The Expendable Man

The Expendable Man June 23, 2011
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!

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