Romy Shiller

Marriage, Divorce and Being Single or The ‘M’ Word

In 3rd Wave Feminism, General on September 1, 2011 at 11:00 am

(originally published May 5, 2010)

My article is‘Marriage, Divorce and Being Single or The ‘M’ Word.’ I examine some of the roles we are forced into and the damaging effects of ideology. I am not against marriage at all – I am for free-will.

If divorce has increased by one thousand percent, don’t blame the women’s movement. Blame the obsolete sex roles on which our marriages were based.Betty Friedan:
speech, New York City, January 20, 1974Marriage, Divorce and Being Single or The ‘M’ Word

You know, to be a single woman over a certain age really enacts a double standard. Men are labeled ‘bachelors’ – lots of doubtful questions arise for women that do not exist for men. Is she gay? Does she have trouble committing or holding down a man?

In my non-fiction book Who Knew?A continuation of You Never Know: A Memoir I say, “Wow. To be an unmarried woman is so suspect. I certainly could have gotten married and will – one day. I remember having a teacher in high-school who was unmarried and I definitely pre-judged her. I was not outside of ideology or expectation. It is kind of bizarre to be in a similar situation now. I was doing a Masters Degree and a PhD. I studied singing at The Royal Conservatory of Music. I had a band. There were relationships and jobs. I acted on film, a TV series and theatre, wrote articles, studied French and took seminars on photography and voice-work. Sorry if marriage was not a priority. I feel like it does not matter what I did – marriage would have been a measure of success.”It is so bizarre to me. I do so much yet validation from most others would be based through my relationship with a man. Sorry – but like it’s so hard to get married? Look, I do want to be with someone forever and marriage would concretize that idea but there are no guarantees, eh? Amy, a third-wave feminist like me says, “society has valued marriage to the extent that some people stay in marriages that aren’t healthy — and do so, because “not being married” or being “divorced” in this society punishes people — especially women — even those for whom divorce is a ‘life saver.’” (feminist.com) A stable partner would be great, but if marriage is not an option, so be it.Like many children, fairy-tales were read to me. Instead of idealizing a prince-charming, I may have regarded the situation as make-believe. I never immersed myself in an ideology most take for granted. I still don’t. Good cake at weddings though. Usually, free drinks too. An excuse for a party? I’m honestly not a hurtful person; I just get a kick out of making fun of things.A New York Times article says, “The most recent crop of reality television shows taps the fantasies we first learned from fairy tales: castles and fortunes, true love and romantic destiny, and above all that most perfect storybook union, the ”fairy tale wedding.” On the rose-strewn finale of ”The Bachelorette,” Trista chose the shy fireman Ryan, who promptly got down on one knee and held out a diamond. ”I don’t think that I could have imagined a better ending to this fairy tale story,” she sighed. Meanwhile, on ”Joe Millionaire,” 20 would-be Cinderellas competed for the hand of a modern-day Prince Charming.” Ich but firemen… (“Fairy Tales and a Dose of Reality.”)Gay marriage – well, if it’s legal for straights, I say why not? “Brad Pitt gave one hundred thousand to fight the passage of Proposition 8, an amendment that would outlaw gay marriage in California. Brad’s donation is the biggest that any A-list celebrity has donated to this date. But it comes as a shock that Ellen DeGeneres or Portia haven’t given a penny to the cause. Rumors have it that eleven million dollars has been raised to fight Prop 8.” (Associated Content)

“Brad Pitt, ever the social activist, says he won’t be marrying Angelina Jolie until the restrictions on who can marry whom are dropped.” (Advocate.com) Way to go Brangelina!

I know some absolutely fabulous women, pioneers, who feel judged because of their non-marital status. If as much energy around them would be focused on their incredible accomplishments instead of analyzing why they’re single there would be such a positive shift for everyone concerned. This gets me mad on so many levels.

I was looking at the website, Single-Woman.TV. It celebrates singleness. This truly opposes dominant belief structures. Instead of judging and being negative there is pragmatic positivity and a very welcome breathing space. You are not suffocated into fitting-in. The very opposite of a Stepford wife is enabled: “The term “Stepford wife”, which is often used in popular culture, stemmed from the novel [The Stepford Wives is a 1972 satirical horror novel by Ira Levin], and is usually a reference to a submissive and docile housewife.” (Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia)

In my non-fiction book You Never Know: A Memoir  I say; “I guess the way my mind works is pretty revolutionary. I do not think like most people I know, that’s for sure. By many standards, I am pretty unconventional. My actions speak for themselves. Two things I can think of right off the bat are that I am unmarried and I do not have kids. Not that I do not want either, but they obviously have not been a priority for me. I was never the kind of girl who dreamt of her wedding day. Having a stable partner is very nice, but I never thought I would need to get married to have that. I remember when I was eight years old, a little boy asked me to marry him. I know we were too young to get married, but I cannot shrug this feeling that I was hard-wired for resistance early on.” (pp. 117-118.)

It is revolutionary to go against the grain, to resist a standard, a dominant ideology. It takes a lot of courage and strength to do things differently and I admire, no esteem, those that do. I know very well that I opt out of the so-called ‘normal’ (I can’t stand that word) but for me it’s like breathing air – a habit which takes little effort on my part. I do validate the effort and challenge most face though.

There is a ton of pressure to fit in and conform. Mark Twain said; “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” In You Never Know: A Memoir I say; “Difference is something that most people avoid. Fitting in becomes a goal. Personally, I think difference is valuable. It’s the “same” that irks me. Variation is not the same as inconsistency. One can be incredibly multi-tonal and consistent.” (p. 23)

Pat Donnelly’s article “How not to find love” (The Montreal Gazette) describes how playwright-actor-dancer-singer Fenulla Jiwani in her play, 30 Dates, draws upon her own dating experiences and feelings about arranged marriages. The pressure to get married is fierce. Donnelly adds, “Looking for Mr. or Ms. Right? Now that online dating and speed dating have entered into the equation, the comedic possibilities have multiplied.” I know that “arranged marriages” are cultural but the inference…

Even celebrity Carmen Electra feels pressure to marry: “The former ‘Baywatch’ star – who got engaged to the KoRn guitarist in April after a whirlwind romance – insists the couple are in no hurry to tie the knot but are constantly being asked if they have set a wedding date.”

She said: “It’s funny; everyone else puts so much pressure, asking, ‘When are you getting married?”
“If it was up to everybody else, we would be married and divorced already.” (“Carmen Electra Feeling Under Pressure To Get Married.”)

Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia says; “Divorce or dissolution of marriage is the final termination of a marriage, canceling the legal duties and responsibilities of marriage and dissolving the bonds of matrimony between married persons. In most countries, divorce requires the sanction of a judge or other authority in a legal process.”

I’ve had excruciating break-ups and the torment of divorce must be horrific. There is a great temptation, I’m sure, to be pain-free, to avoid conflict. There might be a fire one has to walk through to get to the other side. This side may ultimately hold mega-relief. Probably, stepping outside the ideology of marriage to some, feels very risky. I know so many people that are in bad marriages. Obviously, I think it’s worth it to get out. Breaking up is never easy, but why suffers permanently? All of the rationalizations in the world don’t seem to cut it. “Recovering from a breakup or divorce is difficult. However, it’s important to know (and to keep reminding yourself) that you can and will move on. But healing takes time, so be patient with yourself.” (Helpguide.com)

The power of ideology cannot be underestimated.

Bibliography

feminist.com
Accessed September 16, 2009.

Helpguide.com
Accessed November 30, 2009.

iCelebZ.com. “Carmen Electra Feeling Under Pressure To Get Married.” June 9, 2008.
Accessed October 4, 2009.

Levin, Ira. The Stepford Wives: a Novel. Fawcett Publications. 1972.
Marriage Quotes
Accessed September 16, 2009.

Shiller, Romy. Who Knew? Victoria, BC: Trafford. 2010.
—————. You Never Know: A Memoir. Victoria, BC: Trafford. 2008.

Single-Woman.TV
Accessed September 21, 2009.

The New York Times. “Fairy Tales and a Dose of Reality.” March 3, 2003.
Accessed October 4, 2009.

The Quote Garden
Accessed October 3, 2009.

Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.
Accessed November 30, 2009.

Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.
Accessed September 21, 2009.

Romy Shiller is a pop culture critic and holds a PhD in Drama from the University of Toronto. Her academic areas of concentration include film, gender performance, camp and critical thought.

Romy Shiller is a 3rd Wave Feminist according to the book Third Wave Feminism and Television: Jane Puts it in a Box by the head of women’s studies at South-Carolina U.

Books are available online. She lives in Montreal where she continues her writing.

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