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Posts Tagged ‘by Pat Harrington’

John Stuart Mill once hoped for a goal of equal partnership in marriages. Have we achieved this ultimatum Mill had promoted so vehemently in the 19th century? As a result of multiple institutional advances as well as the gradual distaste for chauvinistic entitlement, women now can call marriage an equal partnership as opposed to the rampant patriarchal lordship that dominated marriages in the 19th century.

            In Mill’s writings, he zealously argues for equal rights for all humankind, and in this case women His argument was multi-faceted. First, he argued for equal rights to property in marriage. In Mill’s time, women had absolutely no real voice in societal decisions nor did they have the right to their husband’s land and assets. Today, this has changed completely. Tiger Woods’ marital situation is a prime example of this societal advancement. If Elin Nordegren were to divorce Tiger for infidelity, she would get a consider portion of money in exchange. This example leads to Mill’s second cause; the right for women to exit any marital relationship at any time. Only men had this luxury in the 19th century, and women had to remain with their husband no matter what circumstances existed. This has also changed in the latter part of the 20th century. However, even up to the mid 1900’s, women did not really have the freedom to exercise their power to exit a marriage. Up until this point in time, women were essentially domesticated and limited to performing household duties as well as raising children. However, as many more women became more career-oriented and self-reliant, they became less dependent on their husband for the basic living necessities and more willing to divorce if they felt the marriage wasn’t working out. As women became more and more relevant in the workplace, marriage became less of a medieval lordship and more of the equal partnership that Mill was such a proponent of.

            Despite the great advances in women’s rights over the past century, there are many cultural and institutional biases that need resolving. Why does a man hold the door for the woman? Is it because the woman is inferior to the man, or not capable of such a task herself? Obviously this is not the case, but it is interesting to think about why some of these traditional practices exist. Additionally, are women now on equal playing field with men in marriage? I certainly think so, but there also many interesting marital practices worth thinking about. Why does the woman take the last name of the man upon marriage? I understand that this is a long-practiced tradition, but this also can represent a faint existence of Mill’s patriarchal lordship in today’s culture.  My question to you: do think that marriage has evolved into Mill’s perfectly equal partnership? Or do you think that aspects of male chauvinism still exist today?

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