When I met my husband in college, I wasn't as open about my feminism as I am now. I wasn't ashamed or embarrassed by my very strong views, I just wasn't educated enough on the topic. I knew I cared strongly about women and justice and equality, but I also knew I needed to take the time to learn about feminism and everything it embodied. Still, when I married my husband I didn't expect to take on "traditional" gender roles. I mean, I didn't know how to boil water, let alone cook. But now, as a feminist, I often find myself speaking in defense the traditional marriage to people who don't understand that choice. I know plenty of feminists in traditional marriages, some who chose their roles and others who kind of just fall into them. Most of these feminist women (and men) are happy, because they are in healthy marriages with loving partners.
I've been a feminist for as long as I can remember. Back in third grade, a boy from the fourth grade kept pulling on my pig tails. When I told him to stop and he wouldn't, I told his mom. His mom, who happened to be my third grade teacher, said, "He probably likes you." To that I replied, "Well, I don't like it, I don't care if he likes me, and he needs to stop." I was 9 years old. In high school, when a boy slapped my butt as I walked past him, I shoved him against a locker and he didn't touch me again. In college, I studied mass media and wrote about how women are represented in society and how sexist fairy tales are. So, yes: I was always a feminist, I just didn't always call myself one.
I realize that the "traditional" marriage is a long-standing tradition with sexist, patriarchal misogynistic undertones. I know that, in many ways, it's problematic. I know many women who struggle with taking their husband's last names, feeling as though they're giving up a piece of their identity. I understand that struggle, in fact, so I decided to hyphenate.. My children, however, have their dad's last name, and that's a decision I slightly regret. I understand why feminists speak out against traditional marriages. I totally get it. But my traditional marriage works for me. Maybe that's because I'm married to a feminist man, but it's definitely because of the following reasons:
My husband has been my best friend since we met. He is someone I trust with all of my thoughts and feelings. He is someone I can be at my worst with and he knows me better than most other people. Living with him, while sometimes frustrating, is one of the favorite things about my life. Building something real with him, growing our family, and being able to talk or sit silently together for hours are just some of the reasons why my traditional marriage works for me.
I've had some really tough times in my career and I honestly don't know where I'd be if it weren't for my husband. Sure, as a strong, determined woman, I would have been fine, but it definitely didn't hurt to be in a strong marriage while navigating my career downfalls. In the very traditional fashion, it was because of my husband's steady income that I was able to go back to school, earn another degree, and bounce around until I found something I am happy with. In a world where men earn more than women, it doesn't hurt to have a man who can be a financial rock.
I don't feel tied down or suffocated in my marriage. I don't have to ask my husband's permission to live the life I want. I am obviously respectful to him and his time, but if I want to go out with my girlfriends, I don't need to ask permission, I just have to make sure our schedules allow it. Most of the time, I just tell him I am going out and he makes it work.
I like having a confidant and a friend always by my side, and while I could totally do this whole life thing on my own, I don't want to. I have always been a social person who loves being around people. While I do enjoy my alone time, I can't imagine being alone on this journey. And I know I didn't have to get married in order to not be alone, many people don't, but I also enjoyed being married. I love saying the word "husband."
It's the woman's choice to get married, and feminism is very much about choice. A woman can choose to partake in a traditional marriage if that is what she wants, or she can choose not to. That is the beauty of equality.
Clearly, I wouldn't do anything that doesn't make me happy, and my traditional marriage makes me incredibly happy. I am lucky to be in a relationship with a man who not only understands my need to be a feminist, but encourages and supports everything I care about.
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