A Simple Story

Oct 4, 2013 by

Few Americans are aware of the customs and laws of countries outside of the United States.  Well, here is a simple story to illustrate how, though many people would claim that our country is rather sexist, we, in this modern age of the world, are far from sexist.  In the small South African country of Burundi, there is a marriage custom which may seem strange to us.  When a man and woman want to get married, they have every right and freedom to become engaged whenever and to whomever they want.  However, once an engagement has been accepted, there become stringent laws on what proceeds.  Exactly one year later, the wedding is to happen.  The woman is immediately forbidden from exiting the engagement.  The man is put in charge of all of the expenses and arrangements of food and gifts, since it is custom to give gifts rather than receive in this culture, for the wedding.  However, because of this responsibility it is seen as though the man has the right to back out of the anytime before the wedding.  Once the wedding commences, things become more even.  For either of them to get a divorce, both parties must agree.  However, when you look at this from the woman’s point of view, this is extremely sexist.  Basically, if she accepts the marriage proposal, even if she was not thinking things through at the time, the only way for her to be able to get out of the marriage is to get him to agree.  However, he has a year to decide if his decision was brash or not.  This seems rather unfair for a lifetime decision.  Certainly anyone would agree this is more sexist than anything we have here.

Now, I want to give you a moment to think on this story.  Now that you have thought it, let me dispel the illusion for you.  There is no wedding custom or laws, at least not that I am aware of, in Burundi like this.  However, laws similar to this do exist elsewhere, here.  Consider pregnancy.  At conception, the father has no say in the fate of the child until the day it is born.  However, the mother has an allotted amount of time, different in each state, to get an abortion and end the pregnancy.  The father has no say in this matter, just as the woman in the previous marriage ceremony example had no say on whether or not she would be married after she said yes.  Now, fast forward to the birth, the father cannot be free from child support without the consent of the mother, just as the woman cannot get divorced without the consent of the husband.  Now, claims may be said that in this example it is her body, however, its the man’s wedding.  He is paying for everything, doesn’t he get to decided to end it?  My point here is that a dilemma arises for feminine groups.  You see, in the first example, there is no doubt that such laws in America would be deemed sexist towards the woman.  However, the framework of the first example can be applied to the second.  So now, this is sexist.  With this, there is a problem.  Are they saying that such sexism is caused by the laws and fathers should have a say in abortion, be able to force an abortion, or at the very least be able to deny child support; or, are they saying that there is such a thing as natural sexism?  Things that one sex has rights to over the other by nature not by laws?

Now, disclaimer, I am in no such dilemma because I feel the first example is artificial sexism and the second is an infringement on the rights of the child.  However, this dilemma is an interesting one and if anyone has a path to reconciling the two examples or destroying the link between them that I see, please comment below.

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