Ibrahim 1 THE EMPOWERMENT AND DISEMPOWERMENT OF WOMEN THROUGH MARRIAGE RULES AND PROCEDURES Alina Ibrahim ANT 245 A: Marriage, Sexuality and Power October 29, 2016
Ibrahim 2 Introduction: Marriages have evolved specific rituals and procedures that can have a variety of significances from religious to functional roles in society. Whether or not they are empowering or disempowering to women is a difficult question to answer and does not have a yes or no answer. Many marriage rules can be empowering or disempowering depending on what viewpoint one utilizes and can vary across cultures. In this paper I will discuss how some marital procedures, like bridewealth, are empowering to women while others like polygyny and arranged marriages can be disempowering while examining their cross-cultural patterns. I will do so by analyzing these practices first through a functionalist lens to examine empowerment in bridewealth, then the disempowerment of women via polygyny and arranged marriages through biological, functionalist and feministic perspectives respectively. Empowering Aspects: The Functionalist Approach While functionalism can be viewed negatively by a society that values social and romantic interactions over practicality, it can still be empowering to women. This is because not all cultures value social and romantic reasons the same as western cultures do. In societies where money is scarce, the greatest interest and commitment you can show a person is through currency. Across various cultures, the gift of money is a significant gesture and is well appreciated. This can be empowering to women who accept bridewealth as it puts them at a position of importance, where a man is willing to part with their wealth. Bridewealth then allows a couple to fully accept their roles as husband and wife. It legitimizes marriage in two ways, “One is that there are penalties for violations of conjugal rights only in cases in which bridewealth has been paid; the other is that the bridewealth paid at marriage is returned, and subject to specified conditions, when a marriage is terminated.” 1 This 1 Ogbu, John.U. “African Bridewealth and Women's Status.” American Ethnologist , Vol. 5, No. 2 (May, 1978).
Ibrahim 3 gives women more power in bringing up disputes with a public authority and in receiving aid from her kin network, than she would have had if the marriage was illegitimate. In cultures where men and women are segregated for much of their youth and have different roles in society, such as in India and Africa, it can be difficult to develop the emotional bonds that the West tends to value. Therefore, it can be much more pragmatic and efficient for young women to accept monetary displays of interest over romantic ones and begin their reproductive journey. This can be argued to be an evolutionary advantage as well since this enables women to marry younger and hence be able to produce more children throughout their lifetimes.
- Summer '19
- Alina Ibrahim, John Jay College