Young, Feminist and… Married?

When people first find out that I’m married, I always see something flicker across their face: surprise, unease or curiosity, maybe. It only lasts for a fraction of a second, after which they smile and usually say something along the lines of, “Ohh, you’re married?” Being that I am 22 and look like I’m 18, it doesn’t surprise me that people are surprised, so I don’t let it bother me.  I know that in our modern society, it is slightly unusual for a woman to be married at the age of 22.  And it isn’t as if it was my plan to get married at a young age.  I remember being in high school and thinking, “I’m not getting married until I’m AT LEAST 25. And no kids until I’m 27!”  At that point in my life, I equated getting married later with being an independent, strong woman.  I equated getting married later (or not at all) with being a feminist.

However, life and experience has a way of changing your ideas, beliefs and plans.  As I got older, I began to realize that feminism isn’t about having one particular lifestyle, but about supporting women’s right to make whatever life choice they want to make. Once I realized that, I knew that being a strong, independent woman was not contingent on who or when I got married, what kind of job I have or what kind of clothes I wear.  Being a strong, independent woman means being brave enough to make the choices that you want to make, regardless of what society says.

Recently, a blogger named Amy Glass on Thought Catalog wrote a post entitled, “I Look Down on Young Women with Husbands and Children and I’m Not Sorry”  in which she explains why feminists shouldn’t validate women who choose to get married and have children. She boldly proclaims, “You will never have the time, energy, freedom or mobility to be exceptional if you have a husband and kids.” Despite the fact that every person has their own definition of what it means to be successful and lead an exceptional life, is Amy Glass purposely choosing to ignore the hundreds of women throughout history who have had a family and also managed to change the world?  Marie Curie, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, and Margaret Thatcher  are just a few of the many powerful women who have also had families.  Not to mention the millions of married women who may not be famous but who have certainly managed to become successful, influential women in their communities and their fields.

Additionally, although this woman is depicting herself as the ultimate feminist, she is actually devaluing women in her assertion that they cannot be “exceptional” if they choose to burden themselves with a family.  Throughout history, men have managed to hold power while also having families.  Why can’t women do the same?  I do recognize that the implications of having a family are often different for women than for men due to societal expectations, but even still, it is an insult to women to suggest that they are incapable of having a family while simultaneously becoming bad-ass, influential people.

So, what is the point of all of this? My point is that although it may be surprising, rare, or outside the norm, a woman is certainly capable of being 22, married and a feminist.  Every individual has their own idea of what it means to be successful, and every individual is entitled to make their own lifestyle choices without the judgment of society. As for me, my idea of success is living a happy life with my husband, helping as many people as I can — both through my work as an ESL teacher and in my daily life — and being a totally bad-ass, independent woman.

-C

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9 thoughts on “Young, Feminist and… Married?

  1. I’m so glad you linked me to this blog, because you sum everything up so perfectly. The very idea that you can’t be exceptional because you are a wife or mother is inherently wrong. To imply that having a partner or children is a burden is a misguided view on what it means to be a parent. In fact, feminist parents should be praised simply because they are shaping the next generation of humans which will hopefully start a cycle where in the future the very idea of inequality is laughable.

    There’s no set guidelines to being exceptional. There’s no set guidelines to being a feminist or independent, either. I’m married with three children and I don’t feel that my independence has been burdened or threatened, or has been less than any other person because I got married and gave birth. In fact, I think it’s a testament that I was able to exert my ability to choose to become a wife and a mother, and choice should always be celebrated.

    So my long winded response is basically to say heck yes, you hit the nail on the head with this blog, thank you SO much for sharing.

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  2. I find the hardest part of being a feminist is supporting women who make choices that I wouldn’t make for myself. It’s so easy to judge others’ decisions, but the point of feminism is that each woman should be free to live her life in the way that she wants to, and not to feel pressured by other people’s ideas of how that should be.

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  3. I totally agree with you that feminism is about supporting women in whatever choices THEY want to make, and that being a strong, independent woman is about making the choices that YOU want to make regardless of whatever society thinks. YEAH! Here’s to more of that!!

    I do think it’s much harder for women to find the time/energy/focus whatever to make major contributions outside the family for no other reason than that men usually have women to do all the things that need to be done around the house and women don’t usually have anyone else to do all that for them. I HOPE one day that will change, til it does I don’t see how it’s possible for there to be as many women doing ‘great’ things as there are men.

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    1. I definitely agree! I think that it’s high time that societal roles begin changing so that men take over more of the domestic work so that women can have more time to develop their own careers and professional lives. Why should women have to be the only ones whose careers are stunted because they have a family? You’re right that it’s harder for women who have families to do “great” things outside of motherhood, but it definitely isn’t impossible. I also don’t like women judging/criticizing other women’s choices, so the blog post that I reference in this post really bothered me. There definitely is work to be done, and you make some great points!

      -C

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