Life&Style Editor Estelle Dragan interrogates the far-too-often used notion of ‘right or wrong’ feminism which she argues is harmful to women’s freedom and the feminist movement itself
Why is it that millennial women are interrogated by their own fellow-feminists time and time again for their decision to marry a man? When Hailey Bieber tweeted (in a now deleted tweet) ‘I was put on this earth to be a wifey’, I highly doubt she meant ‘I was born to gift my identity to a man and subordinate my destiny to the patriarchy’. Yet here she is, being barked at by Twitter’s raging feminists who feel entitled enough to tell her that her active choice to marry is wrong.
Let’s just take a big step back for a second and remember that the feminist movement has evolved (and still is evolving) in the same way that time has. That is not to dismiss the archaic connotations of marriage and name-changing which attach marriage with a patriarchal culture entered by women in which they become their husbands’ possession. Marriage may historically be a sign of ownership and taking a husband’s name may connote gifting your identity to a man, but I’m sure we didn’t feel all that guilty about the negative connotations of the historical Christian crusades whilst counting down the days until the release of John Lewis’ Christmas advert. The point is, we were not born in a vacuum – times change and so do contexts.
Assigning these outdated associations to marriage is choosing to live in the past. Just as women’s positions in society have moved on, so should feminist thinking. Today, historical definitions of marriage no longer rule the reasons for which we actively choose to get married. After all, I highly doubt that Hailey Bieber needed her financial stability or her femininity validated through marriage.
Hailey Bieber’s censors accusing her of anti-feminist activity is synonymous to claiming that women should have to pick between feminism and marriage, and that having both titles ‘feminist’ and ‘wife’ is impossible. Is that to say that feminists aren’t allowed to seek tradition because they need to abide by a set of feminist rules? Are feminists not allowed to crave companionship under the law? Wasn’t the whole point of feminism to free women from societal rules in the first place so that they could choose and control their own destinies?
Perhaps anti-marriage feminists may argue that ‘choice feminism’ dilutes sisterhood and feminism’s political charge. But I don’t recall ever being scrutinised for having a nuanced political compass. In the eyes of politics, non-partisans and swing voters are completely free to choose to vote across party lines and not to be affiliated with a particular political party. In this light, feminists who choose to marry and/or take their husband’s name have every right to claim a politically active status. Feminism, just like any other strand of politics, has variant forms and can be tailored to a woman’s personal circumstances. Feminist thinking certainly isn’t linear, and arguing that women should have to conform to one singular, universalised feminist experience in order to ‘qualify’ seems extremely narrow-minded.
Women should be able to choose to work or stay at home, to marry or not and to have children or not because that’s exactly what feminism is about- being allowed to choose freely. Telling a woman that her choice to stay at home, or to marry, or to prioritise her children over her career makes her anti-feminist is telling a woman that she is subordinated to a system bound to societal norms. Sound familiar? Does the notion of a woman being subordinated to a system bound to the patriarchy ring any bells? Shaming our fellow-feminists for these decisions is the equivalent to putting others down to feel superior in one’s feminist position. Since when is the women’s movement a competition, anyway?
We are now in 2019, and with the very help of the feminist movement, having a family no longer has to be politicised. Many women in this country now have the luxury of wanting to have children and getting married simply because they want to and not because they are ordered to by societal demands. And, if you ask me, that’s perfectly okay.