|Women, marriage: A cultural perspective|
|Saturday, 09 June 2012 12:00|
The onus therefore was and I believe still is, in a big way, on the man to pop up the big question, “will you marry me?”
Marriage appears to be a great honour for the women. Mothers are so happy when daughters get married. As a mother I would be elated if my daughter finds a suitor and gets married. I would proudly share that with my sisters at church and thank God for his grace.
Judging by what you hear women say when this happens one can say it is a burden off the mother’s back. I recall a character in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin who was so pre-occupied with marrying off her daughters.
I think all this pressure comes from the way society perceives unmarried women. Marriage appears to increase a woman’s acceptability.
I have observed that even the Church considers it a woman problem. It is not uncommon to hear among other problems raised for prayers, the issue of “kuroorwa” and very little if at all about kuroora. Both these Shona words mean marriage with the former referring to the act of marriage of women and the latter to men.
If it is a woman, people wonder why such a woman who is well-built and beautiful is not married. It’s like there is something wrong with her.
There are lots of stories that are crafted around the woman if she fails to get married that hinge on witchcraft, avenging spirits or character of the woman and many more.
I think dear reader you have heard women who have been labelled “tete vemusha,” something that I will not try to translate. I have heard some single women complain that they are perceived as incomplete by some members of society, including other women.
Yet it is not so much of a problem when a man remains unmarried. The choice of singleness is more acceptable coming from a man than a woman. People can take it lightly and dismiss it as “urombe” not good for anything.
So often it has left me wondering whether marriage is meant to benefit women or both women and men? It is like women need to be married more than the men.
If we go to the Bible we see that Eve was created after God realised that it was not good for the man to be alone. He saw it fit to give Adam a suitable helper, the woman.
I have noticed that young people who are entering into the marriage covenant are started off on a different footing. So much is expected of the young woman more than the man. Society tends to place a huge burden of running and sustaining the home as well as the relationship on the young woman.
It has become tradition to throw a party, kitchen party, kitchen tea or kitchen send off you name it for the girl. She is advised on how to nurture and keep her marriage. She is told how to balance her new responsibilities of being a wife, mother and daughter in law by other women.
This is really a good thing considering that some of the cultural institutions that used to play that role have been weakened.
At times while the lady is being schooled on the institution of marriage the man will be having a time of his life.
My concern, however, is the way society places a huge burden of the home on the young woman. As I said in one of my articles some time ago, listening to some of the presentations makes you wonder whether the woman is supposed to have a life.
Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed just by listening to the advice and I cannot help but empathise with this young woman. You also ask yourself whether the man has a responsibility at all in the home.
I think some of the problems that surface later on in marriages have their roots on the take off. A woman, with all the excitement, starts off being the good perfect wife as socialised with all good intentions. She ensures that the man is well fed, is smart, she never says no and does not ask much about the man’s movements especially Friday, it’s daddy’s night out with the boys.
As responsibilities mount as children come on board, if they do come, coupled with pressures from family, work and community it becomes almost impossible to keep up. If children do not come again more people become involved thus creating problems for the couple.
There comes a time when situation demands accountability, sacrifice and commitment. Tensions may build up and partners begin to see the insensitivities of the other.
Since she is struggling to cope she fails to do the little good things that she used to do. The picture becomes gloom and tension builds up in the home. It is not surprising to see the man having a life outside the home.
What I find sad is the justification of these actions by “society”.
The woman is made to carry the burden of the failed relationship. One local musician tells women “munosiwa mumba umu makatemba” meaning the husband will abandon the marital home. It is widely accepted that women chase away their husbands by their failure to do all the niceties.
So often a woman is blamed when the husband abandons her and also vilified when she dumps the man. Some women struggle under the burden of guilt that is not theirs.
Is a woman the ultimate loser of a failed relationship?
In my view marriage is not for women alone. It is a partnership where both parties should have equal commitment and shared responsibility for the success and failure of the relationship.
Marriage is for the man and the woman and therefore should be viewed as such by both parties.