The marital whisper network
Disclaimer – While I am principally not opposed to the idea of gender as a spectrum, I must confess I am fairly illiterate. So, as always, this blogpost will cover only the two ends of this spectrum. My sincere apologies for having to say much about anyone else in-between.
I was talking to a good friend from school earlier this morning and we were exchanging notes on our respective married lives and she said at least we women folk have a whisper network where we are able to vent/ share experiences, although we are shamed about it as being disloyal to the husband/ family, whereas men don’t talk about these things. Anecdotally, this seemed very true, but I wondered why men and women behaved differently despite sharing the same experience – marriage.
The three questions that I set out to answer are –
(1) why do women share their personal stories, unlike men?
(2) Why are women then shamed for it?
(3) Why don’t men share their marital stories?
Men are structurally stronger (or we’ve been conditioned to believe), they went out to work, hunted/ gathered to feed the family and subsequently had access to education that resulted in superior jobs. Women on the other hand were the child bearers and rearers, and then when we started leading more settled lives, women’s responsibilities extended to managing all responsibilities within the household. This natural division of labour resulted in men becoming the financiers and women feeling indebted to the income for running the house. In this way, for thousands of years, men have dominated women, and especially so in marriages.
Given this social structure that has been nurtured by our patriarchal society, women resisting this dominance is never a pleasant thing. From a man’s perspective, shaming this rebellion is the most natural thing to do. Whether this is right or not is a completely different question, but all I am saying is that given our social conditioning, this is not unexpected. From a woman’s perspective, it is a matter of pride if you do stand up to this dominance, and like anything else we are proud of, this deserves to be shared. However, given that women have to balance this pride with the shaming, they resort to whisper networks.
Does this make a woman disloyal to the husband/ the family? This question is best left to individual judgement as everyone’s circumstance is different and this depends on who you are sharing what information with and how that would affect the person being discussed. But you are being bloody disloyal to our patriarchy I tell you, for which our forefathers would never forgive you.
But I’m okay with that, are you?
Now, what about men?
Why don’t they talk about their marriage with others?
Ideally, I would have liked to ask men this question, but given that they don’t talk about it, I’ll try answering on their behalf although I’d be thrilled to have a man challenge me on this, though.
If our society is structured for men to dominate, then it is socially unacceptable for a man to declare loss of control. If a man talks about a disagreement with his wife, he is implicitly admitting to loss of control. What man can’t keep his woman in her rightful place? It is a matter of shame for the man, so he’d rather not talk about it.
Today, as more and more women gain control in relationships, more and more men are comfortable breaking free from social conditioning to allow greater balance in power in a marriage. Unfortunately, in most cases, this is confined to the walls of their household.
Men are yet to talk declare loss of control more openly, and this is all down to social conditioning and how little incentive they have to break free from it. Why should they be more vocal about their problems? Who is going to champion this change? While gender equality is a great thing, and I couldn’t be more grateful that I have access to more opportunities than my grandmother did, I think we must encourage our men to speak up.
It’s okay to not be in control. It’s okay to grow up and talk about your marital problems, because you are not alone.