Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Admit impediments

(Confused about the title? See Sonnet 116.)

Faithful visitors to the Barn will know that there is much disquiet among the livestock about the ghastly fetish society has for marriage.

It's a fairly egalitarian fetish, as these things go, shared equally by cranks whose powers are mercifully limited to writing stupid Forum letters and cranks of considerably more influence. Sulthan "Spoilt Princess" Niaz has the benefit of honesty; he at least more or less out-and-out acknowledged that his vision of marriage was unattractive and unpleasant to women. Lee Kuan Yew's "sadness" on behalf of unmarried women (who by his own account are perfectly happy) lacks even that virtue. He just knows, knows, knows, in his infallible bones, that we females* need this thing that we haven't chosen.

And which, according to this excellent article from British newspaper The Guardian, in some developed countries at least, statistically correlates to poorer health and happiness outcomes for women:
In Committed: A Sceptic Makes Peace With Marriage, the follow-up to her international bestseller Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert tries to answer why we make such a hash of it. She uncovers sobering facts about what sociologists call the "marriage benefit imbalance", showing that marriage is an institution that greatly benefits men, not women. A partial list: married men live longer than single men; married men accumulate more wealth than single men; married men are far less likely to die a violent death than single men; married men report themselves to be much happier than single men, and married men suffer less alcoholism, drug addiction and depression than single men. [...] But married women versus single? There's more depression, less career success and less good health in married women and, until recently, a greater chance of dying a violent death – usually at the hands of the men they love.

Only last month another study came out of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Germany which showed that women who are seven to nine years older than their husbands have a 20% higher mortality rate than if they were the same age. Marrying an older man shortens a woman's life span, but having a young husband reduces it even more, the study found.
In Singapore, you can add the fact that most women who contract HIV do so from partners, including husbands, to whom they have been faithful.

I'm not writing this to knock marriage. It works for some people, and we should all be very happy for them. But this universal assumption that it is or should be every woman's goal in life, and the ordering of our cultural and political priorities around that assumption, and the relentless delegitimisation and hounding of women who might choose differently? Those are pure poison.

The Guardian article quotes Stephanie Coontz, author of Marriage, A History, as saying, "It is the relationship, not the institution, that is the key."

As all Magical Chickens (global population: 1) like to say, "No shit, Sherlock."

* After the revolution, everytime someone uses "female" as a noun when they mean women and/or girls, they will be given 50 hours of remedial English lessons through the medium of interpretive dance as performed by a troupe of sea slugs. Consider yourself warned.

1 comment:

  1. I was looking through some parliamentary records and chanced upon this statement (amongst others) made by A/P Ho Peng Kee, Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs in 2007, during the Penal Code review:

    "Sir, we received feedback expressing concern that there could be sexual abuse of male persons with disability by exploitative females. On reflection, we will now make it an offence for a female to engage in sexual activities with a male person with mental disability, to also include penile-penetrative acts."

    So men are male persons, but women are merely females. Got it.

    -Complaining Cow


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