The Athena Declaration
When I woke up this morning after struggling all night with a terrible migraine, the words of The Athena Declaration, came rippling right out of my head:
“When in the Course of human events it becomes evident that an institution established to guarantee the security, sanctity and the happiness of each sex is deemed no longer fruitful for such, it is necessary for each sex to dissolve the nuptial bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Nature, God, and their own Conscience entitle them. A decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that the injured sex should expound on the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold as true that indeed both sexes are created equal, albeit different, endowed by their Creator certain graces and abilities that can complement each other and when conjoined in mutually respectful matrimony, they each can exhibit these graces and live to the full potential of their God-granted abilities, while at the same time serving as mutual supports to each other. To secure these rights, legal institutions such as marriage have been created to guarantee them. However, whenever such stated institution becomes destructive, oppressive, and intolerable, it is the right of one sex to alter or abolish it.”
Indeed, the argument is not just one that calls for the necessity of divorce when individual marriage becomes unfruitful, but for the abolition of the entire institution itself if it does not serve the interests of the majority.
As I witness it, the holy state of matrimony has been so marred and scathed with inequality, unrightful gain and unrighteousness that it plainly does not work anymore. And when I mean “marriage” I mean the ideal marriage, one in which both members are mutually loved, respected and cared for. Marriage that not just uphold equality of both members but actually serves to actualize both, when a synergy of relationship gives rise to the better of both.
It is my claim that given the realities of marriage as they exist in modern day, it would be wise for Greek women to take a pact of virginity like the Parthenos goddesses of old, Athena, Diana, Hestia. It is better for women to stay single than be married, given the conditions of marriage in the present day.
Here are the reasons in no order of importance:
- Marriage does not work for the majority of cases. Spare yourself the disappointment and grief, Kore.
“Since 1965, the crude marriage rate in the EU-28 has declined by close to 50 % in relative terms (from 7,8 per 1 000 persons in 1965 to 4.1 in 2013). At the same time, the crude divorce rate increased from 0.8 per 1 000 persons in 1965 to 1.9 in 2013,” cites a recent Eurostat report. The statistics are worse for the US. Research indicates that one divorce occurs per an estimated 13 seconds in the United States, ranking it sixth on a global divorce rate scale. 50% of all children in the US under the age of 18 will be products of divorce. If over 50% of marriages end in divorce, what is the use of getting involved in it?A couple can go into the situation with the most ideal of circumstances, but the realities of the statistics must be sobering. Perhaps this is the reason why the rate of Americans choosing to live the single life is the highest it has been ever. According to a Census Bureau report, the gap between married (133.6M) and unmarried (121.5M) Americans has narrowed since 1950, so that it is just about 50/50 take away 10M. What is startling is that 67% of those in the single camp have never been married. In 2005, 90% more single-person households existed than in 1970.
- Just because you are married does not make you happy.
While research from the US does cite that people’s overall life satisfaction is higher when they are married, there is a twist in the results. The report cited that marriage leads to increased well-being—“and it does so much more for those who have a close friendship with their spouses . . .those who consider their spouse or partner to be their best friend get about twice as much life satisfaction from marriage as others.” (http://www.businessinsider.com/national-bureau-of-economic-research-marriage-study-2015-1) So it is not marriage per se that makes you happier, but friendship in marriage.
“Finding support in long-term relationships, then, may be the key to achieving lasting happiness. This is not necessarily true, however, for marriages in Latin America, the Caribbean and Sub-Saharan Africa, where the study found that marriage actually leads to a decline in happiness.”(www.businessinsider.com).
I would venture to add Greece to the list. There is a dearth of statistics for Greek couples, but I am wagering that 8 out of 10 Greek couples are unhappy. It would be impossible to even gather such statistics because Greeks do not air their “dirty laundry” to strangers but keep it in the family. In addition, Greek culture is so pro-marriage that it will never admit that marriage is less than the ideal living arrangement. Greek couples stay married even under the most unhappy of circumstances because the stigma of being “alone” or “divorced” is so great. Even if divorce has become more common-place in the 21st century, the taboo of divorce is still strong. The underlying thinking is that you failed in some way and that no one can possibly be happy alone. But I am willing to wager that in fact because of the inequities in spousal responsibilities, the machismo in Greek culture and the antiquated way of seeing gender roles, many couples are shackled to unproductive expectations of marital bliss, living lives of quiet resignation to their fate or “moira” while putting up appearances of happily-ever after home lives.
The taboo against being single in Greek culture is so strong that many women live lives of quiet resignation in marriage than living lives on their own terms. They know their partner might be having extramarital affairs but they “forgive” him and put up with the situation because of the “children.” Or worse, they resign themselves to the idea that “that’s the way men are.” You can’t expect to have a husband be faithful to you because it’s against their nature. But it’s a tricky argument: when does nature end and nurture begin? Greek men have a reputation as macho philanderers. That’s part of their allure. It is common practice to have fathers pass down the machismo ways to their sons: “You marry Marial to raise your children, cook and keep your house and your reputation, but you keep Mariko to get your groove on.” This fact has not been lost on women as a report by the “Andrological Institute of Athens (isn’t that as patriarch-centric!) found that women are just as likely to be unfaithful as men.
The chances that you are going to be happy in a marriage that lasts your entire lifetime are very slim. In 2012, four authors published a statistical analysis and summary of 18 studies of people who wed and eight of couples who divorced. Here’s what the authors found, DePaulo, a co-author and social psychologist writes:
“Except for that initial short-lived honeymoon effect for life satisfaction, getting married did not result in getting happier or more satisfied. In fact, for life satisfaction and relationship satisfaction, the trajectories over time headed in the less satisfied direction.”
That’s point 2, getting married usually does not lead to “happily ever after.”
“Maybe what is really important is friendship, and to never forget that in the push and pull of daily life.” University of British Columbia economics professor and study coauthor John Helliwell
- A woman who accepts marriage in a majority patriarchal system is basically accepting a less than equal arrangement.
Marriage is a system, a societal institution. When the society it is a part of is highly patriarchal, the rights of a woman are de facto eroded. The final argument for staying single is a legal-political one. Once you sign up for a contract that on its face is against your better interests, that subjugates you to an inferior position by detracting rights, enforcing unequal expectations, then you have signed your status away. Why would someone who values themselves agree to sign away their benefits in a bargain that will cheat them? This is not to say that marriage has been a total lose-lose proposition. It has provided benefits to both parties.
Historically, marriage has acted as a protection for women by guaranteeing them certain financial rights and acted as a way to protect their progeny by promising inheritance. However, given the increased financial empowerment of women, the leverage that men had in marriage is diminished. If women are expected to do the lionesses’ share of nurturing, housekeeping, time management and logistical functioning of a home, while at the same time putting in the financial stakes in a marriage, marriage has lost its advantage. In Game Theory, marriage for women results in more losses than profits as it is currently operated.
This is probably what Athena was strategizing while ticking her father Zeus’s beard and forcing him to promise her never to force her to get married. She knew that once you got married, your rights and freedoms would be cut, according to how the contract of marriage was written in Greek society. A girl would be better off single and free.
And this is my point as well. Unless one is truly enlightened, gets plenty of counseling, gets an education, and is willing to come into the game with realistic expectations, getting married is a failing proposition for women. Women would be better off staying single, focusing on their own needs and aspirations and guaranteeing their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness within and without the marriage state for as long as possible. Marriage is not the silver lining on life’s happy cloud. It is work and struggle and mostly disappointment. That in a nutshell is the Athena Declaration.
I end with the words of Socrates, himself an unhappily married man, who said, “Marry or don’t marry, you will regret both.”