Traditionally, marriage and sexuality have been bagged together and tinted with a bed-of-roses romance that has, over the last century or so, been unpacked and critiqued for propagating oppressive societal structures of gender, class, caste, and sexuality. Indeed, marriage isn’t just about two wedded souls matched in heaven, but about earthly ties that reach far beyond the couple it binds together. What happens when the roses are let out of the bag? This month’s issues of In Plainspeak on Marriage and Sexuality invite us to lean in and take a whiff.
Delhi-based queer feminist activists Rituparna Borah and Jaya Sharma recorded a conversation they had about their views around marriage. While both women maintain their stances of critique towards the institution of marriage, what they agree upon and investigate as their chat progresses is that marriage has a pull that even its staunchest opponents will have to acknowledge and attempt to understand.
Invitation cards had been printed. Her parents wanted to get the best of everything for her. She knew that all this generosity came more out of them trying to put up appearances than out of their love for her. Instead of trying to make sense of it all, or to reason with them, she was told to just enjoy this special life event. Once the whole family had arrived, all of her father’s financial worries and her mother’s emotional ones got drowned in the festivities that took place each night. The bright strings of lights flickered all around the house, announcing the upcoming marriage to the world.
When recently reading about the spouses of H1-B ‘skilled guest worker’ visa holders, certain themes resonate with me. These women discuss how it was not just their CVs that suffered from the forced career break – until 2015, spouses on restrictive H-4 paperwork were forbidden from pursuing employment in the U.S. – but that their core sense of self took a hit.