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.