I’ve ranted before about people (both male and female) without even the simplest understanding of what it means to be feminist opining on the feminist agenda. Simply defined, a feminist is a person (male or female) who believes in and advocates for social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men.
Take a moment to think about that.
If I were to break it down further, it means a person who believes in and is working for a world where “…because you are a woman/girl…” is no longer a reason for a woman or girl, who is aware of and willing to deal with the consequences, not to do/say/be whatever she wants.
This does not in anyway suggest that feminists hate men, even though because we refuse to pander to the male ego and are quite often outspoken about the dumbfoolery of men, people think we are. Also, this does not in any way suggest that feminists do not want to get married. This is another conclusion that many people jump to which I find completely bewildering.
A friend recently made a comment to me along the lines of “So…I’m guessing you’re not going to get married, since you’re a feminist.” Most people who know me well know that I am not a patient person. I am prone to sarcasm and snark so it was quite an effort on my part not to roll my eyes and respond accordingly.
This is a bit of a silly question. A silly question because it comes from the erroneous assumption that it is the natural state of women to want to get married (it isn’t), and be subservient and without any agency and as such, being feminist is a deviation from the norm. Also, it ignores the fact that women have not yet and for the last 2000 years at least, have not been given the option of living in a world where marriage for the sake of sheer survival sometimes, wasn’t a necessity or a requirement from society, so it is hard to define the “natural state of women” where marriage is concerned. We do know that many men choose not to get married, with barely any repercussions or condemnation from society, because they simply can.
So anyway, this is what I told her.
Marriage is not a goal I have set for myself. If I eventually meet a guy who I get along with well enough to make that commitment, a guy whose philosophy towards life aligns well enough with mine and with whom I feel confident that we will make a cohesive family unit and raise secure and balanced children, then sure. If that doesn’t happen, I will not consider myself to have failed at life because, again, getting married is not a goal I have set for myself. Do I date? Yes. Do I enjoy the company of men? Absolutely. My female parts are in perfect working order, thank you very much. Do I approach every relationship or friendship as the first step towards finding a husband? Nope. Will I die if I never get married? No. Will it get lonely? Yes. Will I like it? Not always. But will I marry just because that’s what is expected? Nope.
Did this happen automatically? Nope. I grew up in Cameroon which like many other African countries is patriarchy central, and I cut my teeth on romance novels so up until my late teens, I rolled with the age old dream of having it all : education, job, man, babies and success was defined as having all those things. It is a process I am putting myself through, deliberately, to unlearn that way of thinking.
Why am I doing this?
It is a quintessentially African thing to see women who are brilliant and accomplished, beautiful human beings with a lot to offer the world, but who are depressed and convinced that they fail at life because they have not married and have no children. I have no intentions whatsoever of becoming one of those. My worth and usefulness as a human being is not ultimately tied to whether I bag a man and bear children.
This is a choice I am making for myself, a path I am choosing.
This is hard for some people to believe.
I get told, “Oh you’re young, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Once you hit X age, your views will change.”
“You’re going to get lonely…”
Right. Which maybe is why I am starting now, at this young age of mine, to condition myself out of that mind set and into the mind set of being able to live a life and be happy even if I am unmarried and childless at said X age – to create the life I want.
It is not to say marriage and children is a bad thing. It is beautiful. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t stalk the Nigerian Weddings Facebook page and fantasize. I still get in my feelings when I see two people who are so in love with each other it’s like an aura around them. I attended a friend’s wedding recently and watching them make those vows to each other was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. One of my supervisors at school just had a baby boy and seeing how she relates with her baby, the love, the devotion is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Do I want those things? Of course I do. But is achieving those things a parameter by which I will judge my worth as a human being, as a woman?
Read my first thoughts on marriage here