The Expendable Man

Today, I re-watched Bollywood’s retelling of Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice. Just like in the original story, Bride and Prejudice revolves around a young woman eager to leave her family and her small town and begin a life of her own. How is this to be achieved? Through marriage, of course.  

Somehow this all rang more true in Jane Austen’s original, when the women wore long dresses and had no options outside of marriage. But Bride and Prejudice places the story in modern day India, and I must have said to myself a thousand times as I listened to Lalita and her sisters talking about suitors and a new life in England or America, why don’t you just go live this new life you want? Go make your dreams happen instead of waiting for some man to come choose you! I wanted to shake them!

Bride and Prejudice is a beautiful movie, but it should have ended with Lalita saying thanks but no thanks to her rich suitor and heading off to college to prepare for a career, or seeking her fortune abroad. She could have done anything. Instead, she says yes and moves into his luxurious home to begin her dream life with him. The conclusion made me squirm, and I wanted desperately to ask, is that all you want in life, Lalita? To catch a rich husband and live in a big house?

Now I know that India is not the same as the United States, and that cultural norms there are still heavily seeped in patriarchy. Still, though, girls in India can go to college and leave home if they have their family’s support to do so. Lalita’s father definitely valued her as more than just something to be married off and he appeared to be in favor of her developing her mind. Lalita herself is portrayed in the movie as a strong woman, articulate, intelligent, and unafraid to say what she thinks. At one point, Lalita even tells an unfavored suitor “I like to work!” Thus for me, the movie’s conclusion did not ring true in the least.

In the twenty-first century, in the United States – and to a lesser extent in India – a woman no longer needs to sit around waiting for a man in order to start her life. Instead, that woman can go out and take life by the balls, herself. You see, feminism makes the man expendable. Unlike in the past, a woman can be, go, and do without having to first find a man. A woman no longer has to sit at home counting her dreams and waiting for a man as Lalita and her sisters do, or like the Elizabeth and her sisters in Jane Austen’s original.

I wonder, does this make men feel threatened? I’m no psychologist, but Christian Patriarchy does seem to do its darndest to keep women dependent on men, and within the world of Christian patriarchy the independent woman is disparaged as selfish, ungodly, and dangerous. Is the independent woman really so threatening? Is it really so important that women be dependent upon men?

Of course, just because feminism makes the man expendable does not mean that he is completely out of the picture. Instead, it means that he is an option rather than a necessity. Is it really that scary to imagine a world in which women choose men because they love them and want to be with them, rather than because they need them? I am not a man, but it seems to me that if I were I would prefer to have a woman marry me because she wants me, not because she needs me. Indeed, it seems to me that this arrangement should be preferable for both sexes.

Therefore, I say many thanks to feminism, and long live the independent woman and the man she voluntarily chooses to spend her life with!

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • http://www.ayoungmomsmusings.blogspot.com Young Mom

    I agree! I married my husband to get out of my family's house. I loved him, but it many ways I did not know what love was, and it took several years to learn. I am with my husband now because I choose to be, not because I have to be.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15654013636892916062 Erika Martin – Stampin’ Mama

    Another fantastic post! I had an discussion with an acquaintance's husband on this topic and he kept quoting verses at me and telling me how awful feminism is because he said it was all about women wanting to lord it over men and take dominance over men. I told him that's not what feminism is in its truest and purest form. I told him that feminism isn't about taking control. It's about equality, yet he still argued that women need to be under men. I phrased it to him this way, "We're not looking to have dominion. We're looking for equality. For men and women to stand looking at each, not one over the other. Why is equality so threatening?" I didn't get a logical answer out of him.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11557037093560947882 Anne — QuicksilverQueen.com

    I married my husband because I chose to…though sometimes I wonder if it might have helped me in my own personal growth to have been living on my own a little longer because it forced me out of my comfort zones and now I'm back in one, but I love him and wouldn't trade him for anything!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03234821657523195681 Elizabeth

    "I am not a man, but it seems to me that if I were I would prefer to have a woman marry me because she wants me, not because she needs me. Indeed, it seems to me that this arrangement should be preferable for both sexes. "You hit the nail on the head.

  • http://www.sustainablemommy.wordpress.com Naomi

    The author of _Successful Women and Angry Men_ agrees with your conclusion. While she sometimes veers into essentialism (for example, unquestioningly associating cooking with women), she makes some very insightful points about relationships today. I think the question you ask is a critical one–why is it so threatening for women to have options?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17435056605988721390 Divya

    Maybe slightly OTT but if you are interested in Jane Austen adaptations you should tryhttp://www.amazon.com/I-Have-Found-Kandukondain/dp/B0006J280U/ref=sr_1_1?s=dvd&ie;=UTF8&qid;=1309456827&sr;=1-1An Indian adaptation of Sense and Sensibility and a way better film. This one truly adapts the story to present day India and places more emphasis on the girls individuality and dreams as modern Indian women.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07630805993208700804 Sara Amis

    I've never understood why men would prefer to be seen by women as a means to an end. Or as a permanent meal ticket.There's something *really* warped about that.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08477139584740857154 PeaceNotDV

    i love your blog. I just discovered it through a friend's posting on facebook. it is so insightful. you are able to articulate my feelings in a much more eloquent way than i! thank you for your writings :-)

  • Rilian

    Maybe some men think they are entitled to steady sex, and feminism is taking that “right” away from them.

  • Elise

    I wonder if you have seen the Mormon version of Pride and Prejudice. I thought it was so interesting at the time that the story can only play out today if it takes place among an island of antifeminism like the LDS community. Of course, then I stumbled on your blog..

    -Elise

  • Kathleen Margaret Schwab

    A woman’s independence should lead to a man being valued in a personal way – but perhaps this is part of the problem. A woman starts looking more at person qualities, and less at a formula, and defects of temper, character, ect start to actually matter. Losing priviledge is a scary state.


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