In her essay, Gayle Rubin defines marriage as a transaction of gifts (women) from one man to another. In this transaction, women do not hold a place of power as it is the men who become linked since they are partners in the exchange and the women are simply a "conduit of a relationship rather than a partner to it" (21). Rubin then goes on to claim that because marriage is seen as the exchange of women, "women are in no position to realize the benefits of their own circulation" (21). Thus, the institution of marriage as an economic structure should hold that men have certain "rights" to women that women do not have to themselves. Men make a profit from the institution of marriage, while women cannot profit in the same way because they are the objects of the exchange and not partners in it.
In class today we talked about how marriage can be seen as an economic structure. Rubin says that "marriage transactions -- the gifts and material which circulate in the ceremonies marking a marriage -- are a rich source of data for determining exactly who has which rights rights in whom. It is not difficult to deduce from such transactions that in most cases women's rights are considerably more residual than those of men" (22). Dowries and the tradition of the bride's family paying for the wedding (a modern take on a dowry) prove that women are not the subjects of the marriage, but are in fact objects being exchanged between the father of the bride and the groom. We also discussed how divorce proves that marriage is an economic transaction.
However, I feel that divorce in itself breaks down the idea of marriage as an exchange of women. "The exchange of women is a profound perception of a system in which women do not have full rights to themselves" (22). But during a divorce, it is (usually) the woman herself who is making a physical profit from the marriage, and taking on full rights to herself. If a marriage ends in divorce, not only is the woman a subject in the deal, rather than an object, but she is also gaining material from the man to whom she was given without having to return that material to the man that gave her away. In short, any compensation that a woman gains in a divorce belongs to her and not to her family. How does this fit into the idea of marriage as an exchange of women in which women are simply the objects of a transaction?