Feminism and Marriage: Can you have both?

Brittany Tiplady // Columnist 


Illustration by Rachel Wada

Google feminist marriage. What do you find? Listicles on reasons to not get married, guidelines on how to have a feminist marriage, and endless opinion pieces on the lack of feminism in traditional matrimonies. The tug of war on this topic is a never-ending battle: Feminism and marriage, is it possible to have both? 

Today, fewer women are taking their partner’s last names. Heterosexual, non-denominational, LGBTQ+, and interracial weddings are conducted traditionally and non-traditionally, and yet, for many, the ideologies surrounding monogamy and marriage are still deeply rooted in misogynistic and anti-feminist perceptions. 

I’m a self-identifying female and intersectional feminist of privilege and I’m still learning. I’m filled with humility on this growing conversation, and I’m here to be better. To do better. In the past year, I’ve caught myself feeling sheepish about my own pending marriage particularly around my feminist cohorts. Usually, I read the room – to some, I flaunt my ring and gush about wedding plans, and to others, I play off my engagement as a minor detail. I have worried that being an engaged, white, heterosexual woman contradicts the values that I preach. I worry that I am seen as a fraud. 

A few months back, a new friend and I were out for drinks before attending a community event. The topic of the town-hall-type-evening was intersectionality and equality, (so, obviously my jam) and I was excited to listen to the panel and get into an evening of meaningful conversation. Prior to the event, articles that served as a didactic manual for feminism were posted on the Facebook page as pre-reading material that would breakdown what the panel would be delving into. 

Illustration by Wolfgang Thomo

My friend and I dissected the material over cocktails, and landed on the question of marriage versus feminism and if you can have both. I immediately arched my back in a knee-jerk reaction that derives from one: my sensitive nature, and two: because I haven’t quite pinned down how I feel about this question. I already felt personally attacked by the Jezebel interview with Jessa Crispin that basically deemed Beyoncé as a capitalist monster and my heart can only take so much.  

The conversation did not come from a place of nefarious intent, but my ultimate response was to defend my man, who is, in my humble opinion, a male-feminist and champion of women’s rights. The night moved on, we attended the panel, and went home. But the topic has clung to the basement of my mind since. 

I’ve brought it up in conversation, and mostly I get the “Girrrlllllll, of course you can be a feminist and be married!” And while that reassurance massages my ego for a moment, I keep circling back. If I am engaging in a historically misogynistic ceremony at my own will, on a scale of Roxanne Gay to 10, how bad of a feminist am I? Am I hiding behind the cultural patterns of oppression while wearing a false-feminist cloak? 

In mulling this over and over, I’ve learned that we cannot condemn ourselves for the blessings and curses we are given. I am a white, able-bodied woman, but that doesn’t mean I get to beat myself up over my privilege. It means I need to continue showing up and fighting the good fight with my sisters who are, without choice, born into lesser privilege than I. It means I need to accept the humility in this learning process. 

I chose to move forward in my relationship in a way that felt natural and celebratory for us: and that was in non-denominational matrimony. 

If you so chose, I believe that you can have a marriage <i>and<i> eternal love, and still have your strength, identity and fundamental rights. If you are in my shoes, or ones similar, I encourage you to look within. To dig deep into the core values of your relationship and ask yourself: is my relationship built on a foundation of equality? Am I respected and uplifted in my relationship? Do I do the same for my partner? Am I truly, madly, and unequivocally happy? Do we recognize our privilege? Are we combating the historical and cultural oppressions of marriage by giving a kick-ass example of what a 2017 marriage can be? 

If these answers are yes, then you, my friend, are saying “I Do” on a pedestal built by the foundations of feminism. 


This column was first published on Looselipsmag.com

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