Friday, January 26, 2007

Marriage, feminism and the Blogdaddy

Tim W gets himself into a spot of trouble over the fall-out from a New York Times story that, for the first time, a bare majority of American women are now not living with their husband. The story is a little forced in fact, as the numbers not only count women whose husbands are away, for example, serving in the army (an admittedly small number) but also the starting age is 15. Note to American 15 year-olds - you're letting the side down! Hurry up and get hitched! Don't make me come up there...

In any event, James Lileks, whose charming, rather inconsequential Daily Bleat has been a Reptile reading ground for a while now, wrote rather wistfully that this seemed a bit of a shame, and that late divorces so that the wife could 'find herself' were, somehow, not playing the game:

To my parent’s generation, divorce for no good reason was proof of moral failure. If someone cheated, that was a reason. If someone knocked you around, that was a reason. Decades of long nasty fights over things great and small, that was a reason. But splitting because the kids were out and it was time to have a room in which no hairy saggy-arsed ex-satyr would wad up his underwear and toss it in the corner? Not a reason.

Amanda Marcotte was scathing of this, to my mind not especially provocative, view, saying that it speaks volumes of the disrespect and loathing for women that is behind the nostalgia for the 50s exhibited by Lileks and his ilk. Up to a point Lord Copper. Marriage *is* a sacred contract, the words *do* mean something, and if it is treated as a point of convenience only, then that contract is devalued. Ms Marcotte dislikes the patriarchal elements of marriage, and sees it in terms akin to how a Euro-sceptic views the EU - any reduction in personal/national sovereignty is a bad thing: a diminishing of self.

I'm getting married in the summer, and although of course marriage is partly about the subsumation of elements of the individual within the marital whole (not to self - doublecheck spelling on this), it is also about that whole being greater than the sum of its parts. What Lileks was mourning was the existence of 'can't be bothered' divorces - a divorce for no real reason. If you believe that a marriage is no more than a relationship with a party at the start, there's no reason why this shouldn't be par for the course - if you believe, as Lileks does, and as I do, that it's more than that, then it is fair, and not misogyny, to feel a little saddened by it.

Tim, unfortunately, compared a woman wanting to divorce her husband because she's tired of clearing up after him, to a man wanting to divorce his wife so he can shag younger women - and Amanda picked him up on it - though I'm not entirely convinced that this displays Tim's inherent sexism. But Amanda extrapolated a touch from what Lileks said as well. Her version of the reverse situation was a man who was being used by his wife as a nanny and a housekeeper and emotional support system, and when he complained, she said, “Hey, I have a job,” even though he also has a job.

She counsels that man to divorce his wife. I'm just not convinced that running away from a problem is always the best way to solve it. It also strikes me as a touch odd to accuse James of being a primeval woman-subjugating dinosaur, when he's their kid's primary carer and a freelance-ish journalist while his wife's an uber-corporate lawyer. But then, what do I know, I'm just a man.


Blogger samrocha said...

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6:42 pm  

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