Swayamvaras to Swipe Right
One of my clients at Marriage Broker Auntie once told me that by brokering dates, I snatch away the joy of being spontaneously “aroused” at first sight. Well, given that men operate phallus first, followed by heart and head, this seemed like a fair complaint. I am yet to hear a woman complain like this but does that mean women don’t care about “choice” in the marriage market as much as men? Why are women more likely to heed a third party’s opinion on how they could potentially date, unlike men?
Traditionally, proposals for arranged marriages came from within one’s social circle because people wanted to preserve fields, cattle and genes well within known circles. With education and exposure, people started moving away for work, etc hence making it very difficult to find a partner within known circles living in the same city. This is when our choices started to dwindle, leading to portals like Shaadi and Matrimony, who took on the horrendous task of congregating people from every community to encourage propagation of the “pure bloods” (Harry Potter level trip on intra-caste marriages).
For eons, parents have been the alpha hunters with wards playing a minimal role and these portals provide ample encouragement to preserve this model. However, this proposition seems very scary nowadays, because most couples lead nuclear lives with minimum intervention from the parents/ in-laws (until offspring pops) and hence, people have ventured into dating sites which are parents-free.
Recently, I spoke to a co-founder of one of India’s top online dating apps and he mentioned that women these days enjoy the power of choice and like being able to swipe left or right and super-like or block people they want to. Apparently, it’s become a rage amongst women from tier-2 cities who are experiencing freedom of choice to pick men like never before. But this is hardly surprising.
From ancient history, we know that women enjoyed choice when it came to choosing their partners. All princesses from the Hindu mythology had Swayamwaras organized for them in order to help pick partners where princes from various kingdoms tried to show their wit or might or whatever it is that these princesses dug. Surely, we’ve come a long way in reducing the transaction cost of a partner selection from an elaborate Swayamwara to a simple swipe right. But we’ve also democratised this choice, and made it accessible to all women, whether they are princesses or not.