The pressure on women to marry in Ghanaian society is suffocating. While heterosexual marriage is presented as an elective life choice, it is often treated as a necessary requirement that all people, especially women, must accomplish to garner respect and success. Even though marital pressure exists for both men and women, it manifests differently. Women are socialized to desire marriage as the primary indicator of a fulfilled and completed life, while men are socialized to view marriage as an eventual but necessary step that will rid them of their boyhood freedoms. Marriage ensures that women’s social position remains subordinate to men because it is used as a bargaining chip to convince women to conform to restrictive gender roles. Thereby, making marriage in Ghana a heteronormative site of male dominance.
Women Are Pressured Into Being Desperate To Get Married
Duncan Williams, overfed Prayerlord and thug Bishop extraordinaire, perpetuated a cultural myth that continues to bind women . He argued that women were worthless unless men proposed to marry them. Thus it was in women’s best interest to see marriage as a “privilege”. He went on to state that degrees, and other life accomplishments were irrelevant if women were not married. According to the money sucking, false prophet, the crux of women’s worth in life is men’s decision to marry them, and women would begin to rot If they were not married.
The first step in maintaining a social arrangement of male supremacy is by ensuring that women feel much more obligated to marry than their men counterparts. Whether it is a fulfilling career or an attempt at running for political office, Ghanaian women of a certain age are not respected or accepted unless they are married. Women who are unmarried are treated as dysfunctional and unaccomplished. They are devalued, gossiped about, mocked and made to feel like failures. Through the use of “nature”, religious beliefs, and cultural myths, women are made to feel that a failure to get married undermines the life that they have built.
Men are able to retain the upper hand in marriage because women are socialized to be desperate to marry. The combination of the message that men’s “playboy” freedoms must end with marriage, and the message that women’s value is tied to being married, creates different desires. While men are hesitant to let go off their freedoms by getting married, women are eager to gain the social status and worth that comes with being married. Unequal power dynamics are thus created.
Marriage Is Used To Blackmail Women Into Compliance With Gender Roles
Women are constantly reminded that if they do not conform to certain social norms, they will become unworthy of marriage. The threat of never being married is used as a socializing tool to scare women into complying with patriarchal gender norms. To be “wifey material” women are indoctrinated into accepting restricted gender roles in exchange for marriage. Because women are told they have no value unless they are married, social conditions make women feel very desperate to retain value through marriage. The allure of marriage is used to convince women to give up many liberties.Essentially women are emotionally and psychologically blackmailed with the notion that a refusal to comply with gender roles means a denial of marriage and love.
Social conditions that place economic power into the hands of men also ensure that women feel compelled to marry. For many poor women without access to education or livable wages in Ghana, marrying men is the only means of economic survival. Desperate to live, many vulnerable women accept patriarchal gender roles that reduce them to men’s live-in servants in exchange for stability. The economic conditions coupled with societal ideas cause a vicious cycle where sons are groomed to be breadwinners, while daughters are raised to be suitable for marriage.
Liberties Lost In Pursuit of Being “Wifey Material”
1. Sexual autonomy and liberation-
How are women convinced to deny themselves sexual exploration? First by disseminating the idea that women who have sex have less value and are “hoes”, “ashawos”, while allowing men to maintain or increase their value with sexual activity. Second, by teaching both men and women not to desire to marry “hoes”. Women are taught that to be “wifey material”, they must refrain from sexual activity.
Women are also taught that sex is for their husbands, and that engaging in sexual activity reduces women’s “purity” and thus marriage potential. With anxieties that they will never get married, many women begrudgingly decide to either refrain from sexual activity, or hide their sexual explorations to maintain a reputation that still renders them “marriage material”. Others choose “technical virginity” or the life of a “vlut” (participating in anal or oral, manual sex while refraining from vaginal penetration) to maintain wifey material status.
2. Freedom to Not Perform Domestic Labor-
Many women are made to feel obligated to perform the domestic labor of the household as a necessary duty to be married. Women are constantly told that a failure to cook, clean, wash clothes, iron clothes etc. (be a live-in maid) will resort in a failure to get or maintain a marriage. As previously discussed. the heavy, unappreciated burden of domestic labor drains women’s time and energy and greatly undermines women’s capacity to build careers and individual pursuits outside of the home.
In addition to being socialized that women’s life purpose is in the home, women are also taught to always consider fulfilling the burden of domestic labor before pursuing their dreams and careers. Women are relegated into the home to ensure that everything that men need to be able to “conquer” the outside world is met. While their own dreams either never develop or shrivel like a raisin in the sun.
4. Full Personhood –
By raising women to be good enough for men to marry, our patriarchal society reduce women as a means to an end. Women are not taught to pursue their own intrinsic desires. Rather women are taught to be good for men.
I suspect that what people truly want is to be loved, appreciated, and cared for. In lieu of healthy relationships, gender roles reduce women to objects for men’s comfort, and it reduces men to objects of women’s survival. Women become proxy live-in maids and men become human ATM machines. The two following steps should be taken to ensure that men and women are humanized and desiring of marriage rather than coerced into settling.
First, stop making marriage a necessary step for women to retain value. Valuing women intrinsically, not on the basis of marriage or motherhood would allow women to construct their lives however they please. Second, rather than pressuring people to mold themselves to be “marriage material”, it would be prudent to allow all to pick serious, long-term partners to fulfill specific individual needs. Equitable gender relations that reject predetermined roles based on sex, and make available just economic opportunities for women, allow everyone to find what they want.