Elif Bautman recently penned an article, Marriage Is an Abduction, for the New Yorker that eloquently draws parallels to the blockbuster new movie “Gone Girl” and a greater question for women in society today. The need to procreate is indelibly set in our DNA, but what happens when brilliant, over-achieving super women find the joys of motherhood or matrimony less than fulfilling.
Girls are told we can do anything and be anyone we want, but at some point the looming questions inevitable come. When are you going to get married? Then, no sooner than the ink is dry on the contract of marital bliss, the new question comes. When are you going to have a baby?
What happens when the traditional roles of mommie and wife don’t live up to our expectation. What happens when our hard-won professional identities are stripped away, and we are left frumpy, naked, isolated and trapped in a fairytale of motherhood and matrimony?
I have no answers for these questions, but the conversation is a step in the right direction. And, Bautman’s article is an excellent start.
Excepts from Marriage Is an Abduction
Parallels may be drawn between “Gone Girl” and Lionel Shriver’s 2003 best-seller “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” which was adapted into a movie in 2011. Shriver’s novel tells the story of a woman whose husband talks her into having children; parenthood, he feels, is the only possible answer to the big existential questions. But she, through some horrific transference, passes her spiritual emptiness to her son, who eventually perpetrates a school massacre.
The central characters in both “Gone Girl” and “We Need to Talk About Kevin” are smart, acerbic New York women—successful writers, amazing cooks, lovers of European culture—who are somehow unable to find happiness with their apparent male counterparts. (This parade of weird, milquetoast intellectuals is best summed up in the character of the billionaire, Proust-reciting Scrabble buff played, in the “Gone Girl” adaptation, by Neil Patrick Harris.) Both women marry salt-of-the-earth, all-American types, manly men who know how to fuck a woman’s brains out and then take her to see the fence that Tom Sawyer whitewashed. Both are relocated by their strong, manly husbands from fantastic Manhattan apartments to suburban McMansions, where they are given to understand that the time has come to set aside frivolous pursuits and have children.
Both books restage marriage as a violent crime—an abduction. An independent, expressive single woman is taken from New York; her beautiful body is disfigured, or threatened with disfigurement; and her accomplishments are systematically taken away or negated, rendered worthless by comparison to that all-trumping colossus of meaning, childbirth. (Clearly, many women find happiness in much this way; but, equally clearly, many of them don’t and can’t.) These narratives speak less to the specific challenges of having a sociopath for a child or a spouse than to the pathology of the unstated assumptions that we all pass along and receive. They speak to the revelation lying in wait for women when they hit the ages of marriageability and childbirth: that their carefully created and manicured identities were never the point; the point was for it all to be sacrificed to children and to men…
If no longer vital to a woman’s status as a human being, marriage is still understood as her crowning success, the event without which her life won’t be truly complete. When Amazing Amy grows up, she can’t not get married. The world is still no place for single women. They are regularly bombarded—and I say this, let’s face it, from experience—by both well- and ill-intentioned comments about their inability to find that special man. In “Gone Girl,” this hazing is presented particularly dramatically, at the book party for Amy’s parents’ latest effort, “Amazing Amy and the Big Day.” The parents bully Amy, who is thirty-something and still single, into talking to reporters, who predictably grill her about when she’s going to get married. Nick saves the day by proposing to her, right in front of the journalists. That shuts them up—it’s the only thing that will. And for Nick, to “man up” in this way is to fulfill perhaps the greatest and most irrational responsibility left for men.
Read the full article, Marriage Is an Abduction by Elif Bautman, New Yorker