Merav Michaeli: Cancel Marriage at TEDxJaffa (Full Transcript)

So it seems that women still have to get married to make a living. Fact is that unmarried mothers are much poorer than married mothers in America today. That is why they put so much effort into making us want to get married. This is why we are raised on myths that are organizing for us the idea of marriage as the dream of love and romance come true.

Let’s think of Cinderella, the world’s No. 1 bride, the ultimate dream of happily ever after. After all, she married a prince. But was it for love? First of all, how did she meet the prince? They didn’t just meet and hit it off. No, she came to the ball that the prince held with the official intention of finding a wife. He wasn’t looking for love, he wasn’t looking for a partner. He was looking for a wife.

And did you ever notice that no one ever asked Cinderella if she wanted to marry the prince? Well, I know she probably wanted out of this abusive home with the evil stepmother and stepsisters, but is that a reason to get married? Well, yes definitely. When you have no status in the eyes of the law, no way to make a living no way to protect yourself, you cannot afford not to get married.

So marriage and the myth of marriage is keeping us under the clear understanding that if we want to move up in life it is not by work, not by talent, but by marriage, and as best you can, with the strongest, richest man possible.

Why was Cinderella chosen? She was pretty. Like, Hello? Again, the deal: She’s pretty, he’s handsome — or not. She’s young, he’s probably not. She’s delicate, he’s not. He’s taller, she’s looking up to him — not in your case, of course; you’re all willing to corrupt your feet and backs on 10 inch heels because your husbands are dying to look up to you. This is how marriage organizes our gender role. This is how marriage is making us man and wife.

But this is not just Cinderella, this old fairytale long gone. It proliferates in so many ways, all the time. Just a year ago: The Royal Wedding, Kate and William. The Patriarch — that’s how it’s called: The Patriarch, the Thing itself, the Patriarch asked: “Who giveth this woman to be married by this man?” And then her father takes the hand of Cinderella Kate, gives it to the Patriarch who has given it to William, the prince. You were watching, I hope. It was broadcast for us to watch and learn to refresh our memory in case we’ve forgotten how wonderful marriage is.

Ah! We must cancel marriage. And what if marriage is about love? How is it good for us to be registered that we love someone? How is it good for us to be registered in order to have sex or to prevent our spouse from having sex with others? Speaking of marriage and sex, how is that working out for you?

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The Patriarch, in the Royal Wedding, just a year ago, gave a speech about the goals of marriage. Listen carefully: It is an honorable estate, meant for (a) the increase of mankind, (b) that the natural instincts and affections — sex — will be directed aright, and (c) for the mutual society, help and comfort. Help and comfort. Three goals, all are and for the benefit of society. Marriage is good for society. It is good for keeping us organized in little cells with a commander in charge, a go-to guy in every little cell, it is good to keep sex under control. That is why governments are giving money and visas based on marriage. This is why governments give benefits and rights depending on marriage.

Governments are practically pushing us to marry. This is so good for society. Marriage is good to perpetuate the idea that we must all have children, even if we don’t all want to have children. But society makes us believe that we are less women without them and without them we don’t have it all. It is good to keep the home the wife’s responsibility, and thus to maintain the gender wage gap of 30% more for men, on average, so it keeps making economic sense that the wife will stay home. It is good for reinforcing the gender roles into forced heterosexuality, forced monogamy and forced inequality. Look at what marriage does to even gay people, how it makes them adopt the roles of Mommy and Daddy with everything that comes with it.

And if you thought that this arrangement is the best thing for children, think again. I know we live under the impression that the outside world is hostile and dangerous, and that there is no place safest and sweetest than home. But the truth is that children are most likely to be abused — sexually, mentally and physically — in their homes, inside their core families, formed by marriage, where men are patrons over their wives and children. Women and children. Fact is there is sexual assault in every sixth home in the Western world.

I know people are saying at this point, usually: “OK, it’s a fucked up arrangement but no one has ever found a better one.” Wrong. No one has ever looked for a better one. That is because this is the default option, and as long as marriage exists, it continues to be the default option. Your favorite TED speaker, Dan Ariely, shows in his research that fewer things in human life are more powerful than the default option. Not because it’s good. Just because it’s there. And marriage is such a powerful default option, that one of the top picks to my column, “Cancel Marriage” said: “What’s next? Cancel Tuesday?”

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So, yes, we must cancel marriage because as long as we don’t cancel marriage we can’t even start to imagine new options, new agreements, new arrangements. We need to deconstruct in order to build something new. We need to think of agreements for having a joint household, making a child together or raising it together, not necessarily both. An agreement for mutual guardianship over a child or over each other, all of those, regardless of gender and of the number of people involved.

Or we can go back to old arrangements like Boston marriage: Unmarried women living in one household. Remember? It takes a whole village to raise one child. Let’s invent the modern way to create this village.

States must cancel marriage. Must cancel marriage and offer such agreements, non-mandatory, as inspiration. States must cancel marriage and stop giving us benefits and rights based on whether we are married or not, and, above all, we have to do away, abolish marriage because we must make our governments rethink economy to include housework and childcare. This is the fundamental thing that we must change in our lives.

Women want to get married, because from the minute you can remember yourself you were told how one day you will meet the right one and you were painted the dream of Prince Charming sweeping you off your feet kneeling on one knee with the perfect ring in his hand, next, you’re saying: “I do,” and living happily ever after.

What if…since you can remember yourself everyone had told you that one day you’ll find the right one, you’ll give him everything that you have, work much harder, be sick, exhausted, have no rights, give up your family name and if not, your children will not carry it, be a slave, practically, legally belong to someone and work with no pay. But you will have an amazing party and you can choose any gorgeous dress that you want. Would you have been still longing for this day or would you have run and hid?

And guys, I know marriage is good for men, but let me quote John Stuart Mill: “It is better to be an unhappy human being than a happy pig.”

So, if we aspire for equality between men and women we cannot sustain this institution that was created and designed to give men control and possession over women and children. We must cancel marriage. There is no point in trying to change it from within, for this is the nature of it.

We must cancel marriage, so we can have a new dream, or better yet, many kinds of new dreams. And until then, create your own agreements, have your own arrangements, but, needless to say, don’t get married.

Thank you very much.