But aren’t you married?
It’s a really odd question to be asked as often as I am. Odd because I’m never doing anything that goes against my vows like being unfaithful or dishonest or abandoning my husband in a time of need. It’s odd that I’d be asked aren’t you married? When I’m doing my best to cherish and nurture my marriage. It’s odd, but I’ve realized it’s not insulting or presumptuous because my vows are the last thing on the minds of the people asking this question. I know that they’re not thinking anything untoward about me as a wife because what they’re really asking is: “You’re a feminist? But aren’t you married?”
I consulted my husband before writing this just to make sure we’re on the same page and that I’m not misrepresenting our marriage. We talk about politics all the time; sometimes we even debate for fun and probably make other restaurant patrons cringe at the apparent lover’s quarrel at table 14. Nonetheless I asked him the simple questions before writing this. I asked if feminism makes sense for our marriage. He said feminism makes sense in general, especially as a black man who should know better than to oppress another. Make no mistake, just because I’m a vocal feminist does not mean my husband and I have cracked the code. We both come from engrained misogyny despite having strong matriarchal families and we get it wrong, often. He’s no Mr Perfect, and neither am I.
To be blunt, some of the most difficult times in our young marriage have been due to trying to navigate what we’ve been taught our structure should be and what is the best practical solution for us. The traditional structure demanded too much from me as a woman and it was all too easy for my husband to not interrogate that.
Gender roles and other short stories.
Marriage is cultural. Gender roles are cultural. Patriarchy is cultural. Human beings create it and can bend it at will. I’m gonna let you in on a secret – we do not need to interpret coupling and procreation through culture. There are many reasons we do it, but none that are essential. So why do we preserve our traditions? Unless it’s for the benefit of the family and society as a whole, we can and should drop it altogether yes?
We know that none of the abovementioned have served the interests of women, so what does it mean to me as a married woman? How do I claim to want gender justice but submit to the foundational structure of women’s oppression? Transformation is a form of justice.
Marriage is a traditional institution just like sport, business, education and government. Like all traditional systems, it is rooted in the oppression of one by the other. It has crated gaps in society by excluding the needs and humanity of one party. Like sport, business, education and government in a progressing world, marriage is worth saving and it’s worth transforming. The institution can operate without culture as we know it, but sexism and patriarchy cannot sustain itself without something to latch onto.
So that’s how I’m a feminist in a heterosexual marriage. Because it is the foundational structure of gender justice, it all starts in the home. My culture means something to me, so if I want to keep it I had better make it healthy and sustainable. Take a moment to consider how your own cultural practices have been used to breed misogyny and if you want to discard them as a whole or transform them. Transformation starts with honesty, the rest is up to you.
What’s love got to do with it?
How unsettling it is to know that people as young as myself and even younger seem to think that loving and cherishing another human being as your partner is somehow opposed to marriage. What have we made of marriage all these years and where did this understanding come from? Furthermore, why is equality the dissenting voice and not the abuse and violent inequality suffered by one party for centuries? Why would people question the quality of heterosexual relationships when justice is the topic; is justice not a form of love?
Feminism is love, and it’s very simple to understand. My marriage vows went along the lines of “two becoming one” and nothing else. From a young age we’re taught to treat others the way we want to be treated, love your neighour and other cliché’s. There is no practical reason to abandon these principals in romantic relationships. The core premise is sound and practical. Love in a marriage, in society, is more than a fuzzy feeling. It’s an active agent of well-being, community and prosperity for all. What definition is there of love that involves having power over the other?
No feminism, no marriage.
Even of we removed love from the equation, marriage is still not meant to be a breeding ground for misogyny as it has been. Even in a marriage where there is no romance, the household should still have a healthy and practical dynamic because marriage is family, not ownership.
It’s not hard to understand why people do not consider equality and love to be the same thing. It’s a very comfortable predisposition and of course people would not want to set in motion any kind of change, because the workload is great and they feel powerless. That’s how a status quo becomes just that. As mentioned before, we have made tradition and culture an entity in on its own.
A feminist marriage by any definition is the only marriage where there is actual love and respect, even in a marriage of convenience or an arranged marriage. I think it’s time we all start to think long and hard about what we’ve been taught about love and marriage and why we can’t seem to reconcile that with respect for another’s humanity. Do you see how strange that is? If you can’t embrace feminism in your home then the next best thing for you to do is openly embrace the oppression of one by the other and call it a day, even when you’re on the receiving end.
Yes, a feminist can be married. And it will be a marriage that evolves you, and the very fabric of society.
– Sadie Torquato