The Meaning of Marriage

In this reflection, I explore The Meaning of Marriage by Martha Albertson Fineman. Fineman’s work drew my attention owing to her delicate approach on a topic considered open by many but characterized by lots of confusion. Marriage is a widely spoken topic. Despite its openness, it has attracted a lot of attention, especially with societal dynamics. Fineman puts marriage in various categories: a social institution, a political organization, individualized arrangement, a legal entity, among others. Evolution of the meaning of marriage has led to more questions arising on the meaning of marriage.

Fineman’s ideas of marriage are not farfetched, rather, they are entrenched understanding of marriage institution evolution. Notably, the author takes some hard stances, which is uncommon in many societies. For example, Fineman believes marriage arrangement should be revised to form a lesser part of a family organization. The view contradicts many views that consider marriage as the center of the family organization. I will emphatically counter Fineman’s view that marriage should not be the center of the family unit.

In the Western culture, a family is defined as an organization made up the parents and the children. In other cultures, such as in the Asian and African continent, the family unit is made up of the nuclear and the extended members. The parents originated from totally different societies; they were only united by marriage, which led to siring of the children. As such, marriage is the binding element in any family. It should then be treated with a lot of importance. According to Fineman, in every family, more emphasis should be put on such aspect as economic demands and political development than marriage. Contrary, I hold that marriage play the pivotal role in ensuring political growth and economic advancement that the two cannot be given priority over marriage in any society.

Fineman has extensively dwelt on the legal sphere of marriage. I agree with the author that dynamics in the society has made marriage attract legal significance in its organization than any other institution. Legal frameworks have found many weakness in marriage organization that the society has almost reached a point of considering marriage a legal arrangement. The author has also brought forward the limited influence of law in daily marriage operations. Evidently, in many societies, legal interpretation and implementations in marriages only occur during extreme undesired outcome. However, the frequency with which legal redress is being sought in the modern world narrows the view that law does not control normal operation of marriages. Marriage can be considered an individual arrangement. This is the most commonly held definition and which we strongly share views with Fineman. Spouses make their own decisions, mostly in accordance with societal values, religious affiliations, and the community expectations. The decisions form part of their daily lives. They sort their own problems, take care of their children and worry about their personal growth. In his definition, Fineman considers this as the most blatant and basic definition of marriage. To add to his view, it is the most open and widely accepted view on marriage. The description befits both the traditional and modern marriage definition.  

Based on my reflection and experiences. Marriage institution has become an important area of legal application. This has mainly resulted from the political and economic nature of marriage arrangements. Many families are struggling with defining and exercising political powers in marriage. Often, the failure to interpret or implement marriage’s political systems have led to conflict which calls for a legal address. On the other hand, economic dependency of the modern world renders spouses at a crossroad when it comes to the use of resources. Legal interpretation has found its roots in handling economic disputes in marriages, which makes the entire arrangement dependent on legal framework. However, Fineman underscores that despite its influence in marriages and significance in marriage, the day to day arrangement of marriages is organized and run by spouses. I concur with the author’s view and his position that legal interpretation is dominating marriages. Personally, I have experienced a divorce case in our family which informed my opinion on the place of law in the marriage arrangement.

The political organization of marriages is an interesting topic. Personally, I would argue that Fineman is taking a feminist approach when addressing this aspect of marriage. The author tends to illustrate that men are a social being who hardly dedicate themselves to their spouses and children. According to the author, men have the affinity to marry other women as a way of conquering and expanding their kingdom.  I consider this view somewhat traditional and feminist in perspective. The author has failed to underline the constraints modern man faces in marriages, such as economic pressures, which forces them to remain united to their families. In my personal experience, polygamous men are hard to come by in this century. They form the minority or insignificant number in many societies. As a result, using them as a representation of the general society is unexpected view. In my community, there are no men who have abandoned their families because of polygamy. The statement is true of the past decades when men considered having many women as an exploit, a way to have many siblings, and a show of power in the community in some cultures. The modern man, on the other hand, has remained a dedicated family head; concerned with his family welfare and development. 

The issue of marriage dependency to the political, legal, and other societal organs is the most intricate to delve. Marriage presents itself as a primary arrangement between couples, but the presence of children has changed the entire picture. There are many powers supervising marriage arrangement. As a result, it holds political and legal importance. The United States Supreme court in many decision has reduced the power of marriage and rendered them to the stake especially with regards to divorce and childcare. While the intricate relationship is difficult to digest, I agree with Fineman that politics and legal institutions have a heavy impact on marriages. Fineman’s arguments can be considered flawless, except in areas that he has taken too much feminist approach.