‘Women should stop pretending that marriage is anything but a tool for their own oppression.’

‘Marriage is an institution that has curtailed women’s freedom for centuries.’

These are just two extraordinary statments from Julie Bindel in a video piece for The Guardian this week.

I can only assume that Julie Bindel has never experienced, as I have, marriage as a partnership of two people who are equal but different.  Her assertion that all marriages are simply a tool to allow men to oppress, subjugate and even legally rape their wives is astonishing.

One of the truths that Julie appears to be missing is that most women who choose marriage do so for positive reasons. Almost always because they are in love with their husbands and also because they believe that a stable marriage provides the foundation of a secure home environment in which to raise children.

I have no doubt that some women choose marriage for the wrong reasons. However, because a woman might pretend to love a man for a period of time simply to access his wealth, as some women undoubtedly do, is not conclusive proof that marriage is a tool to impoverish men.

Julie Bindel laments that in 47 countries it is still legal for a man to rape his wife.  This is obviously wrong and indefensible, but it says nothing about marriage and plenty about the countries where this legal situation persists. That just two of these countries, China and India, represent over a quarter of the worlds population is indeed lamentable, but the countries among the 47 are countries with historically poor human rights records, and can be rightly condemned for their attitudes to LGBT rights and personal freedoms etc.  Why not look positively at the fact that in almost three quarters of sovereign nations rape within marriage has been criminalised, protecting both men and women.

Marriage has developed over many centuries and modern attitudes to marriage are a world away from the days when women were simply the chattel of men. The outdated and archaic marriage as a form of bonded slavery has no place in today’s world and is not the norm in advanced, liberal societies.

Julie Bindel claims that some women are declaring their decision to marry to be an act of feminism. If this is indeed so it seems odd to make a political act of what is traditionally seen as a lifelong commitment to a loving, monogamous relationship and there are better ways to promote feminism.

Of course the argument that is so far missing here is that this form of ‘all men are bastards’ radical feminism is damaging both to men and women. Some men are bastards, some women are too. Some marriages are violent, loveless, cynical unions of convenience or financial expediency.  Some women treat their husbands appallingly.  We long ago rightly consigned to the dustbin the era of advertising of consumer goods with portrayals of simple women who were wholly dependent on their menfolk to guide their silly wives through the consumerist maze. We have however replaced it with endless TV and radio ads where men are portrayed as gormless idiots who could not tie their own laces without a smart, clever, modern woman to help them.  This raises not a whimper of protest but is extremely damaging to male self esteem.

However, none of this negates the fact that we live in an era of unprecedented personal freedom. Women, LGBT and racial minorities are more protected from discrimination and violence than at any time in history. And in the midst of all this, many, many couples, straight, lesbian and gay, choose marriage as the bedrock on which to build committed, lifelong and loving relationships and raise families and develop extended family networks which are an important, but not exclusive, glue for complex societies.

For Julie Bindel to dismiss that as simply a cynical male-devised tool to keep women in their place is insulting, stupid and wrong.

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