I have often pondered about certain things and the other day I wrote this facebook update which according to many of my friends, resonated to their feelings or experiences.
Is marriage a pre-requisite for a woman to be respectable, to be ‘settled’?
Why is it that a woman saying she’s not ready for a marriage or not willing to get married touches a raw nerve and people look at her like she is insane?
Why is it that a woman’s respectability boils down to her Miss/Mrs status?!
Why is it that a woman’s dreams are often deemed less important than that of any man?
Is marriage a competition?
Every woman should be married before she reaches the so-called expiry date(after which she will die single!)?
Then why don’t we get the girls married right after she is born? Then she will be ‘respectable’ and ‘settled’ even before she learns to walk!
Let me break it down for you dear society, and explain what I feel:
1. Is marriage a pre-requisite for a woman to be respectable, to be ‘settled’? Is marriage a pre-requisite to achieve respectability in the society?
What does being married hint at? That a woman is not being sexually deviant? How can you be so assured of a married woman not being ‘deviant’? And what is this discourse on being ‘settled’ all about? A marriage is not a guaranteed agreement to hold onto each other till eternity. Anytime, anything can happen. A marriage may not work out due to a number of reasons. A woman might become widowed, or may not be happy in the marriage. Even if she is happy in her marriage, there is the challenge of parenthood which is quite unsettling. All in all, the outcomes of a marriage are always uncertain. Then why a woman stepping towards an uncertain journey is to be considered a pre-requisite for her to be ‘respectable’ in the eyes of the society?
2. Why is it that a woman saying she’s not ready for a marriage or not willing to get married touches a raw nerve and people look at her like she is insane?
Every individual has their own struggles and dreams. A woman might be ready to start a family at 23, while somebody at the age of 27 may not be there yet. Age is just a number. Dear society, is it so hard for you to understand that? A woman may be ready to get married- because she has found the right person to get married to, her other choices in life in are aligned towards marriage. On the other hand, let us consider another woman who was in a relationship for 5-6 years and broke up recently. Perhaps her lover cheated her, abandoned her or that the break-up was long overdue. In that case, just because she is 25, you are pressurizing her to get married? Her scars have not healed yet, and you want her to rush and find someone to get married to? Such choices can have dire consequences in future. She may choose to rush into a marriage now, but will regret later and pay a hefty price. It is never easy to come out of a marriage- especially if you have children. Of maybe, she wants to first settle into her career or complete a PhD and a marriage is certainly not an option at such juncture. Dear society, marriage is not just about signing a piece of paper and wearing pretty attires and posing happily. It is a big responsibility, it is an investment. In case of a woman who says she does not want to get married- perhaps she has big dreams which she cannot achieve if she has to devote a considerable amount of time into raising a family. If a man can choose not to marry for the sake of his dreams, why is it not an option for a woman?
3. Why is it that a woman’s respectability boils down to her Miss/Mrs status?!
Just because a woman is not married, does not mean she is not respectable! Not every married people are respectable. Even many of the convicted criminals are married. Did their marital status prevent them from committing crimes? It didn’t. Then why are we obsessed with marital status?
4. Is marriage a competition?
Is marriage a competition that every woman should be married off at a particular age? If not, then why dear society, you tend to put such inhumane pressure on young woman to tick off marriage from her list? It is only because of your ridiculous rules that often woman start feeling alienated or depressed if she is unable to get married before she reaches the so-called expiry date?
All in all, I am not criticizing the institution of marriage. I simply believe any human being, be a man or woman, should get married only when he/she is ready and not just for the sake of earning the tag of being ‘settled’. We all are, in the journey of life, into our own time zone and unique priorities. Dear society, let women who are not yet ready to settle live. Let them live out their lives in their own terms.
Shucheesmita Simonti is from Dhaka, Bangladesh. She has completed her M.A. in International Relations, New Delhi, India. She is working as editor at the Women Chapter English and acting editor at the Women Chapter (Bengali site), a feminist portal founded in Bangladesh.