Before I met Mr C I was very anti-marriage. This was despite me being brought up in a family with very Christian values. Our Sundays used to involve us sitting in a draughty church on hard pews that were so uncomfortable you were forced to sit bolt upright as you gradually lost all sense of feeling in your bottom. I was also a bridesmaid twice and my mum and dad are still married 40 plus years later. Therefore, why did I reject the notion of marriage for so many years?
Despite my mum clearly being very happy in her marriage I saw it as being an act of inequality. I watched as my mum struggled to balance working in a challenging full-time job with running the household. My mum did everything at home; she cooked the meals, she made the packed lunches, she did the cleaning, she did the shopping. The list goes on. In my formative years I saw marriage as being about endless drudgery. There was nothing equal about it. I was adamant that I would never be getting married. In Year 11 I wrote an essay for my RE coursework about this very fact. In the essay I ranted for about 1,000 words about how marriage was an outmoded convention in a modern society. This was all backed up with carefully researched statistics showing how divorce was on the increase. Hardly the essay my RE teacher had been hoping for.
So what changed?
It’s a cliché but I fell in love. I met someone who made me realise I really did want to get married. Initially, I wanted to get married on a beach, just us. However, Mr C wanted to get married in a church and so we compromised and yes my father even gave me away. Yes, that part of the ceremony when the man hands over the woman to another man in a grand gesture of everything that is wrong with our patriarchal society. Yes, I was being objectified but yes I loved walking down that aisle. So I told my feminist beliefs to shush and I tried to enjoy the moment. However, yesterday on the Guardian website I watched a film in which Julie Bindel argues that you can’t be a feminist and be married. The film starts by saying “The institution of marriage has curtailed women’s freedom for centuries” this immediately made me angry. Angry because we all know that this is true and we all know that in some cultures this is still the case. However, it doesn’t mean that it is the case for me! I went into my marriage with my eyes wide open. I learnt from my mother’s mistakes and I was determined that I wasn’t going to repeat them.
Bindel then goes onto say that woman like me are trying to ‘re-claim’ marriage. She argues that I simply cannot be married and believe in equality.
Julie, I do have an equal marriage so I think you are talking rubbish.
As our society evolves can marriage not evolve too? With each new generation of women are we not getting closer to achieving the ideal of equality?I know that Bindel would disagree with me and in fact she would be aghast that I even call myself a feminist because I am a stay-at-home mum. I think Bindel is over-simplifying everything, at 16 I thought life was black and white but as you get older you realise that very rarely is that the case. She admonishes the donning of the white wedding dress which is a symbol for the woman being a virgin and cites how the dress represents the sexist belief that a woman should not be ‘spoiled’ before her wedding day. Yes, I realised this but did it bother me – NO. I wanted to wear a wedding dress and the one I liked happened to be white, most of them are. Bindel then goes onto say that we shouldn’t be taking on our husband’s name because we are basically being ‘branded’. That’s a bit extreme, it’s not like I am wandering the streets with ‘Mrs C’ tattooed on my forehead. For the record I don’t wear my wedding rings because they are too big and I have never got round to getting them resized. Mr C on the other hand wears his wedding band with pride, so if anyone is branded it is Mr C. I agree with Bindel when she says that “marriage can never be a feminist act”. In that the act of marriage itself, the rituals of the father handing the daughter over can never be considered feminist. However, I do believe that you can be a feminist and be married.
I am married but I am not controlled by my husband and lo and behold if he ever tried. Yes, I am a stay-at-home mum but Mr C also appreciates that I juggle this with my writing work. Therefore, we share housework, cooking and when it comes to the ironing….I don’t touch it! Mr C does it all. Hardly smacks of inequality does it? Nor do I see myself as a being a prisoner in an institution. Bindel is in danger of oversimplifying feminism and there is too much of that already. Feminism is not about man hating. I know I keep banging on about it but the essence of feminism is about having free choice.
So back off Bindel – I chose to get married, I chose to be a stay-at-home mum but those were my choices to make. These actions do not make me less of a feminist.
I find it rather ironic that Bindel bangs on about marriage being out of date when you could argue that her feminist beliefs are equally out of date. Yes, the idea of a traditional marriage ceremony is out of date and an example of patriarchy at its worst but marriage is also one of the most personal choices we will make. The word personal is key. Marriage is personal and feminism is personal. They both mean different things to different people.
Getting married isn’t about letting go of your feminist ideals it is about two people celebrating their love and respect for each other, no matter what.
Do you believe that you can be a feminist and married?