Since my sophomore year in college, feminism has been my source of security, inspiration, courage, and faith. It has provided me with the emotional and intellectual tools that I needed to piece together the scattered narratives of my past and the strength and wisdom to hold out for the future that I wanted.
Feminism, the set of beliefs aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women, has helped me navigate conversations with sexist, anti-woman family members, coworkers, and acquaintances without feeling that I was asking for too much or picking the wrong battles. Throughout my twenties, I unapologetically defended a woman’s right to equal compensation, dominion over her reproductive options, and sexual privacy.
I have also leveraged my feminist beliefs to inform my perspectives on marriage. Growing up, I witnessed several generations of married women worn out, dried up, and longing. They felt taken for granted and underappreciated. But instead of asserting themselves, they complained about their husbands behind their backs, remixing their martyrdom misery into badges of self-righteousness and piety.
By the time I jumped the broom, I was thirty-two years old, thirteen years a feminist and sure about one thing. I wanted a marriage that would afford me many of the same freedoms that feminism that had provided me as a single woman. With one year down, and decades more to go, my marriage proves that feminism has the power to make relationships better. Bringing my feminist self into my marriage has made me a better wife and woman, and my husband, a happier man.
1) We stress less about money. I am one of two breadwinners in the household. Even though this is nothing new in our community it, nonetheless, is timely and relevant. I make my own money and more importantly, manage it well; my husband will never have to worry about dying and leaving his family homeless and hungry because his wife can’t hold it down without him.
2) We have better sex. Women are taught to pretend, especially in the bedroom. We are taught to be silent about poor performance because we are taught that sex is pleasure for him—obligation and duty for us. In my marriage, however, I am pro-sexual and communicative about what I want; I believe that giving and receiving pleasure is an expression and celebration of my femininity and humanity. Did I mention that faking orgasms is against my feminist religion? Respectfully communicating my sexual preferences to my husband is not synonymous with emasculation. It is an opportunity to deepen intimacy and bond through honesty. In fact, it’s an authentic ego boost for him. Because when my toes curl, my husband will know that it’s the real deal.
3) My husband has time for his friends. He can attend to his friendships because I make sure that I maintain mine and actively seek new and rewarding connections with friends of my own. Time away from one another in our respective social circles gives us more topics to talk about, more notes to compare, and more gossip to catch up on when we are back together.
4) We don’t fight over chores… anymore. Prior to marriage, I promised myself that I would not be victim to the “second shift” phenomenon, which occurs when working women return home from a full day’s work only to attend to the majority of the household responsibilities. Once married, though, my husband and I had to engage in several difficult, yet honest conversations around household chores.I did not feel guilty about stating the obvious: my work schedule and other obligations would make it virtually impossible for me to be “in charge” in and outside the home. After some push and pull, we arrived at a compromise, which had four components. We identified chores that we could each do individually, chores that we could do together, chores that we would pay someone else to do, and chores that we would, more or less ignore, until they had to be done.
5) We have the skills and dispositions to raise happy, well-adjusted kids. Even though there is a huge question mark as to whether or not we will have children, I am confident that my son or daughter will grow up in a healthy, pro-love, anti-oppressive safe space because I made it my business to live that life so I could replicate it for them.
I love being married because I am allowed to be myself. And a huge part of that self is feminist. Anyone who sees a conflict between those two concepts is sorely missing out.
Follow Kara on Twitter: @fabandfrugal.