Clementine Ford Says That Marriage Is Built On The ‘Oppression Of Women’

Is it marriage that oppresses us? Or is it just men?
Clementine Ford says marriage 'oppresses' women.

Feminist writer and broadcaster Clementine Ford is making headlines for saying that marriage is ‘built on the oppression of women’.

Ford, who wrote newly released book I Don’t: The Case Against Marriage, made the comments during an appearance on The Project.

“My biggest issue with marriage is that I think that it’s a fundamentally flawed institution that is built on the oppression of women,” she said.

“But also, that it’s presented to people now as something that it never has been, which is something that we need in order to have happiness and love.

“Love marriage is only about 200 years old, so the idea that somehow marriage is an essential thing that will elevate our life to something better is historically wrong.”

Clementine Ford’s new book ‘I Don’t’. (Credit: Clementine Ford)

The controversial comments have ruffled a few feathers, considering that 60 per cent of the modern-day Australian population is married or partnered. It’s not nice to think that a union entered into with love is facilitated due to the patriarchy (or even, continues to perpetuate it).

Ford isn’t wrong about the long and ruddy history attached to the institution of marriage, though. Let us not forget the way women have been traded and bought like chattel throughout the years, for the sole purpose of tying them to a man.

These days, where the majority (not all) Australians enter marriage with free will, the sticking point is more often about equality. While couples may attest that their marriage is built on mutual support and fairness, statistics, like the 2021 Census, tell us that often it is the women in heterosexual relationships who suffer the lion’s share of the domestic work and mental load.

Clementine Ford shares her research about marriage. (Credit: Instagram)

Ford says that she is not against “people falling in love and forming families” but that marriage is not necessary. However, the devil’s advocate would admit that non-married couples (de facto couples and couples who are dating) face similar inequity struggles as those who have tied the knot.

It makes us question, is the institution of marriage the oppressor, or just men?

Project host Waleed Aly asked Ford about non-married couples, to which she responded, “It’s a good question Waleed, well, maybe the plan is to go for de facto relationships next.

“My goal is to really get women to see something bigger and better for themselves than just being someone’s partner or wife.”

Perhaps then, the issue is not whether marriage was built on old misogynistic codes, but how we can break the codes that still exist today in many heterosexual relationships – be they married, de facto or dating.

There’s an insidious, worn in, cultural expectation placed on women, which Ford describes as a wish for women to be a “glorified all-in-one appliance for [men].” Potentially it’s this expectation, ring or no, that we need to challenge.

There’s no denying that Ford’s interview and her book I Don’t, are designed to be incendiary. Her comments are constructed to hit hard and break assumptions.

Given the fairy-tale story of marriage we’re fed in Disney movies as children, it’s probably something we need to hear to accelerate larger, and maybe more nuanced, conversations about marriage, partnership and equity.

Whether or not you agree with the specifics, there’s no denying that the purpose of Ford’s book is to act as a catalyst for change. And that’s something we can all get around.

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