And now I begin to understand: it’s not just that the gender roles are different over here: certainly they are, but that’s not difference to be observed. It’s something more basic, more foundational. It’s not a different way to assigning men and women to roles and actions, but rather a fundamentally different way to dealing with “gender.” It’s an entirely different way of coming to terms with the reality that people have two distinct genders.
In the west, we have this gender understanding that each gender was created as distinct, almost as two pieces of a whole, and that man and woman were created for each other (or evolved for each other). There’s a suggestion of unity– of the interconnectedness of everything, as it were. That a man should be with a woman, and a woman with a man: apart, they’re incomplete. Romeo needs Juliet, just as Juliet needs Romeo, to be personally and emotionally fulfilled. Two different types of people. Different instincts, differently formed bodies. Parts of a whole: a matrimonial (or physical) whole.
But that’s not how these things are viewed over here. It’s as though there’s two teams: the women’s team, and the men’s team. There isn’t this perception that a man and a woman SHOULD be together. They come together, to form teams of their own: families. But the world of women isn’t the world of men, nor should the world of men be shared by the world of women. It’s not different gender roles, it’s not separate spheres: it’s distinct world’s. Sacred worlds: the woman does not, can not enter the world of the man. And the man cannot enter the territory of the woman.
At the base, people are the same, with the same basic desires, lusts, instincts. But everything else is a construction of society. The way that men view women, and women men, is entirely a societal construction. If, in western society, men have a tendency to view women more as objects than as individuals, its because the society is driven by materialism, because that society has joined lust and the desire for things. Objectification is a western reality. Not only is that sort of materialism (as of yet) still largely absent in Eastern society, but so is that mode of viewing how men and women should interact.
I mean, really, at the heart of it, men and women are different. For the man, the woman is unknown– and man or woman, what is unknown is frightening. And what’s more natural than to try to subjugate what one fears? But we’re no longer at the heart of it: we’re 3,000 years of society later, and we no longer have to answer, for ourselves: how do I deal with this difference between myself, and members of the opposite sex? Society, whether eastern or western, has set in place a construct through which and by which we may view the opposite sex. A means of coming to terms with the differences.
So in the west, we date. We share. We marry. We attempt to fit together, like pieces of a puzzle– in an emotional form, an intellectual form, and of course, physical form. Boys and girls can and should be friends. At a young age, I think the difference between boys and girls is minimized: we have tom-boys and effeminate boys. These things happen. Here, I realize: I’ve never seen a boy playing with a girl. I’ve never seen a girl out flying a kite. From day one, from age 2, boys and girls do not interact. They’re separate. They’re segregate. It’s more than a segregation of activities, it’s a segregation of worlds. They’re NO interaction, aside from professional interaction. You don’t have a change to meet or get to know the other: at every turn, the society has protected and insulated you from the staggering difference of the other.
So it’s understandable why marriage (and the way it’s approached) is such a big deal: it’s a meeting of the opposites. A joining of the two worlds: to some extent. No: it’s a meeting at common ground: neutral territory. I don’t think the worlds are ever joined or shared. But that’s why arranged marriages make so much sense: the idea of romance is completely lost. That a male and female should be joined by an arbitrary alignment of planets is perfectly sensible, as the process of identifying desirability, and pursuing that desirability, to possess is, is completely absent. There’s no foundation of male-female interactions that would allow love-relationships to form. There’s no set of social functions that allow men and women to meet, to get to know each other, to fall in love, or lust, or whatever else brings people together. There aren’t bars where guys go and meet girls. Female friends of guy friends don’t come along for activates and meet that way. The whole construct of how we meet, of how we date, etc, is different.
My apartment is male-only. Female guests are not allowed. Yes, this demonstrates the division of males from females, but more importantly, it demonstrates the lack of framework by which males and females can meet. I’ll bet anything that there are NO co-ed college dorms in India.
And there’s elements of redundancy as well: not only is there a lack of structures or frameworks that would allow women and men to meet, but once they’ve met, it’s not socially acceptable for them to associate. A guy can’t
If India were to rely on “love-marriages,” well, it would have a quick solution to its population problem: few, if any, would marry: there’s no way for people to meet and fall in love. There’s no system of courtship, or dating. So, of course, marriages should be arranged. How else are man and wife brought together? And working from that perspective, the idea of an arranged marriage seems completely natural.
But even once married, the division remains in place: or such is my perception. The separate worlds. The husband has his friends, his job. The wife has her friends, her job, her responsibilities. The husband doesn’t “possess” his wife, nor does the wife possess the husband, although a bond of fidelity is expected. Divorce is when an arranged marriage goes awry: the wife and husband are simply and entirely unable to get along, to adjoin their two personalities. It’s not that the husband has simply grown tired of his trophy wife, and wants a new one. It’s not a form of wanderlust or boredom.
Of course, I exaggerate. Some of this isn’t quite accurate, some of this, I’m sure, is flat out wrong. This traditional structure is breaking down in Bangalore (with the influx of Western money). But once you get away from the larger cities…