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Health Studies
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Denis Maxwell

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HLTC02 WINTER 2013 Week #5: Gender Inequality, Infidelity, and the Social Risks of Modern Marriage in Nigeria by Daniel Jordan Smith Introduction  Degree to which anthropology framework privileges culture has contributed to a failure to examine adequately inequality and the political economies that halt it o Relative myopia about history and the processes by which cultures are always changing o Shifting boundaries and permeable nature of culture  Culture is now seen as a tool for blame rather than the understanding and acceptance it was initially supposed to engender when used in the theoretical/anthropological approaches  In Nigeria, the dominant public health strategy for preventing HIV infection focuses on educating people via BEHAVIORAL change – this has backfired  In Nigeria, HIV is associated with social and sexual immorality and has made marriage seem like a safe haven DESPITE it being the primary mechanism of infection (due to men’s infidelity which is rewarded socially, performance use for displaying masculinity for other men)  Modern Marriage – the hallmarks o Growing acceptance that a committed personal, emotional relationship between a man and woman = love = ready for marriage o Significance of spousal intimacy – communicative, emotional and sexual; basis for assessment of couples and observers that marriage is good o Relative importance of conjugal relationship over other social ties  Modern marriage doesn’t CAUSE men’s infidelity but social factors, economic and moral pressures and patriarchal society enable, encourage and even pressures men to engage in infidelity  Growing middle-class consumption also plays into this  When men cheat in a love marriage, women cannot use the same social levers to appeal for help, because it contradicts the dyadic dynamic and intimacy privileging image of a love marriage, any public acknowledgement of cheating undermines supposed love foundation of marriage  Women free to marry, not so much to divorce as they may lose access to not only status, economic support but also access to children due to patrilineal line of inheritance (which children fall in line as well)  Keeping quiet about the painful fact of their husband’s infidelity, wives are sparing themselves the shame with revealing their love marriage is not as strong as what they had once claimed  Social risk approach is good because it situates behavior in context, it allows ambivalence and contradiction and depicts the lives of our subjects of the same degree of complexity that we intuitively recognize as integral to our own experience, finally recognizes the role of discourses about AIDS in contributing to social risk HLTC02 WINTER 2013  Anthropological approach can contribute the fact that culture is a concept that needs EXPLANATION rather than serving as a SUBSTITUTE for it (using it to blame) Setting, Background, and Social Context  Owerri: 350000 people, urban city, hub of higher education, hotels everywhere for extramarital affairs, city life anonymizes people who indulge in this  Ubakal – semi rural community, major hub of rural to urban migration, married couples are separated spatially and temporally for extensive periods of time for economic strategies (seasonal work, work in the city, etc.)  Both cities are entirely Igbo, 3 largest ethnic and linguistic group, entrepreneurial acumen, willingness to migrate and settle elsewhere for economic interests, receptive to change, higher education is valued, Christianity is ubiquitous, and capitalist-style consumption is great  How to understand contemporary context of men’s extramarital sex o Long period between young women’s sexual maturity and marriage o High levels of mobility and migration, particularly to cities and towns, where young women less subject to the regulation and surveillance of their families and communities o Sex-segregated social organization in much of everyday life Opportunity Structures for Men’s Extramarital Sex  Three opportunity structures o Work related migration o Intertwining of masculinity and socioeconomic status (SES) o Male peer groups that encourage and reward extramarital sexual relations – reward economic capability and masculine sexuality  Sexuality, masculinity, consumption and social class are mutually implicated as a social performance Sexual Geographies and Gendered Social Space  Same people will interact differently based on the space as each one has its own meaning and valence (nightclub vs. church)  Male dominated settings like tennis clubs and night clubs usually have alcohol as a social lubricant, girlfriends as quiet demure companions and boisterous  Younger unmarried women who tend to be men’s extramarital sexual partners know that their claims on these men do not extend beyond the places where they meet  If line between wife and lover becomes too blurry, male peers will strongly sanction him, they are invested in safe spaces so if a girlfriend shows up to a wife-only area that would trouble other men, alternatively if a wife shows up in a girlfriend only area, that would be difficult for other men too HLTC02 WINTER 2013  Also, if a man starts to move economic resources to the girlfriend and not the wife, his peers will conduct an intervention of sorts to ensure the man completes his masculine duties of provider and father  Some men are heavily emotional invested in their affairs while others are not,
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