"Writing is my passion. It is a way to experience the ecstatic. The root understanding of the word ecstasy—“to stand outside”—comes to me in those moments when I am immersed so deeply in the act of thinking and writing that everything else, even flesh, falls away."
-bell hooks

Thursday, March 17, 2011

First Comes Marriage, Then Love?

An arranged marriage is the union of a man and a woman which is brought about by someone other than the bride and groom. Historically, it was the primary way in which future spouses were introduced, and arranged marriages still are a fairly common practice in certain parts of the world today. I’ve learned all about the history of arranged marriage; how they have evolved over time, and the advantages and disadvantages to marrying someone you hardly know. In modern America, it is a given that “first comes love, then comes marriage”, but this has not always been the case throughout history. The idea that marriage is based entirely on love is a fairly new concept, and even in western society, there are men and women who meet their spouses through either a matchmaker or an interested family member. An important fact to note is that an arranged marriage is not the same as a forced marriage, nor is it necessarily an involuntary union foisted upon unwilling participants by their families.

Different periods of time and different cultures have very different histories when it comes to women. In the Middle East, in theory, arranged marriages were preferred over lover marriages, which is the predominate system. Throughout history, and even today in the Middle East, families arranged marriages for couples because they believed that their daughter or son is not fit to decide because he or she would not know best. The people involved did not and do not have much to say about the decision. Most couples did not marry because they were in love but because economic situations. Some marriages were by proxy, some involved a dowry (bride's family giving money or presents to the groom or his family), some required a bride price (the groom or his family giving money or a present to the bride's family), few had any sort of courtship or dating, but most had traditions. One of the traditions known throughout history and in the Middle East is the engagement ring and the shape of the ring symbolizes eternity or a union that is to last forever. The notion of marriage as a sacrament and not just a contract can be traced St. Paul who compared the relationship of a husband and wife to that of Christ and his church. Many people hold the view that regardless of how people enter into matrimony, marriage is a bond between two people that involves responsibility and legalities, as well as commitment and challenge. That concept of marriage hasn't changed through the ages.

In the Middle East, the whole concept of arranged marriage was seen as normal and two people can learn to love one another, rather than fall in love first. A lot of people could see something wrong with this tradition but because the Middle East was very strict when it comes to their sons or daughter, so as a result, Middle Eastern culture claims that the elders of the family have the final say over the marriage for they have seen the world and know that a successful marriage is not just a uniting of two people, but of two families.

Personally, in my opinion this is just oppressing not just the female but also male because they are not being allowed to choose someone to spend the rest of their life with. Knowing someone choose them for you and not knowing if you will end up loving them is a scary matter. I could never image doing that to my children because I want them to learn to make their own decisions and mistakes at the same time. Even when it comes to my parents they know to never put pressure on me to get married to someone I hardly know or if it’s arranged. They do not believe that marriage should be that way because it is important to remember in the long run that it is not their marriage but mine.


  1. Sandra,
    The subject of arranged marriages is a complicated one to discuss because everyone has their own views on determining one's agency or lack of agency when it comes to deciding what is right or wrong for their own lives.
    When we talk about arranged marriages, it is important to not just look at it as being oppressive. I think that sometimes we forget that an arranged marriage can be fulfilling for some people. For instance, while I do not think that my own parents would ever arrange a marriage for me, it is not surprising to think that if I did choose them to pick a partner for me, that they would have my best interests at heart...who else really knows me that well? I think that when we also look at arranged marriages, we forget to see that in the Middle East, women are given a variety of suitable men to choose from, and as long as the partner is deemed suitable, then there are no issues. Forced marriages are another concern that really does need another blog...
    I think that before we state that women who are involved in an arranged marriage are oppressed, we need to look at the ways that we, as western women sometimes choose to oppress ourselves in this matter. I have had many friends who choose to participate in online dating websites, and while that is their choice, they are voluntarily allowing a computer to choose who their potential partner can be; and while joining an online dating website is a person's own choice, I think that it is more oppressing to be matched up by a computer than by your own parents who will most likely know your personality.
    Also, while I do not agree with the idea that marriage can come before love, there are different ways to look at how third world women and western women look at their own ways of becoming oppressed or empowered.

  2. Teires and Sandra,
    Here is my take on marriage arranged or not in general:
    Marriage is patriarchy, no ifs, ands or buts about it!
    A Marxist feminist blames capitalism for the oppression of women, and we blame marriage for the oppression of women but there is another ideological system that many feminists believe is even more fundamental and pernicious: patriarchy. Generally speaking, patriarchy denotes a social organization that systemically oppresses women and benefits men (like marriage). The origin of the word, meaning rule by father, is in political theory but radical feminist mean more than the political organization of society when they use the word. Patriarchy means a whole network or system of control of women and women’s bodies by men. It is a power structure that identified women on the basis of their biological sex and, in particular, their reproductive abilities (like marriage). Radical feminist see the root of female oppression as sex based childbearing and childrearing roles and the identification of women with their sexualized bodies. Another ay to think about this is simply to ask what makes men and women different? More often than not the average person would offer a biologically based answer. I know I would. It is that answer then that radical feminists hold up as the source of the oppression of women. Because women can bear children they have been relegated to the private sphere of the family of domestic life, they are held responsible for reproductive and sexual intercourse is defined by the pleasure of men. Monogamous heterosexuality, accordingly, is an enforced norm rather than a free choice. It is used as an ideological tool to keep women subservient to men socially and ensure men’s power over women’s sexuality. Hmm shockingly like marriage. 
    I think we need to propose extreme solutions to the problem of oppression of women. For instance, one solution is to use our technological advances to replace biological reproductive with technological reproductive. Infant could be gestated externally in incubator or pods. This would free women from the tyranny of reproductive biology while also opening more avenues for men to participate in the reproductive biology- or we could adopt . If oppression is based on an unjust power relation and abolishing oppression means abolishing such relations, and if women have a power that men do not have -- even if it is currently used against them – then, women ought to give up that power as well.


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