Family by Bonding, not Marriage

Going back to that tempting pile of blogging fodder, “All The Single Ladies”

Could we have a modernization of the Mosuo, Ryan mused, with several women and their children living together—perhaps in one of the nation’s many foreclosed and abandoned McMansions—bonding, sharing expenses, having a higher quality of life? “In every society where women have power—whether humans or primates—the key is female bonding,” he added.

First of all, I am not sure what is said in the essay about the Mosuo is completely accurate.

One of the things which puzzles me is why does the writer (and the young women she writes about) dream so much about getting married? Seriously, what so great about marriage that so many people want it get married for the sake of getting married? It’s much easier for me to understand the desire to marry a specific person.

You know what? This idea of living in a household with close friends a heck of a lot more appealing to me than marriage. I wouldn’t necessarily share expenses … but I would certainly assist any member of the household who was in trouble.

I like the idea of bonding with female and genderqueer people as family. I might even welcome cis-males, but would do so with much more caution because of the patriarchal baggage (and that it also why I think bonding with genderqueer people wouldn’t be much different from female-female bonding – the patriarchy does not privilege them).

And maybe I feel this way because this possibly describes the household I grew up as much as ‘traditional marriage’ does.

Though my parents had a sufficiently sexual relationship to bring me into existence, they have never married, and have never even seemed to have much romance together (at least not to me, I think it might have been there at one time and it faded away). They call each other ‘partners’. My mother does own the house, which sort of makes her the head of household (especially according to census forms). My father pays rent … and has much more independence than a wife has in a ‘traditional marriage’. He owned the car when we had one, and while my parents do have some shared banking accounts for specific benefits, they generally keep their finances and expenses separate. They keep track of who pays for what so that they can keep things even (in fact, this is why my dad pays rent – he didn’t buy the house, so he’s paying his fair share for the money and effort my mother put into it). Though my parents haven’t done so, they could add another partner, either a relative or a friend (in fact, they would like to bring my uncle into their household).

My parents’ relationship, where everything is clearly negotiated with words and they keep a degree of independence, seems more stable to me than the relationships of 95% of the married couples I know. Maybe that’s part of why marriage doesn’t have much appeal to me.


3 thoughts on “Family by Bonding, not Marriage

  1. Hi, Sara. I’m not sure this is the most appropriate place to ask but I couldn’t find an e-mail address. I’m a (n aspiring) filmmaker and I’ll be moving from the Mainland to Taipei in the next year. There are a couple of things related to manhua that I’d like to know and it dawned on me that you’d best person to ask. I’d feel more comfortable corresponding through e-mail or something similar, is that doable? I love the columns at Manga Bookshelf, by the way.

  2. Marriage seems like one of those customs that people follow because they were taught to do so, and because it is what is expected of them. I know that, historically, plenty of radicals proposed some kind of “free coupling” to replace marriage. When two people choose to spend their time together and raise a child, marriage is just a social recognition of their choice, and therefore it seems like an external confirmation of their own choice rather than any kind of real bond.

    • I’m not entirely sure what you mean by ‘marriage is just a social recognition of their choice, and therefore it seems like an external confirmation of their own choice rather than any kind of real bond.’ I think the raising a child with somebody else is a real bond, regardless of biological relations or anything else going on.

      It’s one thing to do something because society teaches you do so. It’s another thing to get excited and relish the prospect of doing something. I do plenty of things because society teaches me to do them, but that doesn’t mean I dream about doing those things *just* because society taught me to do them.

      I can get the social pressure / conditioning aspect. What I have trouble getting is why people get so enthusiastic about the prospect of marriage in itself (being enthusiastic about marrying a specific person one has a special relationship with is something I can get).

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