Marry Young

from msnbc

Saudi Arabia’s most senior Muslim cleric as saying it is OK for 10-year-old girls to marry.

The London-based Al-Hayat newspaper also quotes Sheik Abdul-Aziz bin Baz, the country’s grand mufti, as saying that those who believe women should not marry before the age of 25 are following a “bad path.”

This is his response to human rights groups agitating to prevent such marriages.

My question is, what else is on this ‘bad path’ – financial and emotional independence? Perhaps growing intellectually mature enough to question the rites and traditions of their religion?

This actually reminds me a bit of this article in the Atlantic (Lori Gottlieb, March 2008). I don’t think that the author was recommending marriage of minors, but her argument is to settle because, as she claims that if you “ask any soul-baring 40-year-old single heterosexual woman what she most longs for in life, and she probably won’t tell you it’s a better career or a smaller waistline or a bigger apartment. Most likely, she’ll say that what she really wants is a husband (and, by extension, a child)”..

By this logic, yon cleric is right. All we ladies need, really, is the stability of a marriage wherein we can, once sufficiently physically developed, make babies. All that career talk, that’s just gab.

Now, Gottlieb argues that people settle anyway, she’s just being ‘different’ by treating it like it’s good. I would argue that people aren’t ‘settling’ so much as maturing to the point where they understand and appreciate the complexity of human nature and relationships, rather than expecting a flawless, indulgent, semi-parental figure to cheerlead and provide everything.

The problem with both of these viewpoints is that they fall into the trap of assuming all women are the same. You’ll notice that the cleric isn’t urging men to marry before the age of 25, and that Gottlieb doesn’t have a male counterpart urging men to marry so they aren’t left childless and alone, regardless of what security they might find in their career, financial independence, or various non-marriage relationships.

That people still make such generalizations, and use their position to advise the untaught masses, baffles me. Both Abdul-Aziz bin Baz and Gottlieb assume that even as adults, women won’t be able to make the choice that is ‘right’ – i.e. making babies and marriage a priority. The Sheik thinks, therefore, that they should be married as soon as they’re weaned, before any life experience or schooling gets in the way, and Gottlieb that they should ignore or discount said experience and schooling and just jump right in and make with the babies, in a wholesome, ‘traditional’, nuclear family.

Women are grown-ups, too. Let’s stop assuming that we are incapable of making choices about what is best for us, individually.

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