When John Stuart Mill wrote his essay “Subjection of Women”, he argued that business partnership should be the ideal model for marriage in order for women’s emancipation and a better marriage (Mill 672) as this would create an ‘equal’ atmosphere of interaction.
A television advertisement is depicting a happy family in a suburban setting, the husband, a middle-aged man acts immaturely and the wife then took care of his mistakes with a smile while promoting a certain product…
Seen one like this? Would this be one of the scenarios he conceptualize as the ideal equal marriage relationship? Mill described the equality of business partnership as having no absolute leaders, but having two co-leaders with two equal share of authority. Devoid of the uncontrolled patriarchal lordships Mill observed during his era, is top-down relationships considered an inequality and bad altogether?
Mill in advance, forecasted that at some point, certain opponents (he sometimes described as Casuists) would counter-argue that if both husband and wife have equal say, everyday decisions will be far from being accomplished and the smallest matter (e.g. who buys the grocery?) could involve feral disputes (Mill 672). He made an effort to offset this case by proposing that “one (person) should have their sole control” but it shouldn’t always be the same person each time (Mill 672). Well, shouldn’t deciding ‘who become the leader in which division’ recreates the same vicious cycle of bickering and disputes?
This so-called noble bondage of marriage is claimed by Mill as ‘domestic slavery’ similar to the slavery institution that is still operational in 1869 United States of America (Mill 669). The main point is, top-down relationships is regarded by Mill as unequal rights in action and should be abolished. Mill was and still not alone in this matter; top-down relationship is often viewed negatively especially in this new western civilization and that it is the stems of inequalities that it should be cut off immediately from the branch of society.
Top-down relationships should not be confused with the dominator-dominated relationship. It is crucial to not understand these two relationships to be interchangeable. A top-down relationship can be exemplified by the relationship of a democratic government leader and the civilians. This ‘leader’ exercises a top-down authority to his constituents, meaning that he is granted the ultimate decision power… But then, does he become the dominator? No, not necessarily. The leader is already in contract with its constituents when he signed for the post, therefore, he should be the main crusader for the best interest of his appointee…or he would then be unseated in the next election. A leader with top-down powers should always keep in mind his appointee, similarly, the appointed family leader (in this case, husband or wife) should always keep in mind his/her appointer, the core foundation of marriage: the COMMITMENT to have a physically, emotional, intellectual and for some, spiritual relationship with the significant other, if not, it will no longer be a marriage and all the powers of a leader would then be stripped off. Conditions applied, husbands or wives with top-down powers would then be the more responsible and mindful partner and sometimes tend to care more than required, but absolutely not the dominator.
As explained in my previous blog post (Honey, It’s Just Business), the foundation of marriage is rooted deeply on the commitment ITSELF to be a part of each other physically, emotionally, intellectually and for some, spiritually, and this being the source for a marriage leadership, top-down relationships then would not create unequal rights among partners but provide different roles for them. In this post, I WOULD NOT ARGUE which types of relationships is better, or which gender is worth more being the leader, but only to prove the point that top-down relationships are not bad altogether and is possible to be applied in marriage, without one being the dominated and one being the dominator.
 Mill, John Stuart. “On Liberty” in Modern Political Thought: Readings from Machiavelli to
Nietzsche. 2nd ed., edited by David Wootton (Indianapolis: Hackett Pub., 2008).
 Honey It’s Only Business. [Polisci 101 Intro to Political Theory Blog]. Retrieved December 15, 2009, from the World Wide Web:http://polsci101.wordpress.com/2009/12/15/honey-it’s-only-business/