Charlotte Perkins Gilman

On advertising for marriage

Why not? Why not take every means in one’s power to discover so important a person as one’s husband or wife? What is the prejudice that exists against it? To say that such advertisements are used for improper purposes is saying nothing against using them properly. To say that “marriages are made in heaven;” that it is “tempting Providence” to speak of mysterious laws which bring people together, needs only for answer, Look at the majority of marriages now existing! If they are made in heaven let us try some earth-made ones. The Alpha and all common sense teaches that we should use reason and discrimination in a selection like this; and if one is desirous to marry and fails to find a fit mate in one’s neighborhood or acquaintance, what reason is there that he or she should not look father? They have no surety that fate will bring them the desired one without effort on their part, for behold! Many of their friends are unmarried and many more mismarried. What certainty have they of a better lot? I do believe that if we obeyed all the laws of our life as the birds do, we should find mates as they do; but we do not. One reasonable argument may be adducted against me, namely, that people brought together from different parts of the county would be dissimilar in their tastes and habits, and so suffer when united; also that one must be separated from home and friends. To the latter I reply that in the case of true marriage it would be a small evil, that under ordinary circumstances the separation need not be complete, and that it frequently happens under the present method. To the former, that people whose local tastes and habits were stronger than their individualities, who shared the feelings of the neighborhood to such an extent that change would be painful, would not be likely to miss mating, for they would be satisfied with local character. Conversely, those who found no mate in the home influence and were so constituted as to demand something different would find full compensation in what they gained for all they lost. It may be said that if the match proved unhappy they would bitterly regret having meddled with fate, and wish they had waited patiently; but in like cases those who meet by chance, or are thrown together in the natural course of events, as bitterly curse fortune, or their own folly, and wish the same. Errors of judgment need be no more frequent than now, and even in case of mistaking, surely it is better to look back on an earnest attempt to choose wisely than the usual much-extolled drifting. Surly The Alpha teaches that marriage should result not from the will and judgment led by passion, but the opposite. If a man sees a fair woman before he knows her; feels the charm of her presence before he begins to understand her character; if first aroused to the necessity of judging by his strong inclination; surely he stands less chance of a cool and safe decision than one who begins knowingly, learns a character from earnest letters, loves the mind before he does the body. And that first love would improve and be more to him yearly, growing ever richer, stronger, and more lovely with advancing age. The other does not. I see in writing still another consideration. It would if it became a general custom, teach both sexes to cultivate the mind and the power of expression in writing more than the beauty of the body and its sexual attraction. Also when marriage was seen to depend more upon real value and worth coolly inquired into than upon feminine charms and snares and masculine force and persistence, that would be a huge power enlisted on the side of good. Young women would take more interest in the affairs of the world if they knew the chance of a happy marriage might depend on such knowledge; that they might be written to by such a man as they would love and honor, and expected to sympathize with his ideas, appreciate his work, understand and help him; and man might condescend to think a women’s nature worth studying a little if their hopes rested also in genuine sympathy and appreciation. (Not her sexual nature! Heaven defend us! They have studied that long and well, but the rest of her, the “ninety-nine parts human!”) Will some one explain what harm would result from Advertising for Marriage?

(1885)

MLA Citation

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “On advertising for marriage.” 1885. Quotidiana. Ed. Patrick Madden. 3 Jun 2008. 18 Aug 2017 <http://essays.quotidiana.org/gilman/advertising_for_marriage/>.

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