Merav Michaeli: Cancel Marriage at TEDxJaffa (Full Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of former journalist Merav Michaeli’s TEDx presentation: Cancel Marriage at TEDxJaffa conference. To learn more about the speaker, read the full bio here.

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Merav Michaeli – Former journalist

Marriage, that holy matrimony, that mystical union that brings us together, to have and to hold, for better, for worse, in sickness and in health, till death do us part.

We must cancel marriage. Not only religious marriage, marriage is not an issue of religion. Also civil marriage. I want all secular states to totally eliminate all registration and regulation of marriage. I want to cancel the very concept of marriage.

While you were clapping, I think you thought I was laughing and in your hearts you were saying to yourselves, “Oh my God, who is this crazy person? What does she mean, cancel marriage?” “Cancel this beautiful covenant of love and romance?”

The thing is that love is about love, but marriage is not about love. I mean, not in your case, of course, you’re all madly in love with those you’re married to.

But as an institution, and marriage is an institution, political, legal, financial institution, it has nothing to do with love or romance.

It started ages ago, back when man started wanting his name and property to remain after him. Simone de Beauvoir links this desire to the longing for immortality; one is transferring his existence into his property, and thus continues to exist after the body’s dissolution. Brilliant, or what?

But the thing is that this can only work if the property remains in the hands of its owner, someone he sees as his own reflection: His biological heir. There’s the rub: The woman is the one giving birth to the biological heir, the child.

So, in order to get possession of his children — and also to make sure they are his children — the man needed possession over a woman, or, to be precise, a womb. So, he gets one, and this is called Marriage. Yes. the origin of the word “wife”, by the way is ultimately derived from the Indo-European root “ghwibh”, which means “shame” and “vulva”. Google it. This is the origin of the word, this is the core of things. This is why they still say things like, “I’ll make an honest woman out of you”. This why it’s still considered respectable for a woman to be married.

This is the institution. A man gets himself a woman through marriage. It is very clear to see, because in traditional ceremonies, only the man weds the woman. He’s the only one that announces: “With this ring I thee wed”, the only one actually giving the ring — I mean, not in your case, of course. You all had beautiful ceremonies with at least 2 rings, but — the mutual “I do’s” are deceiving; this is not a contract between the man and the woman: This is the man wedding the woman.

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Thing is that up until less than a hundred years ago women had no autonomous status before the law. A woman was not allowed to vote, not to be elected, not to get an education, to work, to own property or to have money. So in this status, a woman was merely merchandise. She belonged to her father and was given away by him to another man whom she will belong to from this day on — happy day on, of course.

So, come to think of it, marriage is a contract between two people: two men, the husband and the father. One has a daughter who can’t stand on her own because she is a woman, so he needs to get her settled, in a house, with food and protection. And the other needs a womb to bear his children and take care of them after they are born; a win-win situation. For the woman, this is the deal: You get a place to live, food, clothes — the right clothes to reflect your husband’s status — and in return, you are the wife. You bear his children, you cook, you clean, you take care of the house, wash, shop. So, actually, marriage was a woman’s way to make a living.

But this is all ancient history. Why are you bothering us, modern women, and contemporary men that we are with this ancient non-relevant history? Let me return the question to you: This is an institution from the time when women had no status before the law, and couldn’t stand on their own. A century later, when women are supporters and legislators, why does this institution still exist? And has it really changed?

Still today, when a couple gets married, they are pronounced “Man and Wife”. The man remains a man and the woman is turned into a “wife”. And the wife is, first and foremost, “shame and vulva”, but a wife is, first and foremost, somebody’s wife: A woman belonging to a man. She is his, so she is given his family name and the children are, too, his.

Why else is it that still today children carry on their father’s name, not their mother’s? Not in your case, of course. You all kept your family name and you have your children and husbands carry them too. But just so you know, the word “husband” is derived from “householder” and “owner” in old English. No comfort there.

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And “wife” still means bear his children, raise them, take care of the house, clean, cook, wash, shop and all of this work is completely invisible. All of this work is unpaid, unrecognized for its financial value, unrecognized for social security, for pension, for tax deduction. Even in places where childcare expenses are deductible — only childcare is deductible — and not the cleaning-cooking-washing, and also, childcare is only recognized if you pay for it, not if you do it yourself.

This invisible work is so much work, that according to the International Labor Organization, if housework was included in the national accounts worldwide, the total value of world GDP would grow by 25% to 30%. That is how much unpaid work there is and it is all done by women, because we never cancelled marriage. Not in your case, of course; you all share the housework with your spouse, evenly and equally, not only that, you do it together to candlelight and violin music. Of course.

But in Canada, a contemporary, modern country, women in double-income households spend 72% more time on childcare alone than men, in those same households, probably 150% more on housework and of course in India, women do 10 times more time than men on childcare and housework.

And if you think to yourselves: “Oh well, what’s the biggie? Women are doing this kind of work while men are at work, and all in all they do the same,” Think again. In Canada, which is so advanced that it is the only place checking it regularly, women do 30 additional minutes a day of paid and unpaid work compared to men. That doesn’t sound much, 30 minutes. Again, no biggie. Over a year, this adds up to 5 weeks of full time work. Five weeks. When is the last time you had a 5-week vacation, that men get annually from women, in Canada, at least?

So this information may help you to understand that research shows that married women are in the worst physical and emotional condition, followed by single men, single women, and, in the best condition, married men. Not in your case, of course; you are all used to putting your feet up and having everyone fuss over you, but UN analysis on women shows that though women are half the world economic population, we put in two thirds of the working hours. And still, after that, own only 1% of the world’s property.