Perhaps reality TV shows can teach us something about the insecurity of Capitalism! I want to say, insensitivity as well!
I know for the most part that reality TV shows do not receive the best reviews. A confession to anyone that you watch reality TV is bound to fetch you rebuke, turn heads and eyes rolling, in a “get real! that is so unintelligent” attitude. Yes, I will confess that I watch plenty of reality TV shows, and possibly the only thing I watch on TV. Once, I was addicted to Survivor, the Amazing Race, The Hills, The City, Laguna Beach, Surreal Life, Celebreality, and Flavor Flav. Now I joyfully partake of my daily dose of news, talk shows, weather, national geographic, TV Judges, Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, to the weekly Marriage Boot Camp, Keeping up with the Kardashians, the Haves and Have Nots. Yes, I also watch pretty much all the Real Housewives of: Atlanta(the longest I have followed), New York (tried a couple of seasons); (stumbled upon) Beverly Hills; New Jersey; and most recently of Orange County. Incidentally, RHW of Miami did not catch my fancy; too many plastic women! Well, plenty of RWO feature plastic women, but not as much as Miami, in my opinion. Most recently I stumbled upon “Married to Medicine”, a show that further stamped the need for me to pen down this overdue piece.
“Married to Medicine” is about a group of established couples from Atlanta, with a connection to medicine -either the husband or wife is a doctor. Typical Atlanta style, there are plenty of characters, egos and attitudes. You know too well that Atlanta is the “Black Mecca”, with all kinds of established black people with own big monies, big mansions, big cars, and most definitely big flamboyant egos. There you find all sorts of sexualities, dog-eating-dog and “no-you-didn’t” type of people. I have since learned couple of phases from watching one or many of the Atlanta reality shows on Bravo TV. Most recently “Bye Felicia” – said somebody you have no time or care for that much!
This past Sunday on “Married to Medicine”, which airs after “The Real Housewives of Atlanta: Kandi’s Wedding”, one of the doctor’s wives told her husband she wanted to go on some form of birth control, postponing her husband wish to start a family with her. She said, she wanted to take care of herself and her needs first, by gaining financial security. She said, she worried about how men use money against their wives in a marital relationship, citing her father (whom she also confessed to love dearly), used his money to hold her mother down. Instantaneously, her husband’s face got flustered with shock and disappointment, although he then promised to support her in whatever she wants to do. Mrs. Doctor’s Wife (I will call her) comes off as one of the big flamboyant ego-type of Atlanta women. You would have no difficulty guessing right off that, she is the corporate america-type of woman. And that is where she spent most of her career before branching into own business of making dog clothes, which by the way infuriated her husband, unamused that, “she is focusing on making dog clothes, when many people in the world have real problems”. He also lashed out at her for calling dogs people’s names, elevating them to human status!
My first reaction after I hearing Mrs. Doctor’s Wife “assert her independence, make her own, big monies, and secure financial security” was, “Why then did you get married?” I thought people get married to become one, to convert “my” to “our” dreams, to start a family, to have children? Why is she talking about “me my own, my needs, my financial security”? Why is the “paper-chase” being given too much power, privilege and precedence among married couples? What happened to the “traditional marriage”, when wives expected their husbands to look after them and their children? When husbands provided for their homes, their children, their wives and gave spending money to their wives? When wives did not necessarily need to make stashes of cash or big financial empires on their own to feel secure in marriage? Where marriage was a kind of retirement and ‘reward’ to women for all the pre-marital years of their lives when they depended on their fathers and mothers for upkeep and strive to achieve till their coming of age and getting married to men (we did not necessarily talk about women marrying women, then) to give them full care, protection and satisfaction in exchange for offering their time, dedication and wit to running the brood and securing husbands financial success outside the home? Or perhaps I am living in fantasyland, with misguided nostalgia and romanticism for the “traditional marriage”?
But I do not think so! I know plenty of these “traditional marriages” still prevalent in various parts of the world, including my country of origin Uganda. Many men still feel a responsibility, embracing family and societal expectation that they have to take care of their wives, children and entire household, even when their wives make money outside their home. Cross the Big Pond to the west, and the same “traditional marriages” are still envogue though mostly a privilege of the wealthy and among white couples. I have plenty of white mama friends who have traded in careers in high corporate America for low-earning professions teaching at elementary schools, babysitting, working at thrift stores or community grocery stores, that allow them more time as wives, mothers, and homemakers. They have taken their MBA, law and engineering degrees out of serving and building private companies, to avail themselves as “stay-at-home mothers and CEOs of home affairs. This ensures that they are available for their children when they leave for school, and at the end of the school day, while their husbands are out making money in the corporate careers. True, there are some couples where the wife works out of the house more than the husband, but the same arrangement applies. For example, a Professor friend who teaches Political Science at a University in the midwest, and travels several times during the year around the world for research and academic exchange, while her husband runs a home-based business. That has ensured that at least one parent (daddy) is home taking care of the children while mommy is around the world. Another female friend in Virginia works with an international organization that includes travel requirements to grantees and overseas offices, while her husband a college professor is available at home with the kids. Of course, dad gets hours off when the kids are at school or a crèche. Still, the compromises they have made in their careers as a couple and family ensure that, if a child needs to be picked up from school sick, dropped off late or picked up from the bus after school, one parent is available.
These couples are perhaps telling us that relationships and marriage are not all about money, (as Mrs. Doctor Wife opines) but building a family and relationship. I wonder what happened to “building a relationship through marriage”! When a male “Married to Medicine” Doctor said, “when we got married, my money ceased to be *mine* but *ours*”, all the women in the group nodded in the affirmative. When he said, “her uterus ceased to be *hers*, but *ours*”, they burst out in laughter and contestation. Why is that? What is the purpose of marriage, if you are still going to live an “individualistic marriages”? Could it be that I am failing to recognize that capitalism has disenfranchised the “institution of marriage” and intensified the fright and plight of women in marital relations? Is capitalization of marriage the problem, introducing a monetary tag into marital relation, where a big house, big car, big closet, big shoe rack and big parties are worshiped more than time spent with family and children?
On second reflection, I developed a little appreciation for the plight of “Mrs. Doctor Wife”, who privileges making money now over starting a family with husband. I have heard several people saying they cannot have children until they have enough money to afford them. Most of these people are or live in the west, where money is the language that has come to dictate what one can have or do with their life. In many ways, our experiences and understandings of life shape the actions and decisions we make. Perhaps Mrs. Doctor Wife was reflecting on her mother’s predicament, her life choices dictated by living at the financial mercy of her father. Mrs. Doctor Wife is afraid of becoming her mother, unable to fulfill her needs and desires, in case her husband decides to withdraw financial support from her or use his financial muscle to control her choices. That is possible, as well, especially in a society that is all about the money. Where couples, particularly women married to financially rich men are name-called “trophy wives” because they choose to become homemakers, or “gold digger” when they assert their justified entitlement in divorce proceedings. So, while capitalism can buy you a yacht, family vacations and travel overseas, an elite education, Lamborghini, Ferrari and Louboutin shoes and a mansion in the Hamptons, it seems incapable of providing marital satisfaction, security for married women, the confidence to start a family, and enjoy the “highly coveted” role of becoming mothers.