E. Napp Date: Historical Context



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Love and Marriage and Patriarchy


World History Name: _________________

E. Napp Date: _________________
Historical Context:

The establishment of Indian independence in 1947 led to important legal reforms regarding gender relations. Voting rights were extended to women by the Constitution of 1950, which also outlawed discrimination by sex. Laws adopted somewhat later provided for divorce by mutual consent, banned polygamy (except among Indian Muslims), and established the right of women to have abortions.




The new laws benefited upper-class, well-educated women who took advantage of increased opportunities for careers in politics, business, and education. However, as elsewhere, career women in India, regardless of the law and their abilities, were often unable to win acceptance as equals by their male colleagues and associates. Circumstances were far worse for the hundreds of millions of poor women, most of whom lived in India’s 560,000 rural villages. For these women issues such as access to the most minimal level of education, obtaining adequate nutrition and basic health care (especially relating to childbirth), and opportunities for paid work of any kind remained major concerns.


The continuing obstacles faced by Indian women led in the 1970s to the emergence of a feminist movement. As their counterparts did in other countries, Indian feminists founded organizations and journals, conducted major research on gender issues, lobbied governmental officials, became active in the labor movement, ran for public office, and organized protest demonstrations. The striking achievements in recent decades of Indian woman writers such as Anita Desai, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Gita Mehta, and Arundhati Roy gave literary expression to the new feminist activism.

Indian feminists have had to face more difficult challenges compared with those confronted by feminists in the West. The tradition of purdah (the physical exclusion of women) continues to be significant in India’s rural villages. In addition, owing to widespread poverty and the social pressure on families to provide dowries for their daughters, female infanticide in some rural regions is a serious problem. Finally, there is widespread prejudice in India against widows, a lingering legacy of the once-significant practice of widow-suicide (sati).
As the product of Indian realities (as well as contacts with feminists in the West and elsewhere), the views of Indian feminists have their own distinctiveness. The selection by Mahdu Kishwar, one of the leading feminists, provides us with an interesting illustration of this point. Kishwar’s essay, which appeared in the journal Manushi (woman), argues in favor of what she calls ‘family-arranged’ marriage (which is still the way most marriages come about in India), as opposed to Western-style ‘self-arranged’ marriage. The article led to much debate in the pages of Manushi and should not be understood as the authoritative view of India’s feminists on the issue of marriage. It is, nonetheless, an important statement and is included here because of the window it opens on important aspects of Indian society and culture in the late twentieth century.”

~ Documents in World History
Excerpts from The Article: Love and Marriage, Madhu Kishwar

Feminists, socialists and other radicals often project the system of arranged marriages as one of the key factors leading to women’s oppression in India. This view derives from the West, which recognises two supposedly polar opposite forms of marriage – “love marriage” versus arranged marriage. “Love marriages” are assumed to be superior because they are supposedly based on romance, understanding, and mutual love – they are said to facilitate compatibility. In “love marriages” the persons concerned are supposed to have married out of idealistic considerations while arranged marriages are assumed to be based on materialistic considerations, where parents and family dominate and deny individual choice to the young people. Consequently, family arranged marriages are believed to be lacklustre and loveless. It is assumed that in arranged marriages compatibility rarely exists because the couple are denied the opportunity to discover areas of common interests and base their life together on mutual understanding. Moving away from family arranged marriages towards love marriages is seen as an essential step towards building a better life for women. To it the social reformers add another favourite mantra – dowryless marriages as proof that money and status considerations play no role in determining the choice of one’s life partner. The two together – that is, a dowryless love marriage – is projected as the route to a happy married life.



Does experience bear this out? From what I have seen of them, “love marriages” compel me to conclude that most of them are not based on love and often end up being as big a bore or fiasco as many arranged marriages. Among the numerous cases I know I have found that often there is nothing more than a fleeting sexual attraction which does not last beyond the honeymoon period. And then the marriage is as loveless or even worse than a bad arranged marriage. Nor have I found any evidence that material considerations do not play as important a role in people’s choice when they decide to “fall in love” with someone with a view to matrimony…
My colleague Giri Deshingkar tells me an amusing story of the time he worked as a pool typist in England. Like most Indian men, he never wore a wedding ring. Mistaking him as an eligible bachelor, his female colleagues showered him with attention and competed with each other in wooing him. However, as soon as they got to know through a chance remark that he was already married, they dropped him like a hot brick. No more teas and coffees and other gestures of attention. Suddenly he became invisible for them. They would not hesitate to discuss their boyfriends and love affairs in his presence. He found them absolutely cynical in their calculation of who they were going to select as a target for loving attention. The experience cured him of all naive notions about love and romance.

This does not surprise me because I have seen these calculations at work at close quarters. For instance, during my university days, I found most of my fellow Mirandians from an English speaking elite background determined to “fall in love” with a Stephanian and would not “stoop” to have a relationship with a man from Khalsa or Rao Tula Ram College, because those were considered low status institutions, where people from ordinary middle class backgrounds went to study. The additional qualification they looked for was that the man family owns a house in one of South Delhi’s posh colonies. Thus men from colonies such as Jor Bagh, Golf Links or Sundar Nagar were much sought after. Likewise, sons of senior bureaucrats, ambassadors, and top industrialists could have the choicest pick among the beauties and cuties of Miranda House. But a man whose father was a small shopkeeper in Kamla Nagar or a clerk in a government office stood no chance, no matter how bright or decent he might be. I witnessed several instances of my fellow students ditching a man they had been having an affair with for years as soon as someone from a wealthier background appeared on the scene. Often they would not even bother to hide the crassness of their calculations; a friend conveniently “fell out of love” with her boyfriend who owned a motorbike in favour of someone who had a car to take her out on dates.


What are the main points of the passage?

















While many of my friends would have scoffed at the idea of their parents “arranging” for them to meet a man with a view to matrimony, they were only too eager to go to parties arranged by Stephanians so that they could pick girlfriends. In western campuses young people eagerly read notices of “Mixers” in order to find future mates.
Men do precisely what women do about “falling in love.” They take family status, who among her family are “green card” holders, and other such material considerations into account before they take the plunge.
While men and women may be somewhat more adventurous when choosing someone for a mere sexual affair, the same people tend to become far more “rational” in their calculations when “falling in love” is meant to be a prelude to marriage.
In the 1950s a study which is considered a classic on factors that determine love and marriage in America showed that it was easy to statistically predict the characteristics of the person a man or a woman is likely to fall in love with and marry. Three major factors that have a great influence on who a person falls in love with are: proximity, opportunity, and similarity. Thus it is no coincidence that most whites marry whites and that rich people marry among themselves even in a “free” society like America where marriages are self contracted. Why then are we surprised if most Brahmins marry within the Brahmin fold or Jats and Mahars do likewise in family contracted marriages?

Whatever the form of marriage, the motivations and calculations that go into it are fairly simple. Desire for regular sex, economic security, enhancement of one’s social status and the desire to have children all play a role in both kinds of marriages. Therefore, instead of describing them as “love” marriages, it is more appropriate to call them self arranged marriages. Love, in the sense of caring for another person, may even be altogether absent in these marriages. Therefore, I feel the term love marriage needs to be restricted to those marriages where people actually have a loving respect for each other and where there is continuing satisfaction in togetherness.


What are the main points of the passage?

















Self Arranged Marriages

Critics of the family arranged marriage system in India have rightly focused on how prospective brides are humiliated by being endlessly displayed for approval when marriages are being negotiated by families. The ritual of ladki dikhana, with the inevitable rejections women (now even men) often undergo before being selected, does indeed make the whole process extremely stressful.

However, women do not really escape the pressures of displaying and parading themselves in cultures where they are expected to have self arranged marriages. Witness the amount of effort a young woman in western societies has to put in to look attractive enough to hook eligible young men. One gets the feeling they are on constant self display as opposed to the periodic displays in family arranged marriages. Western women have to diet to stay trim since it is not fashionable nowadays to be fat, get artificial padding for their breasts (1.5 million American women are reported to have gone through silicon surgery to get their breasts reshaped or enlarged), try to get their complexion to glow, if not with real health, at least with a cosmetic blush. They must also learn how to be viewed as “attractive” and seductive to men, how to be a witty conversationalist as well as an ego booster – in short, to become the kind of appendage a man would feel proud to have around him. Needless to say, not all women manage to do all the above, though most drive themselves crazy trying. Western women have to compete hard with each other in order to hook a partner. And once having found him, they have to be alert to prevent other women from snatching him. So fierce is the pressure to keep off other grabbing females that in many cases if a woman is divorced or single she is unlikely to be invited over to a married friend’s house at a gathering of couples lest she try to grab someone else’s husband.

The humiliations western women have to go through, having first to grab a man, and then to devise strategies to keep other women off him, is in many ways much worse than what a woman in parent arranged marriages has to go through. She does not have to chase and hook men all by herself. Her father, her brother, her uncles and aunts and the entire kunba join together to hunt for a man. In that sense the woman concerned does not have to carry the burden of finding a husband all alone. And given the relative stability of marriage among communities where families take a lot of interest in keeping the marriage going, a woman is not so paranoid about her husband abandoning her in favour of a more attractive woman. Consequently, Indian women are not as desperate as their western counterparts to look for ever youthful, trim and sexually attractive marriage partners…

What are the main points of the passage?

















Inter Community Marriages

Hollywood, Hollywood propaganda tells us that passionate romance is the foundation of a real marriage; according to these mythmakers marriage is and ought to be an affair between two individuals. Marriages between people who defy caste, class, community and other prevalent norms are seen as demonstrating thereby their true love for each other and are glorified. This is not only over simplistic but highly erroneous.

Our crusades against social inequality and communal prejudices is one thing. The ingredients that make for a good marriage are quite another. A married couple is more likely to have a stable marriage if the spouses can take 90 per cent of things for granted and have to work at adjustment in no more than 10 percent of the areas of mutual living. The film Ek Duje ke Liye type of situation is very likely to spell disaster in real life. The hero and the heroine come from very different regional and linguistic groups. They don’t even understand each other’s languages and communicate mostly through sign or body language – yet are shown as willing to die for each other. In real life this may make for a brief sexual affair, but not a good marriage. The latter depends more on how well people understand and appreciate each other’s language, culture, food habits, personal nuances and quirks, and get along and win respect from each other’s family. If the income gap is too large and the standards of living of the two families are dramatically different, the couple are likely to find it much harder to adjust to each other.

The willing participation of the groom’s family is very often crucial to the well-being of a marriage especially if the couple lives in a joint family with the groom’s parents. But even if the couple is to live in a nuclear family after marriage, the support of her in-laws will help a woman keep her husband disciplined and domesticated. Most of my friends who have happy and secure marriages get along with their in-laws so well that they are confident that if their husbands were to behave irresponsibly or start extra marital affairs, their in-laws would not only side with the daughter in-law but go as far as to ask the son to quit the house.

What are the main points of the passage?

















Safety Measures for Women

I am not against self arranged marriages but I feel they have a poor track despite pompous claims about their superiority. A self arranged marriage cannot arrogate to itself the nomenclature of a love marriage unless it endures with love. My own experience of the world tells me that marriages in which the two people concerned genuinely love and respect each other, marriages which slowly grow in the direction of mutual understanding, are very rare even among groups and cultures who believe in the superiority of self arranged marriages.

The outcome of marriage depends on how realistic the calculations have been. For instance, a family may arrange the marriage of their daughter with a man settled in the USA in the hope of providing better life opportunities to the daughter. But if they have not been responsible enough to inquire carefully into the family, personal and professional history of the man, they could end up seriously jeopardizing their daughter’s well-being. He may have boasted of being a computer scientist but could turn out to be a low paid cab driver or a guard in New York. He could well be living with or married to an American woman and take the Indian wife to be no more than a domestic servant or a camouflage to please his parents. He could in addition be a drunkard given to violent bouts of temper. His being so far away from India would isolate the young wife from all sources of support and thus make her far more vulnerable than if she were married in the same city as her parents.

Another case at the other end of the spectrum could end up just as disastrously if the woman concerned makes wrong calculations. Let’s say a young student in an American University decides to arrange her marriage with a fellow student setting out to be a doctor. Through the years that her husband is studying to become a doctor, she works hard at a low or moderately paying job to support the family. When he becomes a doctor she decides to leave her job and have a baby. In a few years he becomes successful whereas she has become economically dependent on him. At this point he finds a lot of young and attractive women willing to fall at his feet and he decides to “fall in love” with one of them, divorces his wife and remarries a much younger woman. The wife is left at a time when she needs a marriage partner most. All she can hope to do is to get some kind of a financial settlement after lengthy legal proceedings. But that is not a substitute for a secure family.
The factors that decide the fate of women in marriage are:

Whether the woman has independent means of survival. If she is absolutely dependent on her husband’s goodwill for survival, she is more likely to have to lead a submissive life than if she is economically self-sufficient.

Whether or not her husband is willing and equipped to take on the responsibility that goes with having a family.

Whether or not a woman’s in-laws welcome her coming into the family and how eager they are to make it work.

How well the two families get along with and respect each other.

Whether or not there are social restraints through family and community control on men’s behaviour. In societies where men can get away with beating wives or abandoning them in favour of younger women, women tend to live in insecurity. However, in communities where a man who treats his wife badly is looked down upon and finds it harder to find another wife because of social stigma, men are more likely to behave with a measure of responsibility.

The ready availability of other women even after a man is known to have maltreated his wife tilts the balance against women. If men can easily find younger women as they grow older while women cannot as readily find marriage partners when they are older or divorced, the balance will inevitably tilt in favour of men irrespective of whether marriages in that culture are self arranged or parent arranged.


Whether or not her parents are willing to support her emotionally and financially if she is facing an abusive marriage. Most important of all is whether her parents are willing to give her the share due to her in their property and in the parental home. In communities where parents’ expectation concerning a daughter is that only her anhi (funeral pyre) should come out of her husband’s house, family pressure can prove really disastrous.
Undoubtedly, there are numerous situations whereby family elders do take an altogether unreasonable position; defiance of their tyranny then becomes inevitable, even desirable. Parents can often go wrong in their judgments. Parents must take into account their children’s best interests and preferences if they are to play a positive role.
We have to devise ways to tilt family support more in favour of women rather than seeking “freedom” by alienating oneself from this crucial source of support over-romanticizing self arranged marriages and insisting on individual choice in marriage as an end in itself rather than as one means to more stable, dignified and egalitarian marriages.

What are the main points of the passage?

















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