“I always hated it when my heroines got married.” And with that line, Rebecca Traister had me hooked. Author of All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation – my current reading fascination.
And it’s true. Jane Eyre is one of my all-time favorite books, but even I wish Jane could have found happiness and stability outside of Mr. Rochester.
Which is an odd thing to admit, given the fact that I’m married. And, in fact, was married at the age of 26, when the median age of first marriage for women in the United States is around 27.
But reading this book, I’ve found that I much more identify with a single girl mindset. “Single women helped put Barack Obama back in the White House; they voted for him by 67% to 31%, while married women voted for Romney.” I can’t even fathom having voted for Romney, with his antiquated ideas on how much control a woman should have over her own body.
These are the kinds of things I’m struggling with in a Trump-elected United States. How could women have voted for a man who so devalues them that he admits to being able to grab their pussies without consequence?
It’s making me realize that women might just be women’s worst enemy…and married women might be the biggest offenders. Rose Wilder Lane (daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder) worked outside of her home her entire life and yet, in 1936 was quoted as saying that a woman’s real career “is to make a good marriage.” Going further to state that “feminist agitation” had dangerously diminished the importance of the “deep-rooted, nourishing and fruitful man-and-woman relationship.”
I would have thought that in 2017, we’d be past this nonsense. Instead, an Equal Rights Amendment, which reads simply, “Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction,” was introduced in every Congressional session from 1923-1972, when it finally passed, but in the 10 allotted years was never ratified by the states. It’s been reintroduced in every session since 1982 and has yet to pass.
Correct me if I’m wrong (I’m not), but this isn’t radical thinking. That men and women are equal. The amendment isn’t asking for anything “crazy,” just the basic human understanding that your sex doesn’t make you a better or worse person. A weaker or stronger person. A fit or unfit person.
In 1873, a Harvard professor (way to go Harvard), argued that “the female brain, if engaged in the same course of study as the male, would become overburdened and that wombs and ovaries would atrophy.” One-hundred and forty-four years later I somehow have a president who probably believes the same thing.
A woman interviewed for the book stated that “getting married right now would ruin my life…I need to be able to stay at the office until three in the morning if I have to, and not care about putting dinner on the table.”
Many conservatives are convinced that a return to “traditional roles” would make marriage more enticing, but I agree with the above statement: I would never have gotten married if it had led to a gendered, servile relationship.
Honestly, marriage is more enticing because we live in a world designed for married people. I love my husband, but I can’t guarantee that we would have gotten married so young (26 for me, 29 for him) if we hadn’t decided to move back abroad. Marriage comes with “benefits, health care, access, rights, and recognition,” all things we might need in new and unknown locations.
I had also been with my now-husband four years before we got married, and we had cohabitated the last year. It wasn’t a relationship that had him working a 9-5 job before putting his feet up and demanding dinner. We cooked together, cleaned together, did laundry together, got groceries together. I shouldn’t have to say this as if it’s some novel idea, but we were equals. And now that we’re married – those systems we put in place haven’t changed.
Marriage doesn’t ruin relationships. People ruin marriage. By deciding that once married, gendered stereotypes have to play out. Some fascinating (yet obvious) statistics show that women (and men) who get married later are more likely to have balanced relationships and (perhaps because of this balance) stay together longer.
I don’t believe a true feminist has to abandon marriage. I think a true feminist should work to bring about equality in every circle of life – including marriage. Maybe then more millennials would start tying the knot.