The Transition at Marriage Transformation

One of the most dramatic transitions at marriage is described by Elam (1973) for the Hima, who were traditional African pastoralists. The unmarried maiden, nude and physically active, helped the men with herding activities and was expected to be chaste. After marriage, she was no longer permitted to participate in herding. Now physically inactive, heavily clothed, and confined to the home, she was fattened by her husband. Her obesity was viewed as sexually attractive and made her appealing to other men, whom she was expected to seduce in order to attract a work force for her spouse.

Whereas the wedding ceremonial in our own society typically provides the bride with a shining moment, and the prospect of "happily ever after," such illusions do not pertain in the wedding celebrations of many nonindustrial societies. Girls attempt to run away to avoid not only the ceremony itself, but the diminished and difficult existence to which it leads. The mother of the bride also enters a new status. In many societies, the tears mothers shed at the weddings of their daughters are tears of true grief because their daughters will be separated from them and will embark on a life of toil, possible abuse, and the dangers of child-bearing under traditional conditions. The transition at marriage, which is so eagerly anticipated by girls in our own society, is viewed quite differently by young women in many parts of the world, where remaining unmarried during the child-bearing years is not an option.

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