16 April 2011

MARRIAGE AND LOVE [by Emma Goldman]

Written in 1914, Emma Goldman's essay on marriage and love could very well have been written in 1994.  Not only is her style direct and modern, but many of the issues about the ineffectual role of marriage in relationships and in an equitable society remain pertinent even to today. 

Reading this essay, I was most surprised by Goldman's frank discussion of sex.  She defends a woman's right to her desire, to wanting to have pleasure in her sexual life.  She argues that the institution of marriage, based on economy and property, destroys a woman's healthy relationship to sex.  She becomes a breeding machine trapped in a house and expected to do slave labour with no insurance for her life's needs should her husband die or leave.  Grim.

One of my favourite arguments that Goldman makes is that marriage makes a woman 'parasitic.'  It turns her from an autonomous person into a dependent who feeds off of a man.  She argues that the institution of marriage inevitably creates this dynamic wherein a wife becomes someone her husband can easily detest.  She becomes a parasite.

Granted, Goldman's views are unique to her time when women's freedom was drastically limited by marriage.  Today, a woman can marry and continue to work in a capitalist society, own her individual assets and divorce her husband if she should need to leave him.  However, Goldman's essay does remain relevant in her cynicism of marriage's ability to create love between two people and her realistic view that marriage is not going to serve anyone as much as it serves the state and the church.

To obtain copies of Goldman's essays, visit www.kersplebedeb.com.