Wednesday, July 4

Marriage: The Acceptable Exit Strategy

I've managed to annoy at least two of my feminine friends over these past couple of days, each on separate unrelated occasions but largely for the same reason. Namely, by observing that marriage is an acceptable exit strategy for those women who may be bored of work or study or whatever. That they were the ones in particular complaining about their work or study or whatever probably didn't help them see any less red, but hey.

Now, before the other irrational feminists amongst my readership (you know who you are) cut my virtual nuts off, let me elaborate. Firstly, I'm not recommending for an moment that a woman should marry just to escape the drags of work. I'm also not suggesting that women should leave work if and when they get married. And finally I'm not saying that finding an exciting guy is an easier task than finding an exciting job. I'm merely saying that for most (if not all) women, not working after marriage can be a viable, acceptable and, sometimes, even guaranteed option open to them.

Yes, I totally recognise that there are relationships out there where the man makes the home while the woman earns the wage. And yes, there are plenty of cases where women become even more professional or employable after getting hitched. All that is fine and dandy, but it doesn't actually take anything away from the point I'm trying to make.

Let's take a hypothetical couple. Both are professional, both are good at their jobs and both earn the same wage. Now let's say that both want to leave work. Faced with this dilemma (and assume that they each want to quit with equal desire and are both equally equipped to run the home if they did), who would you suggest has the bigger responsibility hanging over them to bring home the bacon?

There's nothing old fashioned or sexist to say that it'd be the guy. In fact, I'd say it's a better idea to use the established precedent than to say, flip a coin to decide instead. In fact, both the aforementioned annoyed friends of mine implicitly agreed with this notion when they accepted that the involvement of kids would make it a no-brainer for the woman to stay at home. It seems that it's okay for women to have ultimately "just-in-case" defined roles, but only when they want them.

So no, I'm not trying to be (that) offensive when suggesting that women can bail out of a boring requirement to work simply by marrying a guy. It's more a statement about how guys can't really rely on any equivalent social tradition to do the same and how you don't hear them complaining; they have to keep quiet and suck it up, establishing their careers whether they want to or not: after all, they're the ones who'll be bailing out the women when they decide enough is enough for them.