marriage

The Second Shift

Alexis Coe at The Atlantic reports on sociologists’ finding that women who earn high wages do not necessarily outsource the cooking or cleaning at home either to paid employees or to their husbands or children.

Housework has a performative quality to it, and conforming to traditional gender norms may produce social and psychological rewards. This is true for [sociologist Alexandra] Killewald, who said while she and her husband often cook meals together, when her mother-in-law is expected for dinner, she not only cooks the meal, but urges her husband to make it clear that she was the chef. “That’s important to me because I’m showing [my mother-in-law] that I’m a good wife,” she said. “Those expectations don’t fall on fathers and men.”

I work fewer hours than my wife, but if she sees me washing a big stack of dishes she’s still all too likely to engage in some sort of self-condemnation.

I Really Thought the Honeymoon Phase Would Last Longer Than Two Weeks

Complaining that the first year of marriage is hard isn’t particularly groundbreaking, but I found this idea from Lindsey Capperrune’s story at The Good Women Project insightful:

As if marriage is the start of it all. It’s a fallacy that life begins there and everything prior to the vows evaporates suddenly. I’m not sure why exactly; maybe we want it to be that way, or we know it’d be easier that way. Maybe because we want to be the only life our new spouse has ever known, but the truth is life begins before “I do.”

You bring your family, your norms and values, your “we’ve always done it” ways and you marry a person who just happens to have those ways too and you collide. You find yourself wondering, “Why does he do it like that?! Why does the garbage sit there in a bag by the back door? Why does he fold his underwear?”

And things he probably asked of me: Why are we having cupcakes for dinner? And why do you steal the covers every. single. night?

John Piper, Spousal Abuse, and Empowerment

Dianna E. Anderson deconstructs a recent clarification John Piper made on his blog to a response he gave during a Q&A a little over two years ago in response to a question about how women should respond to spousal abuse. This was Piper’s original statement:

Part of that answer’s clearly going to depend on what kind of abuse we’re dealing with here … .

If this man, for example, is calling her to engage in abusive acts willingly—group sex, or something really weird, bizarre, harmful, that clearly would be sin. Then the way she submits—and I really think this is possible, it’s kind of paradoxical [sic]. She’s not going to go there. I’m saying no, she’s not going to do what Jesus would disapprove [sic], even though the husband is asking her to do it.

She’s going to say, however, something like, “Honey, I want so much to follow you as my leader. I think God calls me to do that, and I would love to do that. It would be sweet to me if I could enjoy your leadership.” And so—then she would say—“But if you would ask me to do this, require this of me, then I can’t—I can’t go there.”

Now that’s one kind of situation. Just a word on the other kind. If it’s not requiring her to sin, but simply hurting her, then I think she endures verbal abuse for a season, she endures perhaps being smacked one night, and then she seeks help from the church.

First of all, I think it’s kind of telling that Piper spends nearly his entire response on a situation that, of the two he mentions, is the one far less likely to actually occur, and I further think that choosing “group sex” as his example is weird to say the least. Secondly, while John Piper refers to his beliefs about marriage as “complementarian”, this statement sounds like straight-up patriarchy to me. The husband is the boss, and the wife is to do whatever he says unless Jesus pulls rank on him.

But we’re really here to talk about his clarification. I recommend reading it, then jumping into Dianna’s thorough analysis and response. My only comment is that I can’t believe we have to have this long a conversation about whether a woman is allowed to take action against an abuser.

The Purpose of the Wali

Nahida adamantly—and hilariously—explains exactly why no Muslim woman needs a male official to give her away and certify that her marriage was consensual.

You don’t want to start thinking about which of our modern wedding rituals have their roots in the concept of woman as property. You really don’t.

Okay, fine. It’s all of them. Give or take.

Suzanne Venker Wants a Truce

The author of Fox News’ terrible “War on Men” piece wants you all to know that she didn’t really mean to be gender-essentialist. Her new article, “Let’s Call a Truce in the War on Men” (title case added, because—despite my maleness—I am not some kind of barbarian) clarifies what she was really trying to say:

Here’s what we know: Females, in general, are nurturing and relational beings. They like to gather and nest and take care of people. They like to commiserate with other females—a lot. That’s why girls can talk for hours on end. It’s why more women stay home with their children than men. It’s why the teaching and caregiving professions are still heavily female. Not every single woman in the world falls into this category, but that doesn’t make the generalization any less true.

Males, on the other hand—in general—are loners. They’re content to mill about in their man caves. They like to hunt. They like to build things and kill things. If you don’t have a son, this may sound strange. But again, that doesn’t make it untrue—nor does the fact that not every single man in the world is like this. Men also take pride in caring for their families. They can’t carry babies or nurse them, but they can provide for them. So let them.

See? Not gender essentialism at all.

Venker also wants to be sure you realize she was not telling all you ladies you have to stay home cooking and cleaning and cranking out babies; she just thinks you should de-emphasize career a little.

Just because you make your own money doesn’t mean your guy can’t pay the bill. Just because you value independence doesn’t mean you can’t take your husband’s last name. Just because you can do the same job a man can do doesn’t mean you need to let him know it.

Surrendering to your femininity means many things. It means letting your man be the man despite the fact that you’ve proved you’re his equal. It means recognizing the fact that you may very well want to stay home with your babies—and that that’s normal. It means if you do work outside the home, you don’t use your work to play tit-for-tat in your marriage.

So in this case, de-emphasizing your career just means pretending you don’t have one even though you do. Also, consider not having one but staying home and having babies instead.

Insidiously, those last couple paragraphs from Venker’s piece contain a number of quasi-truths. You shouldn’t necessarily be the one writing the checks to the utility company. You shouldn’t feel compelled to keep your last name if you get married. You shouldn’t rub it in if you have a better job or make more money than your boyfriend or husband. You shouldn’t feel compelled to keep working full-time if you would really rather have children and stay home with them. And you certainly shouldn’t foster a domestic relationship where you keep score against each other to see who wins the game of doing the most to keep the machine running.

Of course, Venker is actually implying that you should change your name, overtly or implicitly lie to your man about your career success to make him feel more “manly”, let him manage all the money, quit work or work less after you have children, and expect that if you do keep working your husband will not lift a finger to do any of that pesky “woman’s work” so you won’t turn into a crazy person.

I’d be much more cranky about this whole thing if it weren’t for one important realization:

The one calling for a truce is usually the one who’s losing.

"Ghagh": The Pashtun Word for "Everything Is The Worst"

One of the side effects of reading lots of feminist news is the near-daily discovery of information that will make you temporarily miserable. Today, it’s “Ghagh”:

Gul Ghotai has bitter memories of the day her suitor proposed marriage. The reason? This was no ordinary proposal but one made under an ancient Pashtun custom called “ghagh” that entitles a man to force his marriage proposal on a woman.

Once invoked, ghagh—which means “a call”—can have various outcomes, none of them happy for the woman. She might end up being married against her will, or stay single for life, or see her family drawn into a dangerous, lingering feud.

Bihar Village Bans Use of Cell Phones by Women

It’s exactly like it sounds.

I mean, come on, everyone. We all know how bad it is when women talk, right? The elders of this Indian village have bravely decided to limit all that pernicious communication, and it turns out that the final straw came when they realized that cell phones were giving women too much freedom to choose their spouses:

Members of the all-male panchayat (an informal, but respected council of village leaders) justified their ruling by arguing that the reputation of their village has been compromised by the handful of single women who have eloped with their partners as well as some married women who have left their husbands by eloping with their current partners.

So, as a group, women are unhappy enough in their marriages that the village is seeing an epidemic of extramarital affairs and elopements, and their solution is to keep women from talking to anyone? That should totally work.

Bonus Anger Fuel: The final paragraph of the article, where we learn that Indian women get raped because they aren’t sexually satisfied.

Teenage Girl Beheaded in Afghanistan By Would-Be Suitors

Her father thought she was too young to get married, so he turned down their marriage proposal.

The victim, named as Gisa, was decapitated with a knife in the Imam Sahib district of Kunduz province on Tuesday, local police said. She is believed to be around 15-years-old.

A police spokesman said two men, named as Sadeq and Massoud, had been arrested following the teenage girl’s murder.

At least an arrest has been made. Read the full article for plenty of additional information not only about this particular case but about the ongoing oppression of women in Afghanistan.

The Gay Sky Isn’t Falling

Fr. Federico Lombardi, Director of the Vatican Television Centre, has invoked the dreaded slippery slope argument against legalized gay marriage:

In short, preserving a vision of the human person and of human relationships where there is a public acknowledgement of monogamous marriage between a man and woman is an achievement of civilization. If not, why not contemplate also freely chosen polygamy and, of course, not to discriminate, polyandry?

Rather than dissect the problems with this line of reasoning (which Jay Michaelson, the writer of the linked article, does much better than I could), I will simply say, “Yes, why not?”

This is the libertarian me talking, but the government has no business being involved in marriage at all. Let the state authorize contractual civil unions if it finds a compelling reason to do so, but validating or enforcing types of relationships is just a way for the government to insert itself unwarrantably into our private lives.

Also, polygamy is not the opposite of polyandry, polygyny is. Polygamy is a gender-neutral word. Words matter.