The Cultural Aspect of Marriage Essay
The Cultural Aspect of Marriage
The structure of family life has undergone many different changes over the decades. For example, divorce, cohabitation and same-sex marriage are among the recent developments in that structure. Indeed, cohabitation has now attained the position of being a testing ground before or an alternative to marriage, and not merely an avant-garde phenomenon (Cherlin 848). Despite these changes, marriage remains a strong institution in many societies, even though different cultures have varying concepts and traditions regarding marriage.
Basically, people still end up in marriage because they believe in multifarious premises that underlie the tradition or concept (Cherlin 848). The premises of marriage may be initially gleaned from the surface definitions and concept of marriage. Definitions of marriage have also evolved over the years, which phenomenon explains the development and changes that affected the concept. The definition of marriage in early twentieth century placed emphasis on romantic love and emotional satisfaction, while the latter part of the century shifted the emphasis on expressive individualism.
Hence, marriage evolved from being a romantic affair into an expression of individuality (Cherlin 851). The same century also witnessed the development of the “companionate marriage,” which was influenced by various historical events like the World War II and the Depression. Thus, spouses did not view themselves as lovers but as companions or friends who helped each other out (Cherlin 851). These definitions and notions of marriage illustrate the basic premises of marriage, specifically mutuality and free choice.
In the above review of the evolution of the concept, it is apparent that the prevalent view of marriage is that arrived at consensually by two individuals who exercised their choice as to whether to get married or not. People who get married may have different justifications for so doing, but there is a common element of voluntary choice in the decision-making process. Thus, whether each person is in the marriage because of romantic feelings, or considerations of companionship or partnership in labor, such persons enter marriage freely and mutually.
Another premise of marriage has roots in the function and need of man to reproduce. With the exception of the Nordic countries, many countries such as the United States, Europe and Canada believed marriage to be “the only socially acceptable way to have a sexual relationship and to raise children (Cherlin 851). ” Indeed, the period between 1850 and 1960 was considered as the period when marriage was considered mandatory, and marriage was the only thing that could open the door to a full family life. It served as a license, both at the social and legal level, for the couple to have children.
Moreover, it is noteworthy that only a very small minority composed the group that engaged in premarital cohabitation, and this small group consisted of people who were uneducated, poor or avant-garde (Cherlin 851). After World War II, many regions, including the United States and Europe, witnessed the increased rates of marriages and births. Indeed, in the 1950s, the United States found ninety-five percent of its young adult population getting married (Cherlin 851). The dominance of marriage and its role in initiating family life are deeply connected with the age at which people deem it wise to get married.
Age as a factor or determinant of the right time to get married and start a family can be analyzed in different levels, such as the right age to get married or the perfect age difference between the man and the woman (Wheeler and Gunter 411). For instance, in 1960s, women are believed to be in their prime for marriage between the ages of 20-32 (Wheeler and Gunter 412). Thus, it is observed that there is a pattern with respect to the preferences of men and women as to the age of their partners.
For example, Wheeler and Gunter note that “the pattern has been for males to prefer marrying younger women and for females to prefer marrying older men. ” Moreover, there is a pattern with respect to the age differences between the bride and groom. Thus, the first marriages of couples in the United States often involve a four-year difference between the brides and grooms (Wheeler and Gunter 411). However, this figure has changed over the years with societal developments such as the frequency and prevalence of divorce and the newly acquired power of women, especially as a labor force.
These changes had the effect of causing a shift towards marriage postponement, especially for women. Thus, there has been a redefinition of the appropriate marrying age for both men and women (Wheeler and Gunter 412). Currently, the context of marriage is deinstitutionalized. Since society is already finding it acceptable for people to engage in non-traditional forms of marriage and alternatives to marriage, marriage no longer holds the monopoly as a family setting. Moreover, the reasons why people marry had also changed, such as personal growth and intimacy with their partners.
Other reasons for marriage involve the achievement of rewards found in successfully fulfilling certain socially valued roles, such as being a supportive spouse or a good parent (Cherlin 853). Despite the fact that fewer people get married these days due to the decline in its practical importance, the number of people who still plan on or dream of getting married testifies to the consistently high importance of marriage symbolically. Marriage is believed to have ascended to a level that makes a person distinctive and accomplished.
Thus, now, people look at marriage as a thing to be achieved through hard work, rather than a thing that is availed of as a matter of course (Cherlin 855). Specifically, in today’s world where marriage is considered rare, marriage somewhat gives a couple some bragging rights, as marriage has taken the form of a symbolic stamp of the kind of relationship that a couple has, which elevates such relationship to a different level than that of other couples in the community (Cherlin 855). Marriage also acts as a status symbol for most people (Cherlin 856).
This is due to the fact that the wedding got to be considered as an achievement of an individual, particularly in terms of having accomplished much in their personal lives. More specifically, weddings serve as testaments to people and their family and friends of their fulfillment and full development of their self-identities (Cherlin 857). III. The Different Types of Marriage. A. Ghost Marriage As averred to above, there are many different types of marriage that exist and are being solemnized aside from the traditional or more popular forms that people know.
One such example is the ghost marriage, which is popular among the Singapore Chinese (Topley 29) and the Atuot of Southern Sudan (Burton 398). Ghost marriage is a form of marriage solemnized either between a deceased person and a living one, or between two deceased persons. Cantonese people are known for solemnizing this kind of marriage (Topley 29). Traditionally, a ghost marriage often occurs in the home, particularly that owned by the family that made the arrangements of the ceremonies. The relationship of the family to one of the marrying couple, whether the male or female, is not relevant.
However, a ghost marriage may now take place in a temple, considering the conditions of modern living and the modern thoughts of the members of the younger generation in Chinese families (Topley 29). A ghost marriage is resorted to due to various reasons. For example, it poses as a solution where a younger son wants to marry but the elder son has died before getting married. Such a situation is problematic because the Chinese believe that elder brothers should marry ahead of their younger brothers.
Thus, in the given situation, the elder brother must first undergo a ghost wedding so that the younger brother could marry without fear if incurring the wrath of his elder brother’s ghost. It also serves “to cement a bond of friendship between two families. ” Further, a ghost marriage could help a family in preventing the deterioration or ending of a family lime, as when a son dies without a wife (Topley 29) or without a son who would carry his name (Burton 402). A ghost marriage also occurs in instances where a person is betrothed and the other person dies.
In such cases, the living person gets married to the deceased person and the former is expected to take a vow of celibacy. In such cases, the living person is considered wed to the “ghost” of the deceased person (Topley 29). Recent articles, however, note that this kind of marriage, which only aims to appease the ghost of a deceased person or to cement a social or friendly bond, had only been popular in the past. Today, such practice is now considered as an old-fashioned tradition and a waste of money (Topley 30). B. Arranged Marriage.
Arranged marriages had been a common tradition among Turkish villages, especially in the old times. Such practice is largely connected with the idea in Turkey that “marriage and courtship is a political question, controlled by extended networks of kin and by the state (Hart 347). ” However, Turkish villagers are reported to have caught on the notion that arranged marriages are old-fashioned and not modern. In the belief that Turkish communities should also be modern, parents claim that they are no longer encouraging arranged marriages.
They claim that it is better for the children to arrange their marriages by themselves (Hart 353). However, surface scrutiny of present-day Turkish communities would show that despite the above assertions and desire of parents to appear modern, their communities still restrict the children’s actions and decisions on marriage. Hart, in her experience with a small Turkish village, noted that there are still too many parental restrictions and dictates of beliefs regarding reputation that hinder the modernization of the courtship process and marriage.
Thus, even if it is the case that a couple developed a romantic relationship in private and without assistance from others, the rituals of marriage followed within their communities still demand and provide for an appearance of an arranged marriage (Hart 354). C. Same-Sex Marriage. Same-sex marriage is known to be a major reason for the decrease in rate of marriages in the past decades. Indeed, movements asking for support for same-sex marriage had been active in the United States in the early 1990s, although such early movements had been far from successful (Cherlin 850).
Indeed, all of the states of the American union refused to legalize same-sex marriage when the concept was first introduced. In Hawaii, the state constitution was even amended to bar same-sex marriage. The United States Congress also put its foot down through the Defense of Marriage Act. The said law authorized states to refuse the recognition of same-sex marriages or licenses obtained in other states (Cherlin 850). However, the early 2000s had paved the way to liberalism in the acceptance of same-sex marriages, particularly in the United States and Canada.
Both jurisdictions began to rule that laws refusing recognition of validity of same-sex marriages are discriminatory. The trend has also caught up among certain countries of Europe, such as Belgium and the Netherlands (Cherlin 850). Presently, same-sex marriages are yet to be fully accepted by society. This fact is disturbing, especially in light of the disadvantages and risks that this situation poses on homosexual couples who eventually go separate ways.
Lewin disagrees with the proposition that the lack of provision of rights to same-sex couples similar to heterosexual couples is advantageous because of lack of legal or religious ties. Rather, she believes that gay and lesbian couples also get entangled in legal issues, and the lack of laws to protect them would only leave them at a disadvantage (Lewin 1003). Finally, Lewin argues that same-sex marriages serve the function of heterosexual marriages in serving as marks of authenticity and legitimacy. Same-sex marriages afford couples with the “transformative moments” that motivate their actions.
Thus, same-sex marriages entitle couples the power to claim a certain identity within their community (Lewin 1005). IV. Marriage in Different Cultures. A. Eskimos Eskimos have a wide variety of marriage customs and practices, both documented and undocumented. Each region has a different cultural variation that is laden with a long history. The flexibility of the marriage practices and the ambiguity of data contribute to the failure of existing literature to fully document the marriage practices of Eskimos (Damas 409).
Damas documented the marriage practices of three Eskimo groups, namely, the Iglulik, Netsilik, and Copper Eskimo, who were classified based on their material culture, dialects, or a hint of genealogical unity (Damas 410). All three groups did not observe marriage ceremonies (Damas 410). Eskimos had never been bound by wedlock. Marriages in their community are based on economies of existence, as the major consideration in marriage is the wife’s willingness and capacity to bear children (Garber 219).
The beginning of married life is considered begun by the time that the woman “brought her household equipment with her and set up a domestic routine. ” The reverse act, or the moving out by the woman, would necessarily mean the end of the marriage (Damas 410). Two of these three Eskimo groups actually practice bride or groom service before marriage. Among the Iglulik Eskimos, there is a requirement of one-year bride service, wherein the couple moves into the household of the groom’s father. The second group refers to the Copper Eskimos, who require that the prospective son-in-law serve the