[VIEWPOINT]Treating daughters well benefits allThe spring season brings with it frequent wedding invitations. At the wedding reception of a couple so suited to each other that it seemed like a match made in heaven, the parents of couple stood up to greet the guests. One of the guests remarked half jokingly that it is hard to tell who are the parents of the bride and who are the parents of the groom nowadays, because the brides’ mothers do not cry anymore.
Another guest said the brides’ fathers cry now, then a person next to that guest went on to say that the father of this particular bride told his daughter that she shouldn’t tolerate any mistreatment or disrespect from her husband’s family and that she should come back home if anything bad happened to her.
Everyone laughed at this last remark and agreed that the world has become a much better place now. Of course, they mean that times are much better than the old days when people used to tell brides to accept harsh treatment and even die in their husband’s home if they have to.
In this light, it makes sense to say that the world has become a better place for women. However, this doesn’t mean that there is equality between the sexes. The bride’s father may be able to say such things because his patriarchal power, such as his financial ability and social status, is no less than that of the groom’s household. It is still up to the father whether he wants to protect his daughter or let her go. It has nothing to do with the daughter’s right to make a decision.
The bride’s family always has to be more careful, even when the families of both sides seem to have the same amount of wealth, power and status because the groom’s mother becomes the bride’s mother-in-law. The mother-in-law is held in higher esteem only because she is connected to the son, so this again has nothing to do with the status of women.
The reason the father of the bride offered such a stark warning on a beautiful wedding day is probably because he went through both physical and psychological suffering just because he had a daughter. The conflict between the two families arising from the exchange of wedding gifts is still an important barrier that good men and women have to overcome before marriage. Apparently this problem is solved nowadays by giving cash instead of gifts.
For example, if the bride sends 20 million won as a gift, the groom’s family sends back 10 million won. The exact amount differs according to the standard of living of both families, but the tradition of the groom’s family returning 50 percent of what the bride’s family gave is a problem because it means that women are only worth one-half of what men are worth.
Whenever they contemplate the difficulties that precede marriage, more and more smart women prefer not to get married than to be humiliated with the half-price treatment. This is one of the reasons why more and more men are finding it harder to find a bride.
I watch a lot of TV dramas. I have often watched shows that deal with mothers of sons who scorn and mistreat their son’s girlfriends just because they are not as wealthy. While watching yet another overbearing mother abuse her son’s girlfriend, I remind myself that this is impossible in real life. But then as I keep watching, I feel as if I’m suffocating and am forced to switch to another channel until the scene is over.
I may be able to say this because I married off my daughters a long time ago, but if I had a daughter that wanted to get married despite such mistreatment, I would advise her to live alone rather than get married to such a mama’s boy. Yet that is probably not a good method to deal with the problem either. Nowadays, the trend is that young people get married a little later than before, after they finish their studies and gain some work experience.
I think the most important thing is to acknowledge the rights of our children to make their own decision as adults. There is a big difference between lovingly looking out for your children and keeping them wrapped around your little finger. This applies to their dealings with their in-laws as well. The rapid reduction in birth rates leads to smaller numbers of relatives a person has. Parents hope their son or daughter will create a loving home. Because the next generation of children, who will carry on their families’ names, are to be born in that home, it can be said that there is no relative more precious than the in-laws.
Pain within the family can be more destructive and persistent than any other. I know an old-fashioned woman my age who was mistreated by her mother-in-law from the day she got married. Such abuse prevented her from truly loving her mother-in-law, who lived with them until the day she died. Soon-to-be mothers-in-law should take note.
* The writer is a novelist. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Park Wan-suh