Frisky Rant: Want To “Save Marriage”? Stop Telling Women What To Do

Conservatives’ stance on marriage hasn’t ever much suited me. The so-called value they profess the loudest is “Preserving And Protecting Traditional Marriage” — it sat at number one atop the 2012 GOP platform — and is of course coded language for marriage between a man and a woman.

Their PR strategy for pushing traditional marriage is pretty firmly focused on accusing LGBTQ couples of not being “natural.” Obviously this boner for “saving marriage” is just a cover for bigotry towards LGTBQ folks. But having recently gotten married — to a man — I’m noticing more and more how conservatives meddle in heterosexual marriage, too.

Ladies, you haven’t won the game just because you have a ring on your finger!  You are also probably doing something wrong right this minute!

Much of their panic seems focused on the trend of cohabitation [re: sex] before marriage and the rate of divorce amongst those who actually do get married. Even as someone who enjoys marriage, I don’t particularly understand why people are so hellbent on getting other people to do it. And I especially don’t agree with what they have in mind to “save marriage.”

Take, for instance, some instructions a Christian pastor gave to his Twitter flock over the weekend. On Saturday, March 29th, Pastor Andy Thompson from World Overcomers Christian Church tweeted what he tried to pass off as a helpful marriage tip with the hashtag #SaveMarriage:

shine it up hoes tweet

It reads, “Ladies if you want to be the only woman your man looks at Shine It Up! Don’t let the Hoes he comes across outshine you! #SaveMarriage.”

Ladies! If you aren’t hot enough, your  husband will look at “hoes” he “comes across”!  

Not surprisingly, Thompson has since deleted the tweet and on April 1, he tweeted, “My goal and aim is to help women” along with a YouTube video (which has since been taken offline). Helping women?  As blogger Britni Danielle put it at Clutch Magazine, “…by calling other women ‘hoes’? Oh. Okay.” (To be clear, I don’t personally think there is anything wrong with sex work, but it is clear from Pastor Thompson’s use of the word “hoes” in context that he meant it to be denigrating.) I don’t expect that Thompson and I will ever see eye to eye about  much, seeing as he and his wife have a traditional “Biblical” marriage and he gave his teenaged daughter a “purity ring.” But it’s shameful that he touts his 20 years of marriage as experience to “help women” when he’s giving complete shit for advice.

Real talk: A woman blaming herself because her husband is cheating with other women isn’t going to “save marriage.” Here’s what it is going to do:

  •  eviscerate her self-esteem
  • stigmatize other ‘bad’ women as “hoes”
  • shift responsibility off the husband and his behavior and blame his wife instead for not being hot enough
  • It’s going to perpetuate the lie that a cheater would stop cheating (or a looker would stop looking, in this scenario) if only ___ were different

All that is not going to “save marriage,” it’s going to make people crazy. And anyway, I thought religious folks believe lust is a sin.

Moving on to other terrible ideas: the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation recently held a panel discussion called “Evaluating Feminism, Its Failures And Its Future.” (You can watch it online!) Conservative columnist Dana Milbank attended the talk and on Monday, he wrote in the Washington Post about attending a recent Heritage Foundation described how the ladies of Heritage trashed the advances of feminism and heavily promoted embracing women’s ‘natural role’ as mother and wife.

Milbank wrote :

[Republicans] need to persuade more women to get their MRS degrees. The advocacy group held a gathering of women of the right .. to mark the final day of Women’s History Month — and the consensus was that women ought to go back in history. If Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg’s mantra is “lean in,” these women were proposing that women lean back: get married, take care of kids and let men earn the wages.

One of the panelists, Mona Charen, carried on “at length about feminism’s ‘disdain for family life,'” Milbank continued, adding how Charen accused feminism of “disdain[ing] this natural urge” of parenthood, while centering women at the core of childrearing.

In other words, this was a panel discussion led by women who all have jobs who were all too happy to tell other women why they should all be at home with their babies.

Yes, in 2014, people still believe women belong in a Betty Crocker fantasy which never existed except for a small percentage of white, middle-class women. And not only is their goal delusional, but it’s disingenuous: different women want different things. There may certainly be some working women who wish they could stay at home, but there are also whole generations of women who wanted careers outside the home and were prevented from attaining them. Some women want more traditional relationships, some women want more egalitarian ones. You can’t make broad, sweeping statements about what’s good for all women or what all women want because we aren’t one monolithic entity.

Look, I love being married. It’s one of the best paths in life I’ve taken; I am not exaggerating when I say people tell me multiple times a week that I look “so happy.” I have been pretty open about the fact I would love to be a stay-at-home mom some day. But even I’ll admit that getting married is not a magic bullet that solves all your problems — financial, emotional, spiritual and otherwise. If anything, marriage — which is ultimately the creation of a new, legally-recognized family unit — makes all of those problems slightly more complicated! Sure, being married to a partner with a steady income gives someone a certain amount of breathing room. But even that doesn’t account for all the vicissitudes of life: unemployment, debt, illness, injury, death. In a one-income family, you could end up getting pretty badly fucked by that unless we’re talking about a very high income. (And how many of us are privileged enough to have a very high income? There’s an upward trend of the rich marrying each other, anyway.) As feminists love to say, “A man is not a financial plan,” and that’s pretty damn true.  I support any choice a couple wants to make about how they handle the work/family juggling act, but I would hope that anyone — feminist or not — could agree that stability is more important than dogma.

And it’s so often women who are centered in this dogma. I don’t take too kindly to suggestions of how to be the right kind of wife, period, but especially since no one is suggesting any of this shit to my husband. How come no one is telling men to take care of the kids and stay at home? How come no one is telling men it’s their fault if their partner cheats? That’s because we still live in a fucking patriarchy. and it is women who are expected to contort themselves and behave whatever way they are told to this Tuesday. I am sorry, but I am not buying it.

If you really want to “save marriage,” here are a couple of things to remember:

  • most partnerships these days  — even if they are otherwise traditional — consider each other complete equals
  • married women want to be with their men, but they don’t need to be with their men if their man is going to treat them like shit
  • nowadays, both partners are probably going to work at some point, including if/when the couple has kids and it will likely be because we have to, not because we want to
  • not all women want the same things — and neither do all men

It’s time to get real: none of this handwringing about what marriage should be or what wives should do actually makes marriage look particularly appealing to many modern women. If conservatives really want to “save marriage” because it’s so damn wonderful, they need to let it evolve for the 21st century.

[Clutch Magazine]
[Washington Post]
[Heritage Foundation: Women’s History Month]

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