Friday, January 26, 2007

Your Favorite Femme-Bot Examines Marriage

Look closely at this picture, dear readers. What is the overall message here? The picture portrays a man in mid-asking. Obviously, this man on bended knee is asking the young woman for her hand in marriage. However, there are other factors to analyze in the landscape within the frame. The imagery in this artwork is amazing.

First of all, the man’s face is frozen in an expectant expression. He seems to be saying with his eyes, “Will you?” He’s crouched forward in anticipation of her answer. His overall appearance is somewhat frumpy evidenced by his rounded belly and large backside, which actually is somewhat feminine if you look closely.

He is also gesturing with his right-hand to the old man sitting in the chair behind the “bride-to-be”. This older man is looking forward, indicating he has made up his mind, and is not concerned with the bride-to-be’s reaction. Does she like her suitor? Is there love between them?

This father figure is oblivious to her negative reaction, and is looking ahead in anticipation of what seems to be his daughter’s impending arranged marriage. The young man seems desperate, sensing his future bride’s disgust, and gestures towards the patriarchal father, as if to say to the girl, “See, even your Dad approves, in fact, in his mind, you’ve already been married off.”

Next, let’s look at the bride-to-be. Her left arm is drawn back toward her breast, as if to say, “I, sir, belong to myself, and never to you, I will not be sold to you like a piece of furniture.” The cross necklace around her neck symbolizes her commitment to Christ, as a divine marriage between herself and Him. She, the Virgin Bride, will have no part in a marriage of mere mortals. Her facial expression reveals the strict judgment she has passed upon the groom-to-be. Clearly, he does not meet her standards.

Interestingly, the couple sitting to the right adds to the imagery. The woman is sitting with what presumably could be her husband, evidenced by the body language between the two. This woman has cast a look of anxiety and worry in the direction of the bride-to-be. Her expression is fearful as she inches closer towards her husband, her safety net.

What would happen if the bride-to-be didn’t accept the invitation and defied her father? How would this woman support herself, how would she live? For the woman sitting with her husband, marriage is a tool for survival. These men represent a woman’s future, economically and socially. Where there is no marriage, there is no security. Thus, women are “sold” to potential suitors with great zeal in the marriage market. Get these girls married off so they are protected and provided for, for god’s sake!

The man sitting next to the woman on the right, presumably her husband, seems somewhat entertained by the situation. However, his left arm is propped up on his hip in defiance as if to say, “Let’s see how far you can get honey without the help of this man.”

And lastly, the man in the back standing next to the fire place has obviously lost his love. The bride-to-be will be forced to marry the boy on his knee, and he will lose her. His expression seems pained as he looks on at her predicament. The father is totally lost to this young woman; yet, the man in the background does take notice. He is only person in this picture who actually seems concerned about the bride’s feelings toward the groom. Although, his hand, placed in his front pocket, seems to indicate he has resigned to the inevitable. There is nothing he can do.

So, why write this tremendously verbose explanation for this picture? Dear Readers, it personifies the horrendous conditions under which women were bartered in a marriage system designed to benefit a patriarchal society. Collectively, these attitudes still remain entrenched in our society.

Many of us have witnessed our own mothers using marriage as a tool for survival. The humiliation women face as a result of being associated with this type of situation cannot be avoided. We can assure others our marriages are about love, but what is the hard reality we’re facing here? Can we make our house payment without our husband’s income? Can we manage our financial future with confidence even without our significant other?

If not, as women, we will experience our relationships as being necessary to our survival, and we are diminished. We are diminished because we have put ourselves at the mercy of another’s hands. This, with the divorce rate at over 50%, is unacceptable. There is also the annoying fact of our impending death. We are mere mortals, and at some point, our “security” maybe ripped out from underneath us through death.

We need to be responsible for our own survival. As women, we cannot, in good faith, hinge all of our hope for the future upon another person’s care of us. And this needs to be addressed on all levels in our lives, financially, emotionally, physically, we must be learn to care for ourselves with the same dedication we were taught, as women, to care for others.

The woman in the picture didn’t have choice. In the old system, women were property (and still remain so in other parts of the world today!) and distributed to their masters accordingly. Now, we do have choice, and choice is an amazing thing, it provides for the freedom we’ve been craving. But still, it’s up to us to use it, let’s not pass up the opportunity to grow stronger, wiser, and more responsible in our world.

I leave you with a tribute to an old favorite… Ani D, no one does it better than her.

Not a Pretty Girl- Ani DiFranco

i am not a pretty girl
that is not what i do
i ain't no damsel in distress
and i don't need to be rescued
so put me down punk
maybe you'd prefer a maiden fair
isn't there a kitten stuck up a tree somewhere

i am not an angry girl
but it seems like i've got everyone fooled
every time i say something they find hard to hear
they chalk it up to my anger
and never to their own fear
and imagine you're a girl
just trying to finally come clean
knowing full well they'd prefer you
were dirty and smiling

and i am sorry
i am not a maiden fair
and i am not a kitten stuck up a tree somewhere

and generally my generation
wouldn't be caught dead working for the man
and generally i agree with them
trouble is you gotta have yourself an alternate plan
and i have earned my disillusionment
i have been working all of my life
and i am a patriot
i have been fighting the good fight
and what if there are no damsels in distress
what if i knew that and i called your bluff?
don't you think every kitten figures out how to get down
whether or not you ever show up

i am not a pretty girl
i don't want to be a pretty girl
i want to be more than a pretty girl

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