed to have children or not have children- but that all lifestyles are valid.

Anyway- that said- I think that there is a difference between religious marriage and civil marriage. I have the latter, and think they are two different things. I have a hetero civil union although I cannot call it that legally.

I think love is one thing, commitment another...then there were the logistics like health insurance and mortgages and things of that nature that made marriage become increasingly at issue.

I could watch Star Wars with anyone, without any piece of paper or formal arrangement. So can anyone. That, to me, is not what makes marriage a different status. What makes it different is that you can legally make decisions together, protect one another's interests in ways you cannot legally do...yet.

La Pobre Habladora said...

Uncensored, your family sounds like my grandmother, who was surprisingly quick to remind me that I didn't have to get married to give her a great-grandbaby - she was tired of waiting for me to tie the knot. I think I was too surprised to even laugh!

Dee, thanks for the warm wishes! It sounds like you and your husband have done a great job of supporting each other and breaking any rules that needed breaking!

Lynn, you are totally right that getting married doesn't change the emotional part of any loving relationship - it just gives that relationship some legal clout. I like the idea of completely separating the legal and civil elements of marriage. Everyone should only be able to get civil unions through the state, which would afford everyone the same legal rights. Anyone who wants a religious blessing of their union as well could then go get a marriage from whatever religious institution they saw fit. It takes the semantic debate over the definition of marriage out of the hands of the state, and under the jurisdiction of individual churches etc.

uncensoredfeminista said...

Marriage by church and state technically is two separate things, but when you get married by the church it's taking those separate types of marriage and combining them into one. Because of this I don't see any problem with people being able to get married by the state whether they're gay or not, and I'm sick and tired of them not being able to do so because of some high and mighty politician has different moral beliefs. Last time I checked, these politician weren't the ones marrying someone from the same sex so why does they care?! Love is love, and wanting to share your life and be responsible for another life-should there come a time to do so- is beautiful and I don't think it should matter if you're of the same sex or opposite sexes, I feel you should be able to spend your life with whomever you damn well please.

Now, I have to make a comment about my thing to want to have a baby. I'm borderline obsessing over it to the point where I'm afraid that I'm sounding like one of those girls that everyone talks badly about that is constantly trying to put their partner into a position they don't want to be in. I talk with him about it at the very minimum of once a week. That's why I made that comment because I'm the bad feminist that makes the guys squirm because I'm trying to make clear to my boyfriend the urgency to which I want to have a child and all the fears I have about having one later in life, like over 35. I feel badly about reminding him every that I want a kid, but at the same time...I want a kid so I'm in a dilemma.

Another Anonymous Poster said...

That's right, I forgot - happy anniversary, you two!

Bitches Bruze said...

Happy Anniversary. Dr. Zeus and I just celebrated 19!

I'm with Lynn on the Civil Union thing. I live in Vermont and I cannot legally have a CU because the law prohibits partners of expressed opposite gender from obtaining one. I have thought one possible approach to busting through and calling it all "marriage" (although I'd prefer that the government ONLY recognize CUs) would be to sue for the right for mixed genders to CU.

I do love my partner. What that means changes and morphs over time - from minute to minute, decade to decade.

I am not an advocate for marriage for most people because I find most people set marriage as a social life goal rather than an organic union of people who want to manage a household. Marriage works for me and I feel strongly it should be available to anyone who can competently choose.

Feminism? It intersects negatively with marriage if my partner feels I choose it over our partnership. Generally its invisible.

Yes, this marriage liberates me to do and be a lot that if I'd try to explain it and you didn't already know, you wouldn't understand.

Habladora said...

Hummm... how would feminism get chosen over the partnership? For me, yeah, I guess it generally is invisible - as it always is when things are working well. I have the sort of partner who shares in domestic duties - man, is he a great chef - and really encourages me in everything I want to do. So, I guess that's pretty feminist.

Oh, and 19 years! Damn! Congratulations! I hope it was one big party!

Bitches Bruze said...

How can feminism be chosen over a partnership?

Maybe it can't.

Maybe its if sexism is chosen over the partnership - regardless of the originating gender.

My partner has some times felt that things I have said, expressed, or acted on was female-sexism. I didn't feel that way. It was a thing. At a time. Obviously whatever it was we both got over and past it. Heck, he's a ref in a sport that will not allow men to join or vote but works their behinds off on skates to referee us! :)

V said...

Happy Anniversary!! And many more to come! :)

Lyndsay said...

Well, I don't see the need to get married and have sometimes felt like I might not but if I stay with my boyfriend I know he'll want to marry. I've thought about marriage and thought in essence, how is it sexist? It is a relationship between two people being recognized by law. Of course many things about marriage are sexist and marriage is overall more beneficial for men, etc. I also realized part of what I'm against is the big romanticized wedding that is sometimes talked about more than marriage. But people can wed in any way. They can elope.
I talk about feminism all the time with my boyfriend. I would say our relationship is freeing. I can really be myself and talk to him about anything.

Habladora said...

Well, you already know that I fall on the 'marriage isn't inherently sexist' side of this argument. Yet, our government's denying the right to marry to lesbian and gay couples makes it clash with most people's feminism, and some wedding traditions point to, well, 'traditional' sexist attitudes. But you can write your own vows and choose what 'traditional' elements you are going to put in a ceremony, and which you will cut. And... elope if you can! Of course, I said that I wished I could just elope to a gay friend of mine, and he replied that if he could get married, he would throw the most extravagant party the world has ever seen. So, even complaining about the frills felt like I was taking my privilege for granted...