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The evil genius of patriarchy is breathtaking. They have lulled women into a false sense of security, comfortable with her knowledge that her moral obligation to honor her sacred vows could at any time be instantly dissolved if she utters the three magic words, I am unhappy. A lasting marriage does not always signal a happy marriage.

Plenty of miserable married women are still with their abusive husbands for children, religion and other practical reasons. A sustainable marriage is not just about staying together but it should also be meaningful and satisfying. The notion that the best marriages are those that bring satisfaction to the individual may seem counterintuitive. After all, isn’t marriage about putting the relationship first?

The traditional idea of a marriage seems to treat women as tools for their husbands’ self-expression and personal growth and if they are no longer a means to that end they should be divorced or worse abandoned. It just seems keeping the wife is only good until she has career problems or mental health issues or falls ill at which point she will be abandoned. It seems like a vile way to treat women.

It is still hard for couples to come to an agreement with the fact that a relationship, where the partners act like equals and negotiate who plays what role in the relationship, is a fertile ground for breeding happiness for the whole family. My at-home parent status does not give my husband a licence to sit on the couch and get a daily dose of the news while I scrub myself silly!

The household grunt work is still everyone’s responsibility just as it would be if the women worked outside the home. Thumbs up to feminism that exhausts marriage in the sense that home-based caregiving, while unpaid, is a job like any other. Feminism upends traditional expectations to everyone’s benefit.

A married woman can choose to keep her maiden surname rather than being forced to accept her husband’s. If children come along, the wife will continue to work and they will both take off the same amount of time from work, so the concept of equality, rejection of ownership and independence are all positives for a successful and happy marriage.

Women who are treated as work-horses, punching bags and semi-happy wives will at often times be heard saying they are holding on for the sake of their children who will be traumatised and feel abandoned if their parents go theor separate ways. Those mothers are doing their daughters no favour by teaching them tolerance; that a married woman should accept such treatment. All women have the right to their choice of birth control, when to have sex and what to wear.

Women should demand their reproductive rights because every time we go down the route of sexual freedom it becomes an edgy version of what men find sexy. We are deeply troubled by a modern trend of undetermined origin, where women are trapped working like men. They don’t simply work to entertain themselves but instead are tricked into having to work to support their family, sometimes even to support her husband’s family financially.

The reality is, regardless of who it does or does not bother, certain aspects of ‘traditional’ marriage are inherently misogynist. While it doesn’t do anyone any good to act like we should forbid traditional things like a woman taking on her husband’s identity by trading her original surname for his, it doesn’t stop being sexist just because the person doing it isn’t bothered.

N Mbuli

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