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Archive for February 28th, 2011

Marriage masks?There a whole lotta blah, blah going on about marriage, its “holy bonds”, traditional roles, legal entanglements, etc., and I’ve done my share of blathering.

Yesterday’s post on infidelity, for example, was at least partially about pondering on the whole monogamy issue, the skirting around that happens to the tune of millions of bucks for modern-day cyber pimps and some offered thoughts that adultery dulls divorce tendencies.

Yes, marriage and partnerships of all sorts are a hot-button topic these days as many struggle to rearrange everything from expectations to laws. Although there is a strong tendency to hold to tradition, it’s harder to do that every year as society shifts radically.

Historically, it wasn’t all that long ago that ending a marriage by any method but death was almost unheard of. No matter the circumstances, marriage was a life sentence, and although that conveyed some stability the price was often higher than many wished they’d signed on for.

It wasn’t until 1979 that the USA shit-canned the last of the Head and Master laws, an appalling mandate based upon the “legal definition of marriage” that, “delegated the husband’s role as supporting the family and the wife’s as housekeeping, childrearing, and providing sex.”

“Head and Master” laws were a set of American property laws that permitted a husband to have final say regarding all household decisions and jointly owned property without his wife’s knowledge or consent, until 1979 when Louisiana became the final state to repeal them. Until then, the matter of who paid for property or whose name was on the deed had been irrelevant.

They meant the wife had no say over where or how a family lived, and a woman who refused to move at her husband’s demand could be sued for abandonment.

Some are still pissed off about the movement Betty Friedan started back in the ’60s with an article in “Good Housekeeping” shockingly titled Women are People, Too, blaming the women’s movement for the disintegration of the American family, but anyone with a firm grasp of the history … not just “Leave it to Beaver” episodes … in their head understands the costs at which families were held together before there were options.

The voices of tradition and the voices of Freudian sophistication tell us that we can desire no greater destiny than to glory in our role as women, in our own femininity. They tell us how to catch a man and keep him; how to breast-feed children and handle toilet training, sibling rivalry, adolescent rebellion; how to buy a dishwasher, cook Grandmother’s bread and gourmet snails, build a swimming pool with our own hands; how to dress, look, and act more feminine, and make marriage more exciting; how to keep our husbands from dying young and our sons from growing into delinquents.

They tell us — the psychologists and psychoanalysts and sociologists who keep tracing the neuroses of child and man back to mother — that all our frustrations were caused by education and emancipation, the striving for independence and equality with men, which made American women unfeminine. They tell us that the truly feminine woman turns her back on the careers, the higher education, the political rights, the opportunity to shape the major decisions of society for which the old-fashioned feminists fought.

Now a thousand expert voices pay tribute to our devotion from earliest girlhood to finding the husband and bearing the children who will give us happiness. They tell us to pity the “neurotic,” “unfeminine,” “unhappy” women who once wanted to be poets or physicists or Presidents, or whatever they had it in them to be. For a woman to have such aspirations, interests, goals of her own, the experts keep telling us, impairs not only her ability to love her husband and children but her ability to achieve her own sexual fulfillment.

That was written in 1963.

Of course, we still have many issues to deal with … domestic abuse, infidelity, unequal divisions of power and money, to name just a few … but the stranglehold of traditional values has loosed its grasp.

We don’t have to marry at all if we’d rather not, and not marrying no longer means a life of chaste spinsterhood. If we do marry, and marry badly, divorce is a viable option, much to the chagrin of those who see the option as the cause. (Often the same people who see sex education as the motivating factor in making teens horny … yeah … right … )

When we commit to a relationship we now have bargaining power, the result of which can be healthier, more productive partnerships.

Some will argue that children suffer under an opt-out system, but those who grew up in abusive and/or dysfunctional family units glued together by dictates outside the front door could present their suffering and scars for examination. Sure, a two-parent cohesive family is cool, but how many of those are there?

Laws have changed. Women have changed. Families have changed. Traditional roles have changed.

Good.

And while we’re on the topic of marriage, tradition, laws and change, same-sex marriage gets a mention, as well.

One argument against same-sex marriage arises from a rejection of the use of the word “marriage” as applied to same-sex couples, as well as objections about the legal and social status of marriage itself being applied to same-sex partners under any terminology. Other stated arguments include direct and indirect social consequences of same-sex marriages, parenting concerns, religious grounds, and tradition.

Sounds like the same load of shit that kept those “Head and Master Laws” in place for a ridiculously long time.

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