So you’ve completed an impressive degree, got work experience that makes your graduate CV glow and have landed a great starter job that has the most incredible prospects. When it comes to life, you’re totally winning. At least that’s what you think.
Married at First Sight has generally split social media with one half declaring participants as “crazy” and “insane”, whilst the others feel fascinated by the entire social experiment.
If you haven’t caught an episode yet, the premise of the series on Channel 4 is to use science in order to match singletons looking for love. Through vigorous tests and analysis, a pool is formed where relationship and psychology experts match couples based on their results and other findings. Couples meet for the first time on their wedding day where they exchange vows in a legal service attended by family and friends. Following this, they embark on a honeymoon and then move in together for six weeks, living together as husband and wife. At the end of the six weeks, they have to decide whether they would like to continue their relationship or split up.
There are several types of arranged marriages, which have become synonymous within the South Asian community. However prior to the 18th century, they were common across most parts of the world. Before the 20th century, arranged marriages were the norm in Russia, where these would mostly be endogamous. In China, it is said that “marriage was a negotiation and decision between parents and other older members of two families. The boy and girl, were typically told to get married, without a right to consent, even if they had never met each other until the wedding day.”
Fast forward to today and you still find arranged marriages taking place. However, with the addition of online matrimonial sites, the definition of an arranged marriage has completely changed. Nowadays a mere introduction is all the input external individuals have and it is down to the couple themselves to decide whether they like each other enough to spend the rest of their lives together.
This particular experiment isn’t based on family input, but science. Relationship experts, psychoanalysts and psychologists have all come together to find out as much as they can genetically and personally about candidates. Using saliva samples, personality questionnaires and even facial symmetry, five experts will all work together to narrow down a pool of people who are suited to one another. Taking careers, values and future aspirations into account all plays a crucial part in determining who they match.
Scientifically speaking, all of these tests and analysis should produce near perfect matches for candidates who make it to the final pool. However, there is an argument that because these candidates are looking for a committed relationship, they’re more likely to try and make their marriage work – even if it means compromising on some elements, whether that be physical attraction or mutual interests. Having dated or gone through failed relationships, most of these candidates are at their wits end when it comes to trying to find their other half. You could say Married At First Sight is their last resort and they’re up for the experiment to see where it leads, but at the same time, could it be that those who conceived this social experiment are actually exploiting individuals who are emotionally vulnerable because they long for a committed relationship?
The end of the experiment does give the option for divorce, should a couple find that they cannot or do not wish to continue the marriage. But who really wants to be married and divorced in the space of six weeks? The Australian version has seen both successful relationships and couples who choose to call it quits. Although getting quite emotionally involved as episodes went on, I couldn’t help but feel slight scepticism. You can’t help but wonder whether participants feel a certain fear of being set back free into the single world and feeling like they’re back at square one, if they end the marriage.
The concept of using science to determine life partners is an interesting one. The matches that have come about as a result of this approach have been realistic and carefully thought about. However, throwing a couple straight into married life and essentially fusing the dating stage, where couples get to know one another, with marriage, places them in a very peculiar scenario. Using science to match couples and allowing them to go on dates seems like a less scary and much more sensible prospect than walking them down the aisle. The pressure of taking vows, meeting families and friends and then having an entire nation watching can weigh very heavily on a person’s mind, forcing them to settle and train themselves into thinking that perhaps this is the very best the world has to offer them.
In reality though, they’re potentially sacrificing true happiness for the sake of televised entertainment.
Many took to social media to express their dismay and witty sarcasm at Saudi Arabia’s new marriage ban, which dictates that men are banned from marrying women from three Asian and one African country. Marrying women from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Chad and Myanmar is no longer allowed and should a Saudi man wish to have a second wife from Morocco, he’ll need to have his first wife’s consent to do so.
The new laws come as the Gulf state seeks to dissuade Saudi men from marrying foreigners and instead, encourage more marriages within the Saudi community.
For those living in western countries where there are no restrictions on who we marry, this will come as a shock. How can a country lawfully ban its men from marrying certain women? But whilst many took to Twitter – some angry, some wittingly declaring that the rules were in fact a blessing for these women, we can’t be that surprised that the government has imposed these bans.
Issues with inter-cultural relationships are still very much prevalent amongst other Asian and Middle Eastern communities with families refusing to acknowledge potential husbands or wives for their children simply because of their ethnic background. Where some people would put an emphasis on religion being the only determining factor, others take a more archaic approach and seek out people who have the same ethnic background, from the same city, town and even village. The fact that Saudi Arabia has ruled a law banning marriage between different nationals, is a stark reminder of just how alive these beliefs and notions are.
Even though older generations will insist that it’s important that a potential daughter-in-law is able to communicate with her in-laws and understand the customs and traditions of a particular culture, many do not feel as though these are dealbreakers. Rather than draw a line of separation between two people who are fundamentally happy together, the acceptance of inter-cultural relationships can go a long way in shaping future generations.
Whether or not you’re outraged by this law imposed by the Saudi government, it is worth noting that before pointing fingers and subjecting them to heavy criticism, it’s worth looking at our own cultural circles and tackling outdated notions amongst our communities first.
If you haven’t noticed it’s International Women’s Day today! Social media has been ablaze with hashtags and well wishes to all the wonderful women in our lives and this post is my little contribution to the day. It’s great to see women praising other women (makes a change) but more importantly uniting for good causes and celebrating the incredible females around us.
Whether it’s our mothers or a notable public figure, it feels good to take a moment and look at how far women have come, see the changes they’ve made and the opportunities they have carved out for the next generation. But the fight isn’t entirely over. Sure we have options and the freedom to do as we please, but there are thousands of women around the world who are still facing an uphill struggle, all because of their gender and unbeknown to many of us, there is still work to be done in the UK too.
The Independent newspaper clearly highlighted just why International Women’s Day is still relevant and needed in order to motivate change, and build upon the milestones we’ve already overcome.
Violence, female mutilation, forced marriages and working rights are core issues that affect women around the world. “In the UK, the gender pay gap stands at 15%, with women on average earning £5,000 less a year than their male colleagues,” the report explains. “The Equalities and Human Rights Commission estimates it will take 70 years at the current rate of progress to see an equal number of female and male directors of FTSE 100 companies.”
What’s even more shocking is the estimation that if women with skills and education were fully utilised rather than out of work, the UK could deliver “economic benefits of £15 to £21 billion pounds per year – more than double the value of all our annual exports to China.”
Work isn’t just the only shocking issue. An estimated 1.2m children are trafficked into slavery every year with 80% of them being girls. A heartbreaking 1,440 women die each year from childbirth due to inadequate equipment, care and facilities. These are things that simply shouldn’t be happening in 2014.
Celebrating incredible women is just half of what this day is about. But in order to make International Women’s Day more poignant, imagine how satisfying it would be to know that every stone has been upturned – and conquered.
I can’t tell you how much I have been looking forward to 2013’s National Asian Wedding Show, which was probably the case for the crowds of people queuing well before the shutters opened at the London Excel.
There was no such thing as Asian timing where guests were concerned and as this year’s hotly anticipated exhibition got underway, brides-to-be armed with their wing-girls and fiancé’s were eager to see what inspiration they could take away with them.
With over 100 exhibitors plus a much anticipated fashion show, there was plenty to see, do and experience all in one hall. Included within the mix were car hires, lighting, photographers, pop up bars, which served some delicious mocktails, hair and make up, decor and of course, bridal wear.
I quite liked the fact that I appeared more as a bride-to-be dithering around on her own, rather than Press to most people I spoke with, but for those brides that hoped to draw inspiration for their big day, this event well and truly spoilt them for choice as exhibitors from all areas within the Asian wedding industry were out in full blast.
With notable sponsors such as the BBC Asian Network, Roshni Hair and Make Up and the City Pavilion, the organisers truly went to town when putting together an eclectic selection of specialists.
Not only that, guests who attended also got the chance to witness the International Asian Fashion Show.
Attracting what felt like the entire exhibition hall – I literally couldn’t move – designers featured the very best from their collections, drawing oohs and aahs and plenty of smartphone action. Of course the BBC Asian Network’s Noreen Khan was there to introduce the featured designers who would be wowing us with their collections.
Giving us a preview of what was to come in her gorgeous outfit from Fusion, crowds were definitely not left disappointed. I now personally want about 6 dresses for my wedding after seeing the versatility from those Asian designers.
So after attending both the National Asian Wedding Show and the National Wedding Show back in September, which was the better show? In all honesty, there is no clear winner. It’s genuinely down to what you have in mind for your special day.
If you’re looking to incorporate traditional elements then of course a specialist event like the National Asian Wedding Show is the perfect niche exhibition where you can find the right vendor and work with them to create exactly what you have in mind. Similarly, the National Wedding Show boasts the same type of vendors, but of course without that cultural influence.
Would I recommend that brides attend this wedding exhibition? Absolutely. In fact, the National Asian Wedding Show may have swayed it that bit more with me when it comes to the thought, effort and warmth exuded by everyone that I met.
Many of the exhibitors I spoke to have been in the Asian wedding industry for an average of 10 years, so they are well versed in the service they’re offering and are fully aware of emerging trends, which they incorporate and embrace.
The National Asian Wedding Show will be returning in 2014 at the Bradford Hilton on Sunday 12th January, 2014, the Midlands National Motorcycle Museum on Sunday 2nd February and London Heathrow T5 on Sunday 2nd March 2014. The London Excel Show will be back next year on the 18th and 19th October.
Like all break-ups, divorce can be an equally, if not more upsetting and emotionally draining process. Once completed, former couples are free to continue life as they please with some choosing to remarry and begin a new family.
However if you hone in on the Asian community and look past all the smiles, tradition and culture, you will find a plethora of stigmas and attitudes attached to those who divorce, making the process a daunting and isolating one.
An increasing number of Asian women are having to bear the brunt of this backlash as divorce rates within the Asian community grows, despite the overall percentage of divorces in the UK decreasing.
The National Office of Statistics says that “based on marriage, divorce and mortality statistics for 2010, it is estimated that the percentage of marriages ending in divorce is 42%, compared with 45% in 2005.”
Priya Chandra who writes for DESIblitz said:
British Asian marriages are collapsing at an alarming rate. Many within the first year of marriage and often include couples that have dated for a long period prior to marriage too. Reasons for marriage break-up includes boredom, lack of interest in a partner, in-law pressures, intolerance of each other, money and work pressures, arranged marriages and extra-marital affairs.”
Whether or not couples are prepared for what married life has to offer, divorcing doesn’t only mean a split between yourself and your spouse. It also sets the wheels in motion for a very different dynamic between yourself and your community.
The stigmas that currently exist amongst Asians frankly disgusts me, as most of the disdain and pity are aimed solely at women.
Writer, Ayesha Khan, describes the plight divorced Asian women face.
From the pity and even scorn of relatives and the sympathies towards parents, the Asian woman is treated as shop soiled, and a failure. Her inability to hang onto her man is derided and seen as a weakness or an illness.
But that’s not the shocking part of it all. Divorce is a social issue that threatens a family’s reputation in the eyes of their community. In order to protect this, parents and in-laws insist on their children remaining in unhappy and hopeless marriages for the sake of showing their faces in public.
Why should women stay in marriages that no longer satisfies them, but pleases a community who are willing to turn their backs the very second a split takes place?
These mindsets create the belief that a divorced woman has no future in terms of remarriage and finding someone who looks beyond their marital status. It is this kind of thinking that stops them from seeking a way out from a life of misery, and even drives them to suicide.
The stigma attached to such women is shocking; suddenly the woman should give up all future thoughts of marriage and survive ‘just for the children’. The few Asian men who do look at that woman do so with an air of pity, and make the woman feel she should be grateful for a man taking her and her burdens on.
However, an evolution is slowly simmering where women are concerned. Once expected to raise the children, maintain the family home and abide by their in-laws, women are now pursuing higher education and careers that make them independent, ambitious and open to opportunities outside of their community.
It is also giving them the strength to walk away from relationships and marriages that are humiliating, and unfulfilling. Being ostracised doesn’t even factor into the equation where their happiness is concerned. And it shouldn’t.
A lot has to be said for these women. Their bravery in the face of adversity should be an example for others. I’m not saying divorce is a wonderful thing, but it is a right given to us both legally and religiously. More often than not, culture is the culprit that prevents a fulfilling and happy life.
The marriage landscape is definitely changing with women taking a stand against chauvinistic, unfaithful and abusive men. Only now are women seeing that they live in a modern society where there are organisations and services that can support and help them bounce back after a divorce. And only now do they see the harmony they can finally achieve by grabbing these opportunities.
So rather than pity the woman who divorces and escapes a life of misery and degradation, feel sorry for the woman who conforms to these mindsets and chooses to stay, never fully tasting the fruits life has to offer.
Last year a Pew Research Center Study revealed that interracial marriages in the U.S. climbed to 4.8 million, with the influx of Asian and Hispanic immigrants adding to the already mixed pool of potential spouses.
Another study by British Future last year revealed that mixed marriages were more accepted in the UK. Even with the growing acceptance of mixed marriages, there is still a reluctance within the Asian community to support and embrace intercultural relationships.
Growing up in a Muslim Guyanese household, I expected a long list of qualities and traits my Mum and Dad had mentally stored away just waiting to throw at me when I uttered the word ‘boyfriend.’
Muslim. Guyanese. Perhaps Trinidadian. Lives in London. Educated. Good job. Comes from a respectful family. Non-smoker. The list could go on. How wrong was I?
So wrong that when I introduced my former boyfriend to my Mum thinking she would instantly condemn me, she did the complete opposite. Though he met the majority of the above traits, he wasn’t Guyanese, which I thought would be a deal breaker. It wasn’t. In fact, neither of my parents brought his Pakistani background into question.
But there are a lot of families that would have an issue with this and it is this lack of tolerance I cannot wrap my head around. Yes, there are differences in intercultural relationships, but should this stop a family from getting to know an individual invested in their son or daughter, or hinder two people from sharing and building a life together? Absolutely not.
NPR News interviewed New York psychologist, Lubna Somjee and Anita Malik, Editor of East West Magazine on the very subject where they gave some more insight into why Asians find it difficult to embrace this social change.
“Asian immigrant parents typically have a very set view of who their children should marry. It’s a different type of relationship, but every family has their own traditions, and sometimes a lot of that becomes very, very specific to what the parents want. And it’s just a very different child-parent relationship, and so it gets a little bit more tricky. And so it can be difficult,” Malik explains.
The wider ethnic community that a number of Asians are apart of can also be quite rigid in their traditional norms and the consequences for those who do not conform within those boundaries can be psychologically detrimental.
A Muslim father’s view quoted within a 2012 thesis by Sangeeta Soni discussed the prospect of his daughter marrying someone outside of their ethnic and religious background.
It might be accepted for the boy to marry (though not liked). But it would never
be acceptable for our girls. It’s a delicate relationship we have with a daughter.
We would feel dishonoured, the family would be dishonoured if this happened.
In some cases, cultural background is the issue at hand rather than religion and gender doesn’t come into question as males are just as forbidden as females.
There is a buzzing Guyanese community in London, but similarly to other Asian communities, it just seems that you’re more at risk of being scrutinised than empowered within these groups. Conforming to a way of life that other people collectively deem permissible somehow forces certain qualities and mindsets that an individual may not agree with.
Nevertheless, this ideology has travelled through several decades into the new millennium and can cause somewhat of a clash given the freedom younger generations have. With more mixed marriages, families are showing more of an acceptance and are finding ways to preserve their traditions as well as create new ones by opening their hearts and homes to individuals outside of their culture.
While this is reassuring, the idea of intercultural relationships still remains forbidden to some families. Somjee explains: “Unfortunately, there may be some families who ultimately say, you know what? We cannot do this. No matter how nice you may be, no matter how much we like you in general, this is not something we can accept in our family. And at this point, you as a couple have to decide whether you’re willing to take the risk, and those are hard questions you will have to ask yourself before you even start this process.”
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