Sunday, December 5, 2021

Marriage relationships may sound lousy, but our research shows that women value them more than men.

Companionship is an integral part of Australian society and is regularly discussed as an important national value. In 1999, Prime Minister John Howard even tried to include the issue of marriage in the preamble to the constitution.

But despite its ubiquity in Australian culture, what does camaraderie mean to people and how do they actually relate to the term? Our new Australian partnership study tried to figure this out.

In a survey of more than 500 respondents, we found that while the concept of marriage is widely held among Australians, it is viewed by many as problematic.

And surprisingly, women supported the idea that marriage is a key feature of Australian national values, more than men (70% and 60%, respectively). This finding is notable because mating has a historical male connotation – a perception that many of our respondents echoed.

A Brief History of Friendship in Australia

The word “mating” is widespread in many countries, but in Australian English it has acquired a special meaning. The Australian National Dictionary defines it as “a bond between equal partners or close friends; partnership; camaraderie as an ideal. “

Although this definition is gender neutral, mating has historically been considered a masculine domain. One of our respondents succinctly described it as “friendship, but boy.”

There is a long-standing mating mythology in Australia. Canonical bush writers such as Henry Lawson drew on the concept of camaraderie, cementing it as part of the Australian artisanal tradition of the late 19th century.

In the first half of the 20th century, companionship became closely associated with the legend of ANZAC – and it remains so today.

In the 1970s, historian Miriam Dixon, among others, challenged the cultural dominance of partnerships and argued that it was an exclusionary concept. For Dixon, marriage was “deeply antipathetic to women.”

By the 1990s, Howard argued that the term had outgrown its masculine origins and could be seen as an all-encompassing national ideal. However, his plan to include the term in the preamble to the constitution was heavily criticized and ultimately rejected.

The aim of our study was to test the attitude towards camaraderie two decades after this public debate to see how people feel about it today.

Prime Minister John Howard talks about Australian troops prior to their 1999 deployment to East Timor.
LTD-POOL / AAP NEWS

Positive feelings for camaraderie – unless used by politicians

Our survey asked a series of questions aimed at determining whether respondents used the term “partner” and how they thought, if they believed that sex was important in Australia, and how people defined it.

The overwhelming majority of respondents (82%) said they use the word “partner” in conversation, and almost 65% answered in the affirmative when asked, “Is partnership a key sign of Australian national identity?” Many respondents also spoke positively about companionship in their comments.

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Our survey also found that women were generally slightly more positive about marital relationships than men and non-binary or gender-sensitive respondents, even though many women found the term too lousy.



Read more: Get your hands off mate, Australian slang doesn’t die


While camaraderie is perceived by most to be positive for Australia, we found there is suspicion when politicians try to profit politically from it.

When asked whether politicians should invoke companionship in national rituals such as performing on Australia Day and Anzac Day, only 45% of our respondents said yes.

Apart from the derivation of a phrase from Howard’s proposed amendment to the 1999 constitutional preamble, respondents were asked if they supported the line: “We value superiority and fairness and independence as much as comradeship.” Only 39% answered in the affirmative.

Marriage and exclusion

While the majority of our respondents (60%) stated that they believed marital relations include “all Australians,” a significant minority stated that the term is used solely in relation to gender and race.

Many comments are related not only to men, but also to white men. One respondent called it “a dog whistle for white nationalism and misogyny.” Others suggested that the partnership was “too white-male oriented” and “the partnership felt like a boys’ club, especially for white men.”



Read more: Paul Hogan and the White Australian Boy Myth


Perhaps this reflects the feeling of distrust that people feel when companionship is used in political discourse. Australia’s political leaders are predominantly white and male, and they regularly use the language of camaraderie to speak of solidarity and political community.

Like Howard, recent leaders have tried to harness his cultural power. In fact, then-Treasurer Scott Morrison told Parliament in late 2015 that “friendship is the Australian word for love.”

Our survey shows that there are many Australians preoccupied with trying to impose companionship as a civic ideal, as is often the case in political rhetoric.

The future of the partnership

While companionship is largely seen as a positive trait of Australian life, it is difficult to define and politicized is generally frowned upon.

Our survey also found that for a sizable minority, the exclusive connotations of camaraderie are too strong to be a unifying civic ideal. For many of our respondents – as in the case of critics of Howard’s constitutional preamble – the term has not outgrown its sexist and exclusive baggage.

In his friendship story, Nick Deirenfurt notes that this has always been contested. This is confirmed by a variety of responses to our survey.

As a result, we believe that political attempts to take responsibility for camaraderie and cement a specific definition as a civic ideal will divide rather than unite.

This article is republished from – The Conversation – Read the – original article.

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