This article really made me smile. I’m a feminist who got married for all the unromantic reasons (next of kin rights, transferring my pension rights to him upon death). If it weren’t that legal transfer without marriage was so difficult we wouldn’t have bothered with the legal bit and would just have had the humanist ceremony – as it was we had both. Anyway, an article celebrating the fact marriage can be done differently, but it’s difficult because of external pressures, was long overdue.
When it comes to heterosexual marriage, feminism gets blamed for everything from the divorce rate to declining birth rates, or even in the case of Ted Haggard, meth addiction and secret gay affairs. Feminism is, after all, the movement that teaches women to leave husbands, kill children, and become capitalist-destroyin’, witchcraft lovin’ lesbians (thanks Pat Robertson!). But on the eve of our second anniversary, my husband and I credit feminism with keeping our marriage together.
Marriage for me wasn’t a given, it was an active choice, as a bisexual I never felt my lifepartner had to be a man, in fact I think I surprised most people when it turned out he was! Marriage was also not a given as we were quite happy to live “in sin” (so much more exciting in name at least don’t you think?) except that we realised there may be a time when not having my parents (in the North West) having the next of kin rights when I’m in London might be a good idea….
The overwhelming majority of romantic traditions are deeply rooted in sexism and any deviation from those traditions left me pitied and questioning my own value.
And they remain so, sadly, but you can resist them. We don’t do valentines, this year my spouse happened to buy a tin-opener on Valentines Day (our old one had broken) and that remains, for me, the symbol of how to reject Valentines Day. I didn’t take his name, we both took each others surnames as a new middle name, a convention that even our parents, sadly, took a while to get their heads around. I didn’t become a housewife (as the main wage earner that might well have resulted in no house) and I didn’t stop my life or change it substantially, our deal was always that it wouldn’t change anything between us.
Just as sexism tells women that they must fit a very narrow mold, it tells men the same thing. Any attempt to simply be yourself is met with derision and disapproval, even from supposedly equal partners who expect you to act as they’ve been told “all” men do.
Of course it’s not all daffodils and fluffy kittens, making any partnership work takes energy and making a partnership work in a hostile environment takes even more. I am reminded of the time a previous male partner was seeing a therapist and was asked, in all seriousness, why he was with such a masculine, emasculating woman – I can only assume that therapist had their own issues to work out. But even in a hostile environment the commitment to each other, and to make it work, and to prod and poke those assumptions made by society and friends and family into submission so you can make unusual choices make the relationship stronger.
So here’s to all the committed, feminist relationships out there of whatever combination, flavour and style – here’s to you all. And here’s to setting our own agendas and defying all the “rules”.