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A mail-order bride is a woman from a less developed country who goes online in search of a husband from a first-world country. Before the Internet became widely available, some women used to list their profiles in catalogs that were circulated to men interested in marrying a foreign woman. Modern technology led to the term "email-order bride".
The negative consequences of these relationships usually are that (1) the woman will get abused or exploited by a guy who takes advantage of their economic desperation, (2) the man will get scammed by a woman whose main interest is in getting a green card or money, or (3) the partners simply won't have assessed their compatibility enough in person before marrying to lay the foundation for a successful marriage. This might be compounded by wide differences in their age, attractiveness, etc. The most commonly-cited statistic is that 80% of mail-order bride marriages are successful. Most of the mail-order brides seem to come from the Philippines or the formerly communist countries of Eastern Europe.
Characteristics and assumptions
The woman as a "product"
Wikipedia defines a mail-order bride as "a woman who lists herself in catalogs (online or otherwise) and is selected by men for marriage" although this is at least somewhat misleading. The men create profiles as well and get approached by women, so one could just as easily say that it is the men who are being selected. In fact, a typical westerner creating a profile on one of these sites will get deluged with messages from women seeking to strike up a conversation and move the relationship toward marriage. It is in fact a common selling point of these sites that the men need not make much effort to get female attention. According to an Asian Law Journal article, "While the mail-order bride business also possesses attributes of involuntary servitude, the dynamics of the industry more closely parallel those of prostitution."
The man as purchaser
Men behave like purchasers in that they typically pay most of the expenses of travelling to meet the woman, arranging for a visa, flying her to his country, etc. An American seeking to bring in an immigrant spouse is also required to sign a government form promising to financially support her. This is similar to how the purchaser of a product is responsible for its maintenance. One could argue, even in developed countries, men with higher incomes than women often act as purchasers, since they pay for the dates, wedding rings, and so on, and may support her living as a housewife.
It's also assumed that the guy orders the woman like he would order a blow-up doll or other toy — i.e. that he is able to obtain it without needing to be handsome, charming, etc. To some Americanophile cultures, such as the Philippines, that (perhaps because of the influence of Western film and TV) view a white complexion as more attractive than a brown complexion, a guy who would be of substandard looks by American standards might be the equivalent of a supermodel by local standards.
Limited in-person interaction prior to marriage
Often, mail-order brides have only days or weeks of in-person interaction with their prospective husbands before marrying. The two main ways that mail-order brides enter the U.S. are through a K-1 or CR-1 visa. The former requires the partners to have met in person within the previous two years, while the latter requires them to have actually married. It's possible to marry someone who is in the U.S. on a tourist visa, but usually they would have to return to their country during the process of applying for an immigration visa. Also, countries like the U.S. and New Zealand also require that there be proof of a relationship, such as travel receipts, love letters, co-mingling of assets, etc., before a visa will be issued. So the process is not quite as simple, fast, or impersonal as ordering a product.
Probably the main reason for the existence of the mail order bride phenomenon is immigration laws that make a fiancee or spousal visa one of the fastest ways to become a lawful permanent resident. Some cultures, such as Filipino culture, have an affinity for westerners, but if it were not for the immigration restrictions, these women would probably be more likely to migrate to western countries and then spend a great deal of time in person getting to know prospective husbands, as in more typical relationships. Laws like the International Marriage Broker Regulation Act were passed to regulate the mail-order bride industry, but most mail-order bride websites find ways to get around the requirements by billing themselves as personals or social networking sites.
Both partners are likely to be viewed with suspicion since it's assumed there must be some reason, possibly an ulterior motive, for why they're going to the trouble of looking overseas rather than to the millions of single people in their own countries. Oftentimes, the men have become disgruntled with the culture of their own country, (for example, blaming the influence of modern feminism for their failed relationships) and are looking for someone from a more traditional culture that puts a high value on marital commitment and encourages women to devote themselves to pleasing their husband. They also may be "highly introverted guys who have always struggled with women."
Another reason, besides economic desperation, that a woman from a less-developed country might seek a western man could be that, even if by western standards he seems like a male chauvinist, he may seem like an enlightened liberal by the standards of her home country. For example, in the Philippines, a woman is considered of lesser value as a bride if she is not a virgin, while a western man might not care much about that. Foreign brides can also benefit from the more progressive laws of the western country they move to; for example, in the Philippines, divorce and abortion are both illegal, while in the United States, women have the right to both.
In some countries, women view Americans as more likely than men from their country to be faithful partners and good providers, and less likely to drink, smoke, have bad hygiene, or care only about themselves.
A typical site railing against American women says:
“”American men have options. American women do not. So the American women huff and puff, and scowl at the incoming foreign brides who don't demand the feminazi equality bullshit. You WISH American men didn't have choices. You're like a labor union that's pissed off because the company is hiring non-union employees.
- "The men who go to Ukraine looking for a wife then fly home alone and broke", The Guardian
- "Foreign women are thought to be happy as homemakers and mothers and serving the interests of their husbands. Plain and simple, American women are perceived as selfish, aggressive, and not family-oriented. On the other hand, their Asian counterparts are viewed as family oriented, undemanding, and untouched by women's liberation." Mobydeen, Lana. Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Mail-Ordered - The Mail-Order Bride Industry and Immigration Law
- Mobydeen, Lana. Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Mail-Ordered - The Mail-Order Bride Industry and Immigration Law