Whatever shtus we’ve got, someone out there has it worse, as demonstrated by this paper sent to me by Beth:
Marriage Institutions and Sibling Competition: Evidence from South Asia
NBER Working Paper No. 18319
Issued in August 2012
NBER Program(s): CH LS
Using data from South Asia, this paper examines how arranged marriage
cultivates rivalry among sisters. During marriage search, parents with
multiple daughters reduce the reservation quality for an older
daughter’s groom, rushing her marriage to allow sufficient time to
marry off her younger sisters. Relative to younger brothers, younger
sisters increase a girl’s marriage risk; relative to younger singleton
sisters, younger twin sisters have the same effect. These effects
intensify in marriage markets with lower sex ratios or greater
parental involvement in marriage arrangements. In contrast, older
sisters delay a girl’s marriage. Because girls leave school when they
marry and face limited earnings opportunities when they reach
adulthood, the number of sisters has well-being consequences over the
lifecycle. Younger sisters cause earlier school-leaving, lower
literacy, a match to a husband with less education and a less-skilled
occupation, and (marginally) lower adult economic status. Data from a
broader set of countries indicate that these cross-sister pressures on
marriage age are common throughout the developing world, although the
schooling costs vary by setting.
I recently finished Kabul Beauty School. It’s a great piece of non-fiction about a feisty American woman who takes on Afghanistan and makes it meet her on her own terms.
A central theme of the book is women’s issues in Afghanistan, and a central aspect of that is marriage. And how do most Afghani women feel about marriage? They are not enthusiastic. Basically, there are two reasons why they might want to get married:
1 – to avoid a forced union with a Talib
2 – because maybe the husband will be less oppressive than the father or brother selling them off to him.
Otherwise, they’re pretty much going into a union where they’re perceived as foot-massaging, tea-serving, baby-making machines. Electric appliances, really, because when they don’t work right, the first remedy tried is a kick in the side. No shock, then, that they approach marriage with a reluctant resignation.
Anyway, I was thinking about how different our outlook on marriage is. Here is a whole online community of us dedicated to the pursuit of marriage and commiserating about not achieving that happy state. Us womenfolk are really lucky that we live in the right country in the right era. We can cheerfully look forward to a marriage of equals where we have the full legal and social right to keep our husbands in their places. Assuming we can find one. That’s one advantage to the Afghani method – only the very worst specimens can’t find a man willing to abuse them.