Traditional Marriage: An Outmoded Institution

Posted under: philosophy, psychology.
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Adapted for Cogitations from a paper I wrote as part of my sociology coursework.

Human beings almost never have to be cajoled into pairing. Instead, we do this naturally. We flirt. We feel infatuation. We fall in love. We marry. And the vast majority of us marry only one person at a time. Pair-bonding is a trademark of the human animal (Fisher, 1992). In our pair bonding society we find our other half, become dependent, and walk off into the sunset of the nuclear family.

Men and women depended on each other from the beginning. Evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin suggested that on average men are more aggressive, and that they excel at higher mathematical problems, and at completing several visual-spatial-quantitative tasks. Women, on average, do more nurturing and exhibit more verbal skills and memory ability than men (Fisher, 1992). These gender differences make evolutionary sense. Aggression would have served men well as they confronted their predators and enemies, and nurturing capabilities of women caused them to show interest in their infants and tolerance of their needs. As ancestral males began to scout, track, and surround animals millennia ago, those males who were good at maps and mazes would have prevailed. Ancestral women needed to locate vegetable foods within an elaborate matrix of vegetation, so they developed a superior ability to remember the locations of stationary objects (Fisher, 1992).

In preindustrial Europe farming couples still needed each other to survive. A woman living on a farm depended on her husband to move the rocks, fell the trees, and plow the land. Her husband needed her to sow, weed, pick, prepare, and store the vegetables. Together they worked the land. More important, whoever left the marriage left empty-handed. Women and men were tied to the soil, to each other, and to a network of stationary kin (Fisher, 1992).
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Comments (7) May 05 2009

Petition Granted and Ordered

Posted under: philosophy.
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Certificate Of Change Of Name

Certificate Of Change Of Name

I recently changed my last name from Danley back to my maiden name Uhler. When Brent and I got married in 1995 I changed my last name to his family name without considering the significance or history of the tradition. Brent initially suggested that I go back to Uhler. I was resistant at first because I liked the name Danley. No one ever pronounced Uhler correctly (properly pronounced “yoo-ler”). I also liked the convenience of our family members all having the same last name. These concerns quickly became trivial, however, when I began examining the tradition. I now believe this custom is outmoded and misogynistic. My name represents my individuality, identity, and autonomy.

Under Christian doctrine the Bible made the husband the “head” of his wife—his wife’s superior—as Christ was head of the church. The common laws turned the married pair legally into one person—the husband. The husband was enlarged, so to speak, by marriage, while the wife’s giving up her own name and being called by his symbolized her relinquishing her identity. This legal doctrine of marital unity was called coverture, which meant the woman turned all her legal rights and obligations over to her husband.

–Nancy F. Cott, Harvard professor

Many women continue to take the last name of their husband when they decide to marry. Most of us are given a surname to connect to our progenitors. Under this conventional Western naming convention we are linked to our fathers; however we have no connection by name to our mothers. Many couples are now combining their last names. Read the rest of this entry »

Comments (6) May 02 2009