It’s been annoying lately seeing various starlets and famous women going (seemingly) out of their way to announce that they aren’t feminists, how they have a problem with “the word,” or rambling on and on about why feminism just isn’t for them because: “I love men!”
There seems to be a lot of confusion about what feminism MEANS. I hear a lot of women saying, “Well, what feminism means to me is…” Nope. Feminism is a word with a definition. It’s not a vague idea with no clear meaning, or a dream you had that you can’t put into words. It’s like any other word with a definition: monkey, cheese, coffee, chair. No one is walking around going, “What the word CHAIR means to me is…”
I remember sitting in my living room when I was twenty-two with my roommate who was a Polish guy working on his PhD. We were talking about feminism and he was adamant that he was not a feminist. I got out the dictionary and read aloud to him. Feminism is defined as “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.” He looked confused for a minute and then said, “Oh! I guess I am a feminist!” And when you hear that definition, really, who ISN’T a feminist?! (Susan Sarandon, Lana Del Ray, Shalene Woodly, I’m talking to you.)
So, obviously, I’m a feminist, and sometimes I am still conflicted about how being a feminist affects my personal choices as a person in the world. This especially comes up for me when I start thinking about possibly getting married some day soon, being a wife, and what that might mean for me.
Historically, being a married women in most cultures meant you weren’t worth much. You went from being the property of your father to being the property of your husband. You took your husband’s name so people would know whom you belonged to — you cooked and cleaned and had a million babies (and probably watched many of them die), and you were A Wife. A Mother. A Maid. etc. In America, we haven’t had a very modern idea of wives for more than a few decades (at the most!). I mean, have you seen “Mad Men”? Obviously, these days many amazing feminist women are getting married and having the lives they want, with children or not, and I am so happy I live in a time when that is feasible. But I still feel conflicted.
My boyfriend and I both come from families where our parents divorced. He was a teenager when his parents split up, and I was only three when my parents separated. We didn’t grow up with pictures of successful marriages in our everyday lives, and maybe that’s part of the reservations I have about marriage, too.
I’m not a career-oriented person; I’m happy to be at home and cook and play with my dogs. I joke to my boyfriend (who is a musician) that he should hurry up and get famous ’cause I’m ready to ride his coattails. I could easily be a stay-at-home… person… and be totally happy about it. But the WIFE thing… I still get hung up on it.
We’ve lived together for almost six years now and we’ve been together for almost ten (!) so I wonder what would be different if we got married. Does it matter? Would it change anything? (Does anyone want to chime in here?)
There are things that I feel like I would love about being married, and I keep reminding myself of those. I love my boyfriend more than anyone else I know. He’s my favorite person and he’s been one of my very favorite people since the minute I met him almost fifteen years ago. If we were married, we would be a family. I love the idea of standing up in front of the people we love and choosing each other just because we can. I’m not religious, so that part of it isn’t important to me, but to say vows to the person you care the most about, to say “I AM PICKING YOU above everyone else,” feels special and important. And I’m lucky that I live in a time when I can do all of that in a way that respects feminism.
I wouldn’t take his name. And I wouldn’t change my Instagram bio so the first word of it was WIFE. But I would be married. And I would be a feminist. And most important: I would still be myself.
Hmm, maybe I’m not so conflicted after all.
Emily Morris is a lifelong New Englander who eats too much cheese and drinks too much coffee but regrets neither. She loves Mark Ruffalo, Scottish accents, and the beach. She hates turtlenecks, the Kardashians, and her neighbor with the leaf blower. She is a currently a nanny, but her 2014 resolution has been to do more writing. She lives with her drummer boyfriend, two dogs, and one cat in Boston. You can find her wasting time live-tweeting award shows on Twitter.
[image via DC Comics]