Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Why Feminism? Concerning Marriage and Children

So my boyfriend and I had a weird debate about feminism over the weekend that got me pretty upset and angry. Not because of my boyfriend, just in general. And Isaac doesn't understand my anger. In his defense, anger is probably not the best emotion for me to feel when it comes to feminism, but it often is.

Let me clarify: yes, I am a feminist and a great supporter of feminism. My main focus is usually trying to become aware of the ways women are discriminated against and sharing that knowledge. In my opinion, nothing will change unless we realize what is happening and take steps to correct it. It can be hard though, even for myself. There is so much that in ingrained in us, socially, that we sometimes have a hard time catching the parts that are bad. Especially when it comes to language and expectations.

I also should tell you that Isaac considers himself a feminist, too. However, I think that his view and support is very different from mine. He likes that women can be strong and independent and make their own way. But he has a hard time understanding the barriers that we face, I think, and how even the strongest women (or people for that matter) can waver in doubt when no one will support them. Being a male who supports equality for women, though, makes him a pretty great guy though, right? I think so!

This is just going to be a portion of a much larger topic that I am passionate about. I could go on forever about feminism and why it is important. Really. I will leave some parts for other posts. I am expecting to do a little series over time titled "Why Feminism?" with individual subtitles.

This weekend, I think I surprised Isaac with the knowledge of having been judged many, many times by whether or not I a) have a successful relationship that will end up with me being married and b) want kids. This usually comes from a slightly older generation, not normally my own, though I have received judgement from my peers as well.

As a woman who has always valued her independence, education, and ability, who works hard in the work place and in school, and who is motivated to constantly better herself and her environment, I find it very insulting to have my entire person degraded into whether or not I have a successful relationship and whether or not I want kids. Let's break this down a little.


When I meet new people, unless Isaac is with me, I actually refrain from mentioning ANYTHING about having a significant other. Once waters have been tested and I feel like my worth as a human being has already been established, I have no trouble bringing him up. The thing that is sad about this is that Isaac is an important part of my life and I should want to share that. Sadly,  I have encountered so many people who pry into that part of my life as a way to determine my worth that I feel like I almost have to hide it if I want people to see other aspects of myself.

That is why this usually comes from an older generation, I think. Women are supposed to settle down, right? They have to "catch" a man! (I don't know if we should start on language in this post, but I absolutely HATE that term--In Tamora Pierce's book, Shatterglass, her character, Tris, says, “If I have to 'catch' a man to get a husband, I don't want one.” Amen, sister!) Admittedly, in the past, a woman's worth has, sadly, been linked to the worth of the men in their lives, namely her father and husband. Sometimes, it is difficult to break through this mold. When talking about Isaac and how long we've been together, I have had many people ask if we were getting married. Worse, I have had people I hardly know trying to make sure we were headed that direction. In one case, I even had someone my age assure me that we would get married. Most of these people didn't care about my personal merits at all.

In fact, I never wanted to get married. Even if I met someone who could be a potential life partner (and let's be honest, I wouldn't date someone if they weren't a potential life partner because I was never interested enough in having a boyfriend to just date for the sake of it) I wasn't ever planning to marry. To be honest, I was pretty sure that I could NOT have a successful relationship. Isaac came along and proved me wrong (though I still have things that I need to work on). It turns out, that I would like to marry Isaac, but not because I want to get married. Isaac is the factor here, not marriage. If I weren't with Isaac, whom I love and would like to share my life with, I probably would still be planning not to marry. There goes my worth as a woman, right? Never mind my education or my ambitions and my dream jobs--those give me little to no credibility to some people. Which makes me sad because I have worked hard to get where I am. Women are judged all the time by whether or not they are married or have steady boyfriends. It provides a pressure to women to conform to social standards and you earn the scorn of others if you don't fit in.

And you know what else is sad? That people judging me for not being married ("You've been together seven years?! When are you getting married?") makes me feel rebellious and stubborn to the point of not wanting to get married ever. Which is probably a bad reaction. You should never let people take from you what it is you want out of life. I just hate that this is what defines me. I can't even count the suspicious and occasionally pitying looks and replies I've gotten when I brush off the question, "Oh, I don't know, maybe some day." I even have a couple of customers at Starbucks who ask me nearly every time I see them when I am getting married. It makes me want to scream. Don't you want to know when I will complete my Masters? Don't you want to know what jobs I have my eye on? Do you care if I want my Doctorate? (To be fair, I also have customers regularly ask about my studies. I guess I get some balance at least.) But, no, some people only care about me getting married, or at least making sure that I can maintain a successful relationship that will end in marriage.


Oh my. So I like kids, but kids usually scare me. Especially babies. The only baby that I really know and love is my niece, and I am still not sure what to do with her. At least now she's getting older so I feel like I can handle her a little better. Part of me has always wanted kids and another part of me does not want those terrifying creatures running around (I'm told I won't see it that way if they are mine. A mother's love and all that).

If I tell people that I'm not sure I want kids, I usually get that condescending "you-don't-know-any-better-yet" look. You know that look, right? Or, I am told, "You'll feel differently when you're older." Damn that biological clock. By the way, biological clock or no, I wouldn't let that get in the way if I decided one day that I absolutely don't want children. And for those of you who think all women need to settle down and have kids: there is usually a good reason if someone doesn't want kids. Don't just assume that they are selfish or stupid.

And what, exactly, is wrong about not wanting children, may I ask? Seriously? What do you even care? Why is it required for me to want kids? Oh, wait, it's because I am a woman, and good women want kids, right? You thought this was a thing of the past, you are wrong. I encounter this enough to know that people will still judge you by your desire to have kids. 

At every wedding I have been to, and I have been to many, the couple is asked repeatedly when they are going to have kids. Not "if," but "when." (My mom's second marriage is the exception to this--she already has great kids *ahem*). Yet another reason to dislike the idea of marriage. If I marry Isaac, I am going to have to prepare myself to deal with this, which is sad. Just because two people marry, they have to have kids, I guess.

So instead of my worth as a person being an accumulation of what I am and my accomplishments (personal and professional), I have often been pegged down by my relationship success and desire to have children. I think that I am much more than that.

Side note: I do not mean for any of this to reflect badly on the women who DO want marriage and kids. For some women, that is their dream. And good for them! What I am trying to say is that we need to be more open minded and not try to fit all women into the same box. Not all of us fit in there, you know. 
Definition of discrimination according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary
  The Flip Side: The Men's Side of Marriage and Children

I actually think that there are a lot of men who are subject to the same pressures that women are. I bet that many men are expected to get married and have kids. It is the social norm, after all. But based on what I see, hear, and read, I am going to say that it is not the same.

People expect men to be independent and self-sufficient. So if a man doesn't marry, it's more acceptable. Society tends to focus more on a man's job and money (which isn't fair, either) than his marital status.

Also, for men, jokes are always made about marriage. It is something that "ties you down" ("The old ball-and-chain") which I think is drastically unfair. You've seen the t-shirts and heard the jokes. "Game Over," and so on. Besides feeling sad that men feel the need to say these things, women rarely receive such sentiments. Because it's always the woman who wants to get married. She caught a husband. And tricked him into marrying her. Or some other BS that I guess I don't really understand. I thought this was a two-way street, but it turns out it isn't. I suppose most of this is in jest, but I still find it distasteful and degrading. Or can we at least acknowledge that marriage is tying down to both parties? That man is the woman's ball and chain?

OK! I will try to reign in the sarcasm. I get sarcastic when I get angry. (And I get angry when I am upset; confused much?)

As a side note, if Isaac and I got married and he came home with one of those shirts, I would probably cry. Just so you know. As a woman in a relationship that is based on mutual love, I actually find the idea that I drag him down to be very heart-breaking, joke or no.

I am not sure how much men are pegged by their desire to have kids. I think for most men, it is expected that they marry and have a family. There are occasions where men don't want kids, though. Here I need some male input: are you judged for not wanting kids? I know in some cases, the "blame" (of not wanting kids) can be put on the woman. I think that is because, historically, this is the woman's sphere, not the man's. But I have encountered several men who don't want kids. Are you judged harshly for that?

Who has thoughts or experiences to share? What are some of the ways we can work to change these things?


  1. Yes! Yes yes yes yes yes!! It frustrates me no end that a woman's worth is directly associated with her marital status, or lack there of. People have a hard time understanding a woman not wanting to get married and have kids. Not every woman has a ticking biological clock that means that OMG I ABSOLUTELY MUST HAVE CHILDREN. I don't have that! And I know I'm not the only one!

    It's completely ok for a man not to marry, because according to society, men aren't supposed to be in monogamous relationships, they should be free to sow their wild oats! Women on the other hand, all want to "settle down" and be barefoot and pregnant. Didn't know we were living in 1960??

    And unfortunately, it's not just the older generation of people who think like this. It's people your age, and my age that have been brainwashed to think that our sole purpose in life is to spawn (ok I play way too many games) and give up our hopes and dreams to play wife.

    Now I have no problem being married, but I've been there done that. And the only way that I would ever get married again is if my husband was to fully 100% support me and MY dreams as well as his. A marriage should be a two way street. Not a wife is supposed to submit to her husband and do whatever he wants because he has a penis.

    Sorry. I went a bit ranty. But I love this Samara!!

    1. The thinking seems outdated. We definitely need to update!

      My friend, Shao, pointed out that there are all sorts of different cultures that feel differently. In China, men receive a lot of scorn for not marrying and having children, and women aren't getting any better treatment for the same. But she said that in some places, it is OK to be older without children and such. I was afraid to go into cultural bits in this post; I don't have enough knowledge, I think.

      But thank you for reading and replying! I like to hear people's thoughts (and rants). And thanks for the signals boosts! You're the best!