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Ek Ladki Ko Dekha

“Don’t marry career women” is a pretty blunt title for an article, but Forbes runs with it, providing a fairly convincing list of reasons why marriages to career-minded women are statistically doomed to unhappiness. This is no doubt problematic for all those women who’ve been told that they can’t have happiness and empowerment without a degree and a job, but it’s also terrible news for guys like me who’re attracted to those educated, accomplished, motivated women who stalk the city streets in their heels and suits—much better looking intellectual sparring partners (who often seem to thrash us mercilessly in the ring). ~Peter Suderman

Mr. Suderman makes a good point here that the confirmations of the advantages of more traditional social arrangements do indeed seem very problematic to professional men and women alike.  The women have been taught to strive to be professional women; the men have been taught to strive after women who want to be professionals.  Entire cottage industries have sprung up aimed at defining and discovering compatibility in terms of sameness (which very likely has less to do with compatibility than they or their unfortunate clients will ever realise), which almost requires professionals to pursue and marry other professionals, thus apparently being more likely to doom them all to less happy lives. 

On a related note, domestic life dominates American society in strange ways, and its influence has grown with time as the public places where men congregate with other men–the plaza, the cafe, the bar–are no longer (or, in some contexts, never were) so much places for men to socialise among themselves as they are now venues for the pursuit of the ever elusive “sparring partner.”  But let us be serious: are we talking about creating a marriage and a family, or are we setting up a debating society?  In the past there has, of course, been the same desire for women who are highly educated “sparring partners”–a desire fulfilled by courtesans in most pre-modern societies–but rarely has it become such a widespread attitude that it affects choices for marriage as strongly as it does today.  Much of this comes ultimately from detaching marriage from many of its social and familial functions and making it principally into a love-match, which encourages all of the unrealistic expectations Mr. Suderman rightly criticises and raises the bar even higher for what constitutes “compatibility.”  For these bizarre and confused notions of human relationships the 19th century Romantics and English novelists have much to answer, but even worse are their modern disciples and admirers.    

The sorts of things that modern men look for in potential wives (the “educated, accomplished, motivated” sparring partners that Mr. Suderman describes) would simply baffle and bewilder almost every generation of men that has come before.  All of those things are very nice in their way, but none of them ever had very much to do with marriage before a very short time ago.

But I have to say that I understand what Mr. Suderman is talking about with respect to the effect of movies on our conceptions of relationships and marriage only too well.  If you make the mistake of watching too many Bollywood movies (someone will murmur that watching one is too many), which are even more excessive in their glorification of unrealistic expectations of happily ever after among the beautiful people, you may come away with very distorted ideas and expectations.  In the Indian context, I expect that these movies are a sort of protest against the way that relationships and marriage still are governed by the demands of family and station in a way now completely alien to us and so may not have nearly so many deleterious effects, but when we in the West are exposed to them the damage is even worse than that inflicted by our own films.  If regular romantic fare from Hollywood is like cocaine, Bollywood melodrama is the cinematic equivalent of crack for its potentially destructive, distorting influence on what we expect in relationships.  If some have an unhealthy obsession with the “indy girl” and Natalie Portman in Garden State, it is even worse to have an obsession with the Indian girl and Rani Mukherjee in Hum Tum.  Both are quite unrealistic, but the latter is simply as fantastical and unobtainable as the Indian movies themselves.    

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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