Who says it is hypocritical of feminists to marry?

It seems that today we need emancipation, not only from tradition but also from 'radical' alternatives.

 |  5-minute read |   07-06-2017
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A video posted on The Guardian had been doing the rounds on social media many months ago. In it, Julie Bindel begins with the presupposition that (some) feminists want to "re-claim" marriage as a radical act and why that claim is nothing, but an attempt to delude themselves and the world about feminism.

She expresses her discomfort at women's "false proclamation" of marriage as a feminist act.

She then waxes eloquent about how such an act can never be feminist and so feminists needn't mistakenly/falsely claim so!

Although there is merit to her argument about marriage as being a historical patriarchal tool for women's oppression. She does not place marriage in a social field. Whether or not a woman chooses to marry is not always "her choice".

She goes further to claim that women now wish to "re-claim" it as a feminist act.

Giving the impression that those who cannot beat the system, join it and then perpetuate the politics of "re-claiming" with a largely self-serving purpose of providing a retroactive justification to support and legitimise their actions.

strange_060717040009.jpgIt seems that today we need emancipation, not only from tradition but also from "radical" alternatives.

So we must ask, against Bindel's presuppositions, if feminists do in fact claim marriage to be a radical act. Or, is it the other way round? That far from touting it as something radical don't most feminist women rather feel deeply guilty about having married at all in the first place?

Bindel's primary assumption therefore seems highly misplaced! By negating marriage-as-such, narrowly defined as a legitimate institution of oppression, she underscores the impulse and the drive with which people decidedly and wilfully marry.

It is important to ask oneself, if marriage indeed is a tool for women's own oppression, then why would they (particularly feminists) have a perverse love for their own "caging?" Unless of course, we want to brand them all as masochists.

It is thus, important for us to locate marriage beyond its immediate "institutional" framework, which fails to fully grasp its relevance. We need to see it as a social act: about the coming together of people to celebrate love and union by following certain rituals that mark their coming-to-be.

Even a "marriage-like" arrangement that exclude legal sanctions, religious rituals, social customs, use different forms to "informally formalise" modes to acknowledge their relationship.

This "radical prescription" of what amounts to an actual subversion of dominant discourses as opposed to what doesn't (Marriage can Never Be a Feminist Act!) amounts to a rather solipsistic, privilege checking, highly individuated "radicality".

It seems that today we need emancipation, not only from tradition but also from "radical" alternatives.

This is the irony we are inhabiting today. Indeed sometimes these alternatives are actually patriarchal at their very core. Take for example, those attacking marriage.

For them, marriage is a submission to or voluntary admission into the folds of patriarchal oppression, but they fail to see that non-monogamous relations too don't necessarily challenge patriarchal heterosexuality.

One can very well perpetuate male privilege despite denouncing marriage. Hence, it is pertinent to acknowledge how populist it is to merely offer a critique of marriage without critiquing other "marriage-like" associations.

Sure, instead of its political neutrality tacitly condoning the intellectual shackling of people, a feminist movement is intended to help liberate people from the unthinking orientations and consequent degrading ubiquitously present in everyday life.

Therefore, questioning the institution of marriage remains vital to feminist debates, but we need to do away with this kind of "holier-than-thou" attitude with an insidious politics of guilt. Those induced by gentle reminders, "pointing at women's inadequacies" in fighting oppression. This anxiety-inducing act is itself is a form of bullying which produces yet another list of "reasoned" arguments that need to be ticked off a list before acting out of/in love.

Thus, by calling out on the "less than feminist", we again put the onus on the woman to "justify her feminist claims". Thus, implicating that they remain stuck in a politics of repetition without difference, stuck as they are in loop-like structure of a Moebius Band, traversing only within hegemonic/hetero-normative domains of pleasure. I believe, we need to check such cynicism.

This differentiation of "the radical" from the "less-than-radical" feminist, as it induces fear, self-doubt, anxiety and perplexity in the minds of women who constantly feel the pressure to keep in line the personal with a prescriptive politics that is always quick to critique "revisionism within feminism".

By calling out on our feminist sisters for their dubiousness underpinning their acts of "re-claiming" heterosexual marriage, we don't do much except clear "our" name while highlighting "their" failed attempt at subverting the dominant monogamous framework. This makes the video appear no less than a narcissistic self-gratulating move.

Such a demand then strips women off the right to celebrate their marriage within the framework of feminism. The question that I want to pose to Bindel then is, do we have an adequate concept to understand the status of revolutionary subjectivity when a person chooses to relate to another inside of a marriage?

For some, the "choice" may not even exist!

Given her task of exposing the limits of traditional claims to universality is a noble one, I believe it must also include a radical rethinking of its alternative systems of power.

What is a feminist idea of companionship and love? One that liberates us from the economies of marriage, but not by merely positioning oneself outside the system while still continuing to perpetuate and replicate the same logic that underpins it.

By simply disqualifying marriage as an act which may not transcend the patriarchy, but nevertheless remains an important transgression, Bindel fails to acknowledge the various ends and means to women’s liberation!

Also read: Where have all the feminist men gone?


Avantika Tewari Avantika Tewari @avantikatewari

I like movies, books, people (in that order).

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