Women, face it: marriage can never be feminist – Julie Bindel

Somehow I missed this gem of a video uploaded to YouTube in May by feminist author and Guardian writer Julie Bindel explaining how marriage can never be feminist.

Bindel’s central claim seems to be that marriage can never be a feminist act because it

is an institution that has curtailed women’s freedom for centuries…Even today marriage is not about equality. It’s about perpetuating male privilege.”

And what rock solid support does Bindel provide for such a provocative assertion? Let’s take a look at them one by one.

“Being given away by your father may seem cute and romantic, but it stems from a time when women were seen literally as their father’s and then their husbands property”

Of course in the western world women are no longer considered the property of their fathers or husbands. Hence, being given away by your father is nothing more than a ceremonial custom completely lacking it’s original meaning and purpose.

I’ve read that the veiling of the bride was originally to protect her from enchantments and evil spirits and that the best man was the best swordsman the groom had in case the brides father had second thoughts or a rival tried to interfere. Of course nowadays no one carries out these traditions with their original purpose in mind and, as with the custom of giving away the bride, they have no bearing what so ever on the institution of marriage.

More importantly, there is no mandate a bride must be given away by her father in order to be married. In actuality, you can pretty much do whatever you want as long as the person who officiates the wedding is fine with it.

“The majority of brides still opt for a white gown, but the implication that brides should be virgins is both ludicrous and insulting to woman. That a female who has had sex is somehow spoiled goods, goes against everything feminist claim to stand for.”

The current custom of wearing a white wedding dress in no way implies that a bride is or should be a virgin. Given that premarital sex is nearly universal among Americans (and probably in other western countries as well) we can safely assume that the vast majority of men don’t care if a woman has had premarital sex.

Again, what the custom of wearing a white dress may have meant in the past does not in anyway reflect on what it means to be married today.

“I know feminist that have taken their husband’s name because they say it’s easier. Easier than changing your passport, email address, utilities bills and bank account details I suppose?”

Ok, isn’t that up to the woman to decide if it’s easier or not? While I agree that it is no doubt administratively easier for a woman to keep her surname after marriage, there is a certain amount of social explaining you have to do as many people still generally expect that a husband and wife will have the same last name. I know this to be true as my wife kept her last name when we were married.

Also, if each person keeps their last name and they go on to have children, they have to decide whose last name the child will get or to encumber them with both last names separated by a hyphen.

The point is, there is a burden either way you go and it’s up to the woman to discus it with her partner and decide for herself.

“Your basically being branded so that anyone that sees your name knows immediately who you belong to.”

Have you ever heard anything so absurd you’re kind of at a loss as to how to respond to it? That’s where I am with this one. To suggest that taking your husband’s last name is comparable to being branded is ridiculous. Bindel likes to push this idea that, for a woman, being married is equivalent to being owned like a piece of property. But of course this isn’t true. In the west, a man can’t sell his wife, can’t force her to stay home and raise kids or work a job. He can’t force her to stay if she wants to leave him. To argue otherwise is delusional.

“Even if a woman does away with all these traditions, accept it, marriage can never be a feminist act. It has formed the backdrop of women’s oppression for centuries. And it continues to do so. Forced marriage. Child brides and polygamy all show how human rights violations of women and girls all too often go hand and hand with marriage.”

Here Bindel deceptively argues that because marriage can be oppressive for women in various parts of the world (as part of a culture which is oppressive toward women), it is therefore an oppressive institution. But Bindel’s message isn’t directed at people living in the most repressive parts of the world, it’s directed toward Western English speaking viewers. To suggest that marriage norms and laws in Iraq or Saudi Arabia somehow describe marriage in the United States or Britain is completely irrational.

It was not until 1991 that rape in marriage was made a criminal offense in England and Whales. And today it is still perfectly legal for a man to rape his wife in forty seven countries world wide. 

More arguments that marriage is oppressive because of a problem in the past. This line of thinking is so crazy. Imagine you are house shopping and the realtor takes you through a beautifully remodeled home that fits all your needs but you used to know the owners ten years ago and remember at the time the place was run down. Would you disregard the house’s current condition and judge it based on how it was ten years ago? Of course not, that wouldn’t make any sense.

So if you want to get married, then just get on with it, but please stop pretending that because your a feminist, it’s some kind of subversive statement.

I love Snoop Dogg despite his woman-hating lyrics, but I don’t pretend that listening to him is a feminist act, and women should stop pretending that marriage is anything other than a tool for their own oppression.

Anyway, as the late human rights lawyer Paula Ettelbrick said, “Marriage is a great institution, if you like living in institutions.”

So to sum it up, Bindel argues that marriage is a tool for female oppression, because of a few wedding ceremony traditions that used to mean something different than what they do now and because being married used to be oppressive even though it isn’t now.

It baffles me that a person that makes such utterly irrational arguments is given a writing position in such a prominent newspaper as The Guardian. But as long as the regressive left maintains it’s influence on the western psyche, we can expect more of the same nonsense in the future.





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