Recently I was watching a television biography of a famous female artiste who was bulimic. This made me think about arranged and love marriages from a women's perspective.
The usual opinion is that arranged marriages happen only in the east but this was not always so arranged marriages were happening even in Victorian Europe. With the industrial revolution and the end of the 2 world wars people's attitudes and perceptions started changing as women started to join the workforce and they started to demand for their rights. In England for example most of the kings and queens had arranged marriages up until King George V the present Queen Elizabeth's father broke tradition by marrying a commoner. Besides popular love lore like Soni Mahiwal, India always had a long tradition of arranged marriages. With the advent of the British, and the subsequent introduction of British education system more Indians got educated. These educated Indians in turn started to send their children to school and tried to educate their wives at home. The cause of women's education and rights were also very much espoused by our social reformers. In spite of this the institution of arranged marriage persisted. Education and exposure to the media, started to make people to think and realize they need not be bound by tradition and they can choose their own marital partners without having to rely on parents, matchmakers, relatives or having to consult astrologers. This gave rise to love marriages. Currently in our country we have arranged as well as love marriages taking place.
Before I launch further into this article, I want to briefly explain bulimia and anorexia nervosa two conditions which afflict mainly women in the west and which form the basis for this article.
It is argued that love marriages offer more independence and freedom as compared to arranged marriages where the girl/boy is chosen by the parents so there is pressure to conform to parental expectations like producing a male heir, taking part in family rituals and traditions, putting up with sisters-in-laws, contributing to family expenses etc. One of the usual questions against an arranged marriage is that how can you marry somebody you don't know. Knowing somebody before marriage allows partners to have better respect and understanding for each other's needs and desires. This way they are better adjusted in the marriage when they finally take their wedding vows.
In this condition teenage girls go on a diet to attain a slim figure. They are inspired by fashion models and long to emulate them. They go to extreme lengths to achieve their ideal to the extent of starving themselves. Anorexics can't seem to get over the feeling that they are big, and eat less and less to achieve their goal. Some anorexics need to be hospitalized and administered intravenous fluids. This is a mental illness, which needs to be treated at both the mental and physical level.
Bulimia is more common among older women. Women suffering from this type of condition have been known to eat and stuff themselves till they get sick and then throw all of that up. This way they feel psychologically satisfied that they have not only satisfied their food cravings but have also avoided putting on unnecessary weight. Bulimics have been known to consume as much as 3 bowls of cereal, 4 bars of chocolate, 3 packs of cookies, 1 steak, 2 bowls of fruit, 3 bars of ice-cream half a gallon of milk in one sitting. One famous example of a bulimic person is the late Princess Diana. This is a more serious condition from anorexia since it involves binge eating and throwing up which is unhealthy.
Not all love marriages have happy endings. Sometimes discord arises even in love marriages. In the west girls who are fat find it difficult to find suitable dates. There is pressure on the women to conform to conventional male ideas of beauty where women have to be tall and slim with hourglass figures. These kinds of attitudes and perspectives have not only created the kinds of conditions which I described above but are also responsible for women suffering a lot of pain and rejection. Beauty contests and the popular Barbie doll with its model of a doll with supermodel's figure have been accused of reinforcing this mindset. These kinds of pressures would just increase as society gets more modern and technology advances. Then, would women who refuse to conform get left behind? This made me wonder for a moment that maybe society should switch back to arranged marriages from love marriages since this pursuit for perfection in beauty would increase as society changes. On the positive side all this has also led to the feminist movements in the west. Women have come out of the closet refusing to be mere sexual objects pandering to male ideas of beauty.
Coming to arranged marriages, they offer more protection, security to the women. There is not much pressure on the women to look like models. Parents employ maturity and wise judgment when choosing suitable spouses for their children. Sometimes it helps to rely on another person's opinion and experience when selecting one's partner especially when the people marrying are young and need guidance and advice in marrying a suitable person.
This does not mean arranged marriages are the ideal sort of marriages. Having an arranged does not mean that the married couple remains happily ever after or that there is harmony in the relationship. Women have been known to stay on in abusive relationships for the sake of family pride, respect in society etc. Even in an arranged marriage there is a different sort of pressure to be fair-skinned and beautiful. In India the evil of dowry, caste and community issues and the concept of matching horoscopes, sometimes taken to its extreme levels have contributed much to the argument against arranged marriages.
It becomes difficult therefore to predict the ideal sort of marriage. So ultimately it is up to the individual to decide whether he wants to have a love or an arranged marriage after all it is a question of being happy in love.