Feminists have developed a rational critique of the idea of marriage, defining it as a patriarchal practice in their opinion. The notable French writer and feminist activist, Simone de Beauvoir, discusses at length her apprehensions about the institution of marriage in her book, The Second Sex. She has pointed out the discrimination and inequality faced by a woman as a wife, who is considered as the second and subordinate sex to man.
But without getting into the flawed side of marriage as a whole, what disturbs me the most is the concept of arranged marriages. I am 25 years old and considering my experience in understanding the gender loopholes until now, I have realised that the battle of women for proclaiming agency is not even half won, let alone the right to choose a partner.
Probably the main reason why arranged marriages continue to be such a thing especially in India is because it is used as a tool of control by totalitarian patriarch to exercise tyrannical control over women with time. They have ensured to not leave any stone unturned in controlling the lives of women, including something as trivial as the desire to step out of their homes to unwind with their friends at a nearby locale, once the sun goes down.
As I graduated, so did my remote locality in Hajipur, who gradually became more tolerant towards the higher education of girls, but the patriarch didn’t just idly watch their majesty and authority getting toppled by educated girls. Instead, the patriarch changed their gears. They bestowed their idea of schools, college and any other space of interaction to the outside world for the women of their households. As far as I can comprehend, the patriarch lives most of his life in fear of waking up to a blow on his self-proclaimed honour. And making sure arranged marriages are here to stay was one way for the patriarch to ensure young girls do not go ‘out of hand’.
However, when considering myself within this microcosm of patriarchal society, the very question that crosses my mind is, when did my marriage become their private affair?
When I choose my friends to spend some hours of the day outside my home, how can society choose a husband to whom I return home? However, the patriarch has long been justifying arranged marriages by layering it up with several adjectives. I recently received a call from one of my family members who has turned cupid for me. She started with explaining how the beauty in arranged marriages stay intact, given how its sanctity is preserved by the virtue of being arranged by the society.
Likewise, they also wanted to arrange a sacramental ceremony for me wherein I would vouch to spend my life with a man of their choice. So what if I don’t want a marriage right now? I am ripe for the marauders to pluck me down and fix my life with “a suitable boy.” Meanwhile, the video calls from the elderly in my family became incessant, inquiring and pressuring me for marriage.
When I went for weddings or personal gatherings, my appearance was judged and my plain dupattas were forced to be replaced with blingy ones. Who was I getting prepared for? This invasion of my personal space by the patriarch left me with a question: When did they creep in and began fiddling with my priorities? Where did I leave that gap open for them to enter?
Even though I know that egalitarian society is a utopian concept at least for the foreseeable future, I will let the patriarch continue to nurse the notion of successful arranged marriages in their minds even if they themselves didn’t experience one. But I reject their ability to weigh it with success and failure.
And I reject the power of marriage as being an important tool to sustain life along with rejecting the sanctity and baggage of honour attached with marriage in several households. The patriarch has always claimed that their decision is absolute and is beyond question despite their very questionable and prejudiced “just” decisions. According to a report published in The Hindu, in 2020, between March 25 and May 31, 1,477 complaints of domestic violence were made by women.
But even if the patriarch is not to be blamed for this, the question is why do they lack conviction in the decision-making power of the women? Or why should they assume that they can gamble with the life of a woman by assuming they can make important decisions of their lives for them?
I do not intend to paint the idea of marriage in black and white. It doesn’t even mean that given an opportunity, a woman will only choose the best for her, she can be wrong too, but she will have the authority to learn from her wrong decisions. The battle is to ultimately attain this authority to make all the right and wrong decisions.
The battle is to free marriage as a project based on the collective responsibility of society. The battle is to make the patriarch realise that they don’t have the right to rush us into marriage because their ring of misogyny won’t fit us.
Maimuna Shafique is an aspiring filmmaker and enjoys exploring cinema from all across the world. She will be often spotted with a camera framing her mindspace through the visuals around her. A digger for Old Music, Maimuna has an M.A in Mass Communication from Jamia Millia Islamia. She wants to make films and tell stories around strong women.
Featured image source: Shreya Tingal/Feminism In India