Art is the proper task of life

{June 2, 2007}   On Marriage and Men

This post started off as a comment on one of Sumera’s recent post but evolved into a post. There were a few points in Sumera’s post that caught my attention. First marriage being less appealing for women as they have more opportunities to be financially independent. Different people marry for different reasons and financial security is one of the main reasons, especially for women. (Note: That’s why I don’t diss doctor hunting aunties most of the time.) And there is nothing wrong with this reason since financial security is a very important thing in life. However those people who do have financial security sometimes seek something else. Reminds me of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. So allow me to put on my feminist hat and let me state that there may not be an essentialist essence of marriage. In other words there is no one particular arrangement of man and women being bound to one another that will satisfy all situations. Different arrangement may suffice for different eras and cultures. This should not be taken to mean that I saying something against any particular conception or arrangement of marriage. Socio-economic circumstances and life history are things that dictate such arrangements. Polygamy was once thought to be normal but now its either strictly forbidden in many countries or even looked down upon in some communities where it is legal. There may have been circumstances in the past that may have required it but circumstances change especially when men start exploiting something which is permissible for their own selfish ends. I always say if something (anything?) is allowed people, both men and women but in this case mostly men, will find ways to exploit. That’s the problem with rules and systems. They are essential but they also rise to loopholes, hence the law of unintended consequences.

Now the point about having different expectations for the son-in-law and for the daughter-in-law. I have noticed that the problem is almost universal but seems to be more pronounced in the desi culture (or it could just be the case that I have noticed this more before I know more about the desi culture.) Most of these problems arise because people fail to put themselves in the position of their daughter in laws (DILs) and the same applies for DILs in some case. It could just be part of the human tendency of not readily taking another person’s perspective. Do men get more from marriages? The short answer – yes selfish men do get more, most of the time anyway. I remember the true case of this desi woman whose husband used to regularly beat her, did not do work and act all pious in the mosque. ($#@ nonsense in the name of religion.) She did not contact the police for a long time because she was afraid of losing her children. Most other people also expected her to have patience (sabr). From that man’s perspective, life was a blast. He had a servant whom he did not have to pay anything who cooked, cleaned and hey he could even had sex with her in addition to a mistress that he had. What about the woman? She had to cook, clean and get beaten up by this man. Need I say more?

I do not want to sound like a man-hater which I am not so let me clarify a few points. Its good to have expectations from people but the expectations that we have should be similar for both men and women. Notice that I have said similar and not the same because I do recognize that men and women are built differently so they do have different roles. Letting one, or both, get away with anything destroys the balance in life. I have seen people turn away from Islam just because of this double standard in their culture (read desi). If more people do the same then don’t be surprised since many people try to pass their cultural practices for the religion of Islam. I usually don’t judge people but sometimes it is necessary to judge people and when one is judging people it is helpful to use the best of yardstick. The following is my yardstick and even if you pray five times a day, have a three feet long beard, like to throw random phrases in Arabic and memorized a thousand hadiaths I won’t be impressed by your so called religiosity if you do not measure up.

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh said) “The most perfect believers are the best in conduct and best of you are those who are best to their wives. (Ibn-Hanbal, No. 7396)


Sumera says:

Agree with you Aliana. The reason why I mentioned financial security was that in yesteryears gone by, most women married to secure themselves a good future. And that was obtained by having a husband who earned well. Having a career wasn’t seen to be an option for these women, but now things have changed. Being able to work and establish your own career, having independence all make marriage seem less and less appealing for some women – especially since they may have to give up and sacrifice a lot in the process.

Of course there is more to marriage than just financial security, but when you’ve gone from being able to make your own decisions, having independence and being able to pursue a career – the confined nature of some marriages (read Desi marriages) makes bachelorhood seem more appealing.

And your example of the woman being beaten by her “overtly religious” husband is a common one sadly. I find it amusing that women are told to be patient (sabr) and that all will be well. Some consider sacrificing their happiness to be worth it if it means the children dont split up from their father. I personally don’t understand that logic, then again im not a mother so perhaps thats why I can’t grasp it.

Religiosity cannot be taken as a measure or indicator of good character. SAdly they dont seem to go hand in hand these days. So kudos to you Aliana for not falling for that impressionable veneer. Think about it – a man spouting the odd Arabic word here/there (which really irks me, dont know about you but I think if you’re talking in English, then please stick to the one lingo!) and who adorns the long jubbah may be attractive to somebecause he “oozes” of “deen”. Best not to judge someone on appearance alone 😀

Aliana says:

Good point Sumera, so the ‘type’ of marriage that people end up in reflects other institutions of the society, the mobility (social but especially economic) that the society accords to both men and women.

For the example of the women, in her case she was given the impression that if she decides to run away from her husband her children will be taken away from her. In her case I would argue that it was case of internalization of assymetric gender role assignment prevalent in the desi culture.

For the point on appearence, I hear you. I have seen and heard more than my fair share of ‘fake’ sheikhs. The only thing that they are intereted is maintaing the status quo.

Haleem says:

You must also mention the fake hijabis who think just because they put on a hijab this excuses other unIslamic behavior like flirting too much with guys even though they are supposed to maintain some distance, etc.

Aliana says:

fake hijabis, my experience with such types are limited but I will take your word for it Haleem. Fake Sheikhs and fake hijabis, almost everything is fake these days!

Sumera says:

Aliana: I think in that example misinformation was key in exerting force and control over the woman – and for most women their Achilles heel, so to speak, are usually their children. Scare mongering is a frequently used tactic to grasp control and power amongst desi’s.

Haleem/Aliana: I think the problem with taking appearance as being an indicator of a pesons character is that we think its an “easy” and “effortless” method of sussing someone out. Although I do agree that first impressions last, but to deduce someone’s character (their very being/essence) requires more digging and exploring.

Fakeys all round! :p

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