Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Of Women, Economics and Marriage

As provocative as it may sound to some, it was a well argued view in some circles that marriage for most woman is glorified prostitution. For these people, often Western feminists, marriage from a cold and cynical view was most times a contract of women selling their bodies for financial return and economic stability. The woman gave sex and their reproductive functions in return for the house, etc etc.

While this view held up really well up to a few decades ago for most women, does it still hold now? For some women around the world, marriage can still be described aptly as a contract with their financial benefactor, a husband. The husband provides for them financially. He is the only one who can own property so he provides the shelter. They women usually 'work' at or around the home and they may get money actual dollars to support this 'work'.

But for modern day women in the Western world this can't apply? The women I know earn their own money, most times are an active partner in their marriages. They certainly don't get matched up with the highest bidder. The terms and conditions of their marriage contracts are negotiated partly on their terms. They have much say about reproduction and their partners share in the traditionally unpaid women's house/home work.

As women gain more economic power and share in the financial and economic responsibilities of marriage, family and home, the old definition of wife equals glorified prostitution no longer holds its sting; at least not for the majority of Western women.

6 comments:

Abeni said...

Some western women still look for a rich man to better their lives.But they say marriage is a contract so I guess you look for what benefits you.But interesting way of looking at marriage as glorified prostitution.

Abeni said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
ThandieLand said...

I just heard this today: Half of all the things men do for us is beacuse they are afraid of not getting sex. That is all we have..."


I guess the modern woman circumstances have not changed that much eh? This thing is kinna funny you know. :)

Jdid said...

Men obsolete by 2050I posted that last month

ThandieLand said...

Hahaha Jdid.. Nice little scenario. But as most responses said men would never be obsolete. Most jsut need to adjust.

Have you ever read Facing Mount Kenya by Jomo Kenyatta? It starts with a Kikuyu fable which says women ruled the world a long time ago. They lived in communities with men but separate. The women only interacted with men by picking from among them for having children and pleasure. When they were done with the men they would send them back to their male groups to do whatever men do; hunting and protecting the community from wild animals etc.

But women were in charge, they made the decisions about which man they mated with, where they lived and the direction the communities took. The women raised all the children among themselves. When their sons got be a certain age they sent them to join the men.

The men got fed up and wanted to lead, they wanted the power. They plotted and decided to get as many women pregnant at the same time. They were successful and when of the women were heavy with pregnancy the men took over the world and the rest is history.

See? Your imaginings may not be as unique as you think. :)

cahapa said...

The whole idea of marriage as prostitution is a relatively new invention of middle class white women who did not work outside their homes (and often did not work inside them either! relying instead on the labor of poor, more likely than not women of color). The idea of a 'wife' who did not contribute to the family's economy (wage earning or subsistence) and thus relied exclusively on her husband's income is something completely alien to most women, including most white women and certainly the majority of women of color. We have not had the good fortune of ‘getting paid to get laid’. More often our experience of sex (often with the husband's of these white middle class women) was far more exploitative - we didn’t even get paid for that shit!

More recently these self same white middle class women (WMW) have found new ways to colonize discourse on and about women by using the ‘marriage as prostitution’ notion to judge marital arrangements that involve dowry (either from the woman’s family as in many Indian cultures or from the man’s family as in many West African countries). Please note that calculations of future earnings of prospective husbands is defined as ‘different’ (read more acceptable) and not subject to the negative connotations of dowry.

I for one don’t buy it.

WMW ironically center their definition of self (as woman) around the binary (woman as “Other”), euro-American, patriarchal, nuclear family structure. Therefore, women are defined primarily in terms of their relations with men, and specifically in relation to men as husbands. Hence in western thought, marriage is seen as oppositional and foundational for the definition of women.
Furthermore, as typified by western market concepts, human relations are commoditized so we arrive at the ‘market economy of marriage’. In their view, the good old days of barter and negotiation are lower (read backward) forms of economy. In a ‘real’ (read western) market, one does not barter or exchange, one buys. Hence marriage as prostitution.
Suffice it to say – if we accept that a woman is fundamentally defined by her (oppositional and bought) relation to her husband then marriage cannot have positive connotations.

Contrarily, there are many who argue that for women as a group, a more foundational relationship is probably the Mother-Child relationship. Moreover, there are many who argue that human relations are not fundamentally ruled by static purchase or sold status but by dynamic negotiation and bargaining (what works in International Relations works in the household however defined – and as proof of this I present the well known adage of “having a headache” – women negotiate sex with men all the time – albeit with varying levels of success).

For a fluent discussion on the hegemonic practices of WMW see Oyeronke Oyewumi’s Conceptualizing Gender: The Eurocentric Foundations of Feminist Concepts in Issue 3, Feminism and Africa, http://www.jendajournal.com/.

For an excellent treatment of the “Other” in western thought and it’s detrimental effects on Africans and African Caribbeans se Frantz Fanon’s masterpiece, Wretched of the Earth.