About one month ago, I got engaged. I was over the moon to start the next chapter in my relationship with my amazing fiancé. But the more I got into the delves of the internet, the more concerned I became with how women are treated surrounding marriage.
The recent marriage trends
For a while now, the trends of women getting married later or not wanting marriage have become more apparent. Both are highly respectable since a woman is allowed to make whatever choices are right for her. Also, women work hard against the notion of “needing a man.” They have combatted this notion by not wanting marriage and feeling perfectly happy as a single woman, or completing life goals and adventures before wanting to “settle down” with a partner. Both are excellent options. And I love any love story a woman chooses, whether with a man, a woman, or themselves.
Nonetheless, however far we have come in accepting unmarried women or women who marry later, we still have some room to grow. Many women who promote the idea of not needing a man, or living your “single life” before getting married, deplore the notion of a woman wanting to get married young. They claim that it is naïve and ignorant for a woman to want to get married in her early 20’s instead of exploring life independently, without a partner.
As stated in a State Press article by Sky Jordan, “early marriage has become increasingly snubbed, disdained and stigmatized. It’s a common belief that early marriage leads to regret, disappointment, and ultimately, divorce.” People still think getting married means your life stops as a woman. Somehow you become a wife who bears children without any meaningful goals left, which is an incredulously outdated opinion.
Marriage does not make or break a woman
A woman’s life continues whether or not she is married. Regardless of a woman’s marital status, her unconquered aspirations, goals, and achievements can still be realized. Instead of choosing a partner who stunts your growth by making you “settle down,” find a partner who grows with you. That is what makes a marriage strong and enjoyable. Marriage is not defined by sacrifice, but by compromise and collaboration. She can still live out her dreams with or without a partner in it. If you still want to date other people or don’t want to commit to someone yet, that is perfectly acceptable. Continue your single life, but not everyone is in that same mindset in their early 20s.
Getting married young does not mean you are doomed to fail. If you look at women who choose this lifestyle and scoff, then that is borderline un-feminist. Just because a woman is in a different period of her life than you and is making different life choices does not make her wrong. A woman’s choices are right for her because she chooses them. Feminism is about women uplifting women and creating equality for all genders. A difference in lifestyle choices is not grounds for insults or pettiness, and especially not the degradation of another woman because she wants to get married.
Changing focus and reassessing responses
Instead, we should focus on encouraging women to make their decision for marriage based on what is right for them! If a woman does not want to get married, great! If she is 15 and says she never wants to get married, do not say that she will change her mind when she is older. Maybe she will, and maybe she won’t: it is her choice.
If a woman wants to get married when she’s 30, 40, or 50, that’s great! If she is 35, do not tell her that her biological clock is ticking and that she should get married as soon as she can. Maybe she wants children; maybe she doesn’t; again, it is her choice and her body.
Suppose a woman wants to get married at 20, great! If she is still in college or doesn’t have a stable career yet, do not tell her she should wait until she is in a better situation. Marriage does not necessarily cost a lot (only a wedding does, if it’s traditional and fancy). If she has only been with one person and decides she wants to marry them, do not tell her that she should look around and explore her options more. Maybe she does not want to look for someone else; maybe she does; it is always her choice.
A woman’s choice is what matters
As long as the woman is happy with her marriage choice, I do not see why anyone should be upset or make comments about how she should “consider alternatives.” Marriage, getting engaged, or finding a partner is nobody’s business but your own. You decide when, where, and who it happens with, if you want to at all. Anyone else’s opinions on the matter are just background noise. While I think we should quiet down this background noise and encourage women to chart their paths how they want to, I understand that won’t happen immediately.
I am 22 years old, recently graduated from college, and engaged. I feel young, but I feel ready to be married. He loves me, I love him, we work well together, and the list of reasons goes on. But in the end, I feel ready because I am happy. And frankly, I do not care if anyone else is because it was my choice.
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Right on! I have always felt that people use the word “feminist” to define women who do certain things, but not other things. Feminism is the freedom to make the choice that is right for each individual woman. Your post is well stated, especially for a woman who is only 22 years old. It takes most of us a lot longer to figure things out!