I was so excited to read this book. 2. I waited on the hold list at the library for this book for eight months. First of all, the title 'history of marriage' is apt, as it spends most of the book discussing cavemen through like 1000 AD -- and it never goes past 1500. Which, I mean, is fine, I guess. But certainly not ideal, as it didn't give me an overarching idea of married life in each period. Also, this book is begging for a conclusion discussing the absurdity of marriage. Like, honestly, marriage is totally absurd.
I recommend this book, even if you're afraid it will turn you off from the m word.
I very much enjoyed Susan Squires I Dont: A Contrarian History of Marriage. This is due to Squires way of presenting this history of marriage with a skeptical, can you fucking believe this nonsense? Im sure when I bought this book in 2009 (yes, and Im just now reading it) that I thought it was more of an exploration of modern marriage. In her Prologue (always read the prologue of booksa lot of information can be packed into them; in this case, Squire discusses how the concept of marriage arose, then lays out the thesis of her book), marriage isnt yet a thing, but when it does and men somehow connect the sexual act with procreation, thats when the real trouble starts: men come to view themselves as a sourcethe only sourceof life itself. Men very definitely have the authority (God-given authority) but they dont always have the power, particularly in marriage. This is also true in reverse, of course, but the stakes are so much lower that a wifes exposure can do worse than to confirm the assumption at the heart of patriarchal marriage: Women are inferior to men as servants are inferior to masters, and no one expects much from inferiors. In the chapters that follow, Squire discusses the different ways that men try to control women, thus providing solace to their fragile egos and very specific male anxieties. Squires irreverent sense of humor adds to the fun of reading this book. In chapter three, Squire discusses ancient Athens and how great the men have it thereuntil all their penis statues go missing: Sculpted in marble or painted on clay, always colossal and always erect, displayed in public squares and private homes, the phallus is to Athens what the cross will be to medieval European towns: all over the place. Although she does not discuss modern marriage (and for those Goodreads reviewers who complained about this: you should have read A Note to The Reader. Plus, the last chapter makes it fairly clear what the basis for modern marriage is), and she doesnt discuss marriage in the way I had thought she would, this is a fascinating look at the history of marriage. Theres an extensive bibliography if youd like to read more on the subject (which of course I doReign of Dicks, here I come) and the chapter notes shouldnt be skipped because they are often amusing.
It could've explored other points of view on marriage besides extremely religious men's. The book is just a summary of a handful of texts written by men in ancient times who had a very extreme and mostly unchanging view of marriageessentially, that a wife is a man's baby-maker, and should otherwise stay out of his way.
Does a survey of marriage in the western world from the Bible through Greece and Rome through Europe to Martin Luther. At least as translated, Catos speech advocating an increase on the restrictions on women sounds like Anita Byrant or Pat Robinson; Valeriuss rejoinder sounds a lot like the majority leader in the Iowa Senate telling the folks who want a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage get over it.
Susan Squire assumes you already know quite a bit about history, theology, philosophy and feminism if you've picked up this book, so there isn't much in the way of explanation.
This book is a chronological look at marriage through the ages, and damn, but THAT is a depressing venture, though this hopscotches through the millenniums with a comparatively light tone.
It's an essential read for anyone who's wondered what marriage really means or why it began.
Trite, anecdotal, and biased are a few words I would use to describe Squire's book.
The Hollywood Pitch synopsis: When men figure out that semen makes babies, they use religion to control women through marriage. The End. Though this synopsis is accurate (more or less), the great majority of the work is spent illuminating the various ways that men have used political, religious, and cultural power to maintain women in a subservient position through marriage. However, the final chapter of the book is somewhat misguided: it assigns to Martin Luther (surely one of the more hateful and spiteful people to appear in history's annals) the credit of linking marriage, at long last, with Love. While this has no doubt been true of many men throughout history, there is little in the way of evidence offered to support this assertion.