July 31, 2007

A woman's perspective on cousin marriage

A reader writes:


I think that your paper misses one of the prime motivators for first cousin marriage (at least among the community in which I gained some familiarity with it – Panjabi Muslims). In communities where extended families are still the norm, the success or otherwise of a marriage depends a lot on the relationship with the in-laws – for the bride in particular. She may have a great relationship with her husband, but if his mother doesn’t like her, she can make her life hell. And in fact it is almost expected that the relationship between mother in law and daughter in law will be very high conflict. A side effect of patriarchy – generally, older women have authority over younger women, having served their time at the bottom of the heap, they are forthright in exercising power over the “new girls” as they come along. When you give your daughter into her new family, you know that you are giving that family a lot of power over her – the power of life and death, in some cases, given the rate of honour killings and dowry deaths (among Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus alike). So who do you trust your daughter to? Your article refers to an immigrant bringing in “his’ nephew – but it is generally the women who play the major role in arranging the marriages (although the men certainly get to say yes or no). So when it comes to “who can I trust to care for my daughter” the answer is often “she will be safe in my sister’s home”. Or my husband’s sister’s/brother’s home – I haven’t done any empirical research as to how common it is to marry along the matrilineal vs patrilineal line (remembering that those lines are often related).

Of course, that trust is often completely misplaced. I’m not sure that kin relationships mean as much as your article makes out, especially when they are often artificially created – a lot of people aren’t really conscious of how many of their “aunties and uncles” are blood aunties and uncles. I rather doubt that it has much effect on social institutions in the ways described but that is a whole paper in itself rather than an e-mail.

Again, I don’t have the empirical evidence to hand, but it is not true that the cousin-marriage for immigration purposes “almost always works just in one direction -- with the new husband moving from the poor Muslim country to the rich European country” - brides are often brought over for British (or other Western) grooms. This is thought to re-infuse the family with the “home culture”, and there is a perception that a girl from back home will be more “traditional” (again this is often untrue). And while men generally have more autonomy in refusing a marriage, and are more likely to be forgiven if they walk right away from the whole thing, they too come under enormous emotional pressure in these situations. (“you will drag our family’s name into the mud and your sisters will never find husbands”). In Pakistan, I know a middle class man who was not told that his wedding had been planned and the bride selected until 3 days beforehand. He went ahead with it because if he had not, everyone would have assumed that he had somehow found out something disgraceful about the girl’s history, and she would have been dishonoured. Even though he had never met her, he didn’t want to do that to her – not to mention the drama and “dishonour” it would have caused in his own family – the girl’s family (this wasn’t a cousin match) would certainly have defended her honour by attacking their good name.


My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Indian/Pakistani arranged marriages frequently occur because the (western) groom would unlikely find a wife otherwise. It's a last-resort option that wouldn't have to happen if those men were better at attracting western women.

Anonymous said...

Anon -- enough relatively high-status Indian/Pakistani men exist to find Western wives if they want them. The problem is that this represents a HUGE threat to the continued tribe/clan existence. Wealth gets split, outside the family. The man and his wife and their children may have little to no feelings/ties to the extended clan.

Therefore to maintain the tribal or clan/family identity the cousin-marriage is arranged. Low income Indian/Pakistani men with negative attitudes towards women that are outwardly displayed it's true won't find Western wives. But even moderate income men can. One of the 9/11 Hijackers, Ziad Jarrah, married in Germany a Turkish-background woman from a working-class family. He nearly backed out and only strong pressure persuaded him to continue.

Mark said...

Indian/Pakistani arranged marriages frequently occur because the (western) groom would unlikely find a wife otherwise. It's a last-resort option that wouldn't have to happen if those men were better at attracting western women.

How so? These people have been living here for decades and have established families here. These men are mostly 2nd generation (nominal) Westerners. Given the roughly 50/50 male to female birth ratio they should have no problem finding wives in their adopted homeland. Reasons of culture and reasons of conquest apply here, not lack of available mates. The Dutch government has found that some Muslim populations import nearly 100% of their spouses.

In other words, the Muslim population nearly doubles every generation before they even start having children.

Traditional Wetsren notions of romantic marriage are being used as a sword - scimitar? - against us.

Anonymous said...

I see an awful lot of reasons for keeping such "cultures" out of the West on the grounds of their behaviour in this article.

Ali said...

"Indian/Pakistani arranged marriages frequently occur because the (western) groom would unlikely find a wife otherwise. It's a last-resort option that wouldn't have to happen if those men were better at attracting western women."

I don't find that to be true at all. A lot of my Indian\Pakistani friends and acquaintances have had no trouble maintaining relationships with women in the West be they Indians\Pakistanis brought up there or Western women.

Arranged marriages are still prevalent because Indian\Pakistani parents view it as their right to pick a suitable spouse for their offspring.

That being said, among my friends the trend has been for them to form a relationship with somebody first and then get their parents to approve the match.

W. Jain said...

"Indian/Pakistani arranged marriages frequently occur because the (western) groom would unlikely find a wife otherwise. It's a last-resort option that wouldn't have to happen if those men were better at attracting western women."

I don't think this is true, and in fact that statement is pretty insulting to Indian men. I am an American woman married to an Indian man; my husband and I married each other because we shared common values and goals, something I didn't see in many Western men. However, the reason most Indian men in western countries end up marrying Indian women who are brought here is that there is a perception that Western women--even western-born Indian women--are loose and immoral and don't believe in strong family values. Of course people like my husband see that that is not true, but it's still a common perception.

Mark said...

Arranged marriages are still prevalent because Indian\Pakistani parents view it as their right to pick a suitable spouse for their offspring.

Ok. Fine. Whatever floats your boat. But why not arrange marriages with other Hindus/Muslims already here in the West. Why keep importing them?

Ali said...

It depends. Some parents perceive potential spouses from back there to be more traditional i.e. more willing to subordinate themselves in a domestic role and unlikely to have picked up bad habits like drinking, pre-marital sex and clubbing. Although nowadays that perception is outdated.

Other times it's because the larger family networks in the home country are able to offer more contacts with suitable spouses and they're likely to know much more about the potential spouse's family background.

There's also the economic factor in that somebody with residence in a rich country is a far more attractive marriage prospect.

Anonymous said...

I see an awful lot of reasons for keeping such "cultures" out of the West on the grounds of their behaviour in this article.

This comment is from someone who has successfully maintained an unadulterated Western identity and, as a consequence, is able to respond to the insanity of multiculturalism without 5,000 pages of intellectual gymnastics.

Their comment is directly in line with the Founders of this nation, and obviously, all of the Western elites up until about 1960.

It is their natural and practical analysis of the problem i.e. common sense that will win the day...eventually.

We are in the (slowing loosening) grip of a hyper-destructive Soviet-lite style groupthink culture. Our current civilization psychosis will not dissipate on its own. It must be escorted out the door. I urge everyone to keep verbalizing offline and posting online common sense like this.

SKT said...

In Hindu arranged marraiges, great pains are taken to make sure that there are no common ancestors. People keep detailed records of their family trees, and you cannot marry someone even if you had a common ancestor 8 generations back. You cannot marry someone who comes from your own village either (or today, whatever your ancestral village is).

Many Hindus in Western countries get arranged marraiges because they want to stay within their own communities. Even if they were raised primarily in Western countries, for a lot of young Indians the idea of marrying someone outside their own caste/local community is repugnant, even another Indian, and especially an "American".

So if there are only 5 million members of your own caste in the entire world, and only a few of them in the U.S., you may go back to India for an arranged marraige.

Mark said...

Other times it's because the larger family networks in the home country are able to offer more contacts with suitable spouses and they're likely to know much more about the potential spouse's family background.

Then they should feel free to do so - move back to the home country, marry the traditional guy (or gal)...and stay there.

I've absolutely no problem with that.

Mark said...

We are in the (slowing loosening) grip of a hyper-destructive Soviet-lite style groupthink culture.

More and more I find myself willing to say politically incorrect things to people I know, in person, and not just on the internet. I make less and less of an effort to hide how I feel.

for a lot of young Indians the idea of marrying someone outside their own caste/local community is repugnant, even another Indian, and especially an "American".

Well, Americans find the idea of stict caste systems repugnant. Our Constitution, after all, forbids the notion of inherited titles. It is suicidal to allow in people from a culture who look down upon the natives.

It's funny that they're allowed through arranged marriages, to show disgust for the native culture while we're not allowed, through immigration policy, to show disgust for theirs.

Anonymous said...

Being an Amercian and growing up in a more "Matrilinial" framily structure I find something else to be fascinating. Here it is the women's family that has "custody of the children". It is the boy's parents that get cut out of the grand childrens lives vs. the other way around in India or China.

Very little ever gets made of this in the press but any guy who gets divorced feels it full force. The legal code enforces this by extracting alimony to maintain the pre-marriage status quo which means he keeps working and she gets the kids. all of this in the name of equality.

As we age 90% of the time it is her mom or dad that lives with the couple. Many women fancy themselves as the caretakers of the family and their parents but she always takes care of her parents not his.

It is very common for parents to favor their female children with inheritance. I have know many women that take care of her parents in their last year with the expectation of getting a bigger cut of the family booty. It is a better payoff than working and it takes care of their guilt.

The irony is that as the 2nd wave femminists age and depend on their one child for support they are beginning to run into the fact that they cannot live with their one male child without him getting blue balled by his wife. I call that Bella Abzug's revenge.