Why Marriage Is A Raw Deal For Women

Photo: Kaspars Grinvalds | Shutterstock
Man sitting on couch while spouse vacuums

So, a couple of weeks ago, one of my nephews called to invite me to his wedding this summer. He’s been with his fiancé for seven years, has lived with her for the last six years, and has two children. The fact that he cohabitated with his fiancé and had two children outside of marriage doesn’t bother me. The very institution of marriage is at issue, especially for his fiancé.

Marriage is touted to be one of the pinnacles of human existence. For straight people, the most revered bond in our society is the one between a husband and wife. It’s so highly regarded because two people who are purportedly opposites are supposed to somehow compromise to be companionable.

Yet, although society holds marriage as an ideal state, many wives find it unsatisfying. How can half the people participating find such a revered institution to be lacking?

Marriage is not an equal institution.

Speaking only for myself, I’ve known since the age of 12 that marriage did not benefit women.

Seeing my parents’ marriage was enough to justify my opinion. My mother stayed at home until I was 11. She spent all day cleaning, cooking, and tending to my sister and me. Circumstances forced her to seek employment outside the home because my father’s wages in retail could no longer adequately support us. Yet, after she came home from eight hours at her job, she did what experts now refer to as the “second shift.”

She was expected to still cook, clean, and tend to my sister and me. Granted, on many occasions, my sister and I did these tasks, but even with our assistance, my mother still ran ragged. My father hardly did any emotional or household labor at all, except for laundry. And he didn’t do a good job at that because, on numerous occasions, white clothes would turn pink.

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My father ruining laundry is a prime example of what is now called weaponized incompetence. The term describes men who use or feign incompetence as a way to get out of doing things they don’t want to do and leave their partner carrying the majority of the physical and mental load.

When my mother, my sister and I got tired of having our favorite clothes ruined, you can guess what happened. When I entered high school, my sister and I took over laundry duties. After a few years, my mother resumed those duties occasionally when my life or my sister’s life got extremely full.

Many people are aware that married men live longer than single men. There is a reason for that. Married men get free labor. They get downtime after their workday is done. They get maids, cooks, nurses, therapists, nannies, event planners, and sex workers all wrapped up in one person — their wife. That’s a pretty sweet deal.

Want to know exactly how married men have it made? Exact figures will differ depending on the region of the U.S. one lives in, but here are the average wages in New York City for each of the following occupations:

  1. House cleaner — $18.71 an hour.
  2. Nanny — $38,000 per year, although the more well-off her employer, the more she’ll earn.
  3. Cook — Line cooks (those that actually do the grunt work) earn on average the minimum wage in NYC, which is $15 an hour. Executive chefs (those who sit behind a desk most of the time) can earn six figures on average.
  4. Nurse — A nurse graduating from college can command a starting salary of around $80,000 a year in NYC. After a decade, she can command six figures.
  5. Therapist — It varies depending on the type of graduate degree they get. A Licensed Social Worker or Mental Health Counselor can command a starting salary of around $70,000 a year in NYC. Those with a PsyD or Ph.D. earn more.
  6. Event planner — $57,194 a year.
  7. Sex worker — If the woman is under 25, the average is six figures. If the woman is over 25, the average is $50,000 a year.

Many women are compensated for all the above occupations every day at places of employment. Mind you, some of these jobs require degrees. Many of their employers offer medical insurance, paid sick leave, paid vacation time, paid training, life insurance, and other assorted benefits.

However, upon marrying a man, they are expected to do all the above jobs without any assistance, breaks, or compensation. They aren’t expected to be appreciated for all the work they do, either. From my vantage point, there is another term for all the free labor that wives are expected to do without complaint. It’s called slavery. I am a descendant of enslaved displaced Africans on both sides of my family. I refuse to willingly enter into another form of it.

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Additional ways that marriage is a raw deal for women:

It’s also a known fact that single women live longer and are happier than married women. Many wives, if they are truthful, will say that their husbands drain the life force out of them. Women are also expected to sacrifice more of their leisure and career goals upon marriage, whereas these expectations are not required of men. The stress of marriage causes increased psychological and physical distress in women.

If the household labor that wives do isn’t enough, they also perform most of the emotional labor. The definition has morphed over time to describe the mental activity required to manage or perform the routine tasks necessary for maintaining relationships and ensuring the smooth running of a household.

For example, wives schedule medical checkups for their children, their husbands, and themselves. Wives remember to get birthday or Christmas gifts for their friends, and immediate and extended families. Wives notice that dinner dishes need to be washed. Wives tell their husbands to take out the garbage, mow the lawn, or brush their teeth. Husbands on average are oblivious to the little things like I just described that are required to keep households and relationships on an even keel. But they rarely escape their wives’ attention.

Oh, let us not forget how many straight men lack the emotional intelligence or communication skills required for intimate relationships. The husbands who dump all their trauma on women but can’t be bothered to provide the same emotional support when the wives are in need. The men who are stoic and taciturn and feel it’s unmanly to open up and be vulnerable.

We are all at fault for socializing men to regard feelings besides anger as bad or feminine. It’s on society for conditioning a lot of men to consider women as their only safe space or to regard them as bitter shrews.

However, nothing is stopping men from changing to adapt to the world’s changing expectations. They can seek help to obtain more communication skills and better emotional intelligence. Unfortunately, they are less likely to seek therapy than women as they regard asking for help as a weakness. And men have no incentive to band together to dismantle their socialization as they benefit from oppressing women.

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Women are saying no to marriage.

Given all the stress and drudgery inherent in marriage for women, why is it still regarded as necessary for them? The main reason is that women are still not valued as unique, independent human beings. They are still valued for their connections to other people — as daughters, mothers, and yes, wives.

It’s no wonder then that an increasing number of women are opting out of marriage. They are foregoing marriage because they don’t want to be regarded as property, act like mothers to grown men, or do thankless, backbreaking work.

Our great-grandmothers and grandmothers weren’t given the option to avoid marriage. The institution was the only way for them to obtain financial security because society enacted barriers that prevented them from being independent. Most occupations were closed to women. They did not have reproductive freedom as abortion was illegal and birth control hadn’t been invented. And they were not allowed to open bank accounts or credit cards in their names until fifty years ago.

Those barriers have decreased for today’s women. While a man simply having a job may have been enough of a requirement in my grandmother’s time to get married, it isn’t enough for many women today. We require that men be kind, respectful, and empathetic. We require that they be able to communicate their feelings. Sadly, many of them lack these attributes.

We see how men are becoming unglued as women increasingly consider them more of an option than a necessity. Men are angry that their entitlement to women’s bodies and time is no longer guaranteed. The rise of the manosphere where incels (involuntarily celibate), red pillers, and MGTOW (men going their own way) dwell is a pushback against women’s independence. Why would many women consider a partnership with people who consider them as little more than objects and beneath contempt?

It’s for all these reasons that I never regretted my decision not to marry and paid no heed to those who consider my singleness shameful. Many married women envy my freedom and long to obtain my peace. I hope my soon-to-be niece-in-law doesn’t regret marrying my nephew.

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Vena Moore is a writer who lives in Brooklyn, NY. Her articles have been featured in Medium and The Good Men Project.

This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.