There is a feminist opinion that regards traditional practices such as marriage & full time parenting, as inferior. This is lopsided because the whole point of feminism is that women are empowered to make their own choices as they see fit. These opinions cloaked as feminism overtime start to subtly build into social pressure. Pressure to adopt a double barrelled surname after marriage instead of claiming your husbands name, or to not “just” be a stay at home mum or not to have the cheesy big fat wedding that YOU have always wanted to have. Looking down on these choices, under the guise of enlightenment, gets dangerously close to the times women felt driven to do things they didn’t feel intrinsically driven to do, such as only marrying from a certain tribe or by a certain time. Feminism therefore needs to be more open and permissive of women of all backgrounds and ideologies.
I think of myself as a traditionalist and a feminist. These parts of me do not have to be mutually exclusive, even though some assume this to cause as much internal conflict as being a Stark and a Greyjoy. In fact, I just have to accept both parts of me till I find the balance that works for me. Chimamanda Adichie in her “feminist how to guide” to Ijeawele writes that she must carefully embrace “the parts of (her) culture that are beautiful”, and reject “the parts that are not”. Since beauty is in the eye of the beholder- every woman will have her own carefully blended brew of cultural preferences.
From my Christian perspective, marriage, or better qualified, a good marriage (because let’s be real not all marriages are equal) is a beautiful thing. Marriage should not be judged simply by the high divorce statistics or the bandwidth of prenuptial agreements to guarantee hefty divorce settlements. These are weighty things to consider but it would be simplistic to leave it at that. People say marriage is simply a means to an end and so is not worth aspiring to in and of itself, but the same can be said of wealth and fame. The ideal is that people should aspire to the freedom that wealth gives to do what they actually want to do, or the platform that fame gives to be an influence for positive change. Likewise marriage should be more about partnership and companionship and generational legacy building (#goals), so it cannot be considered un-feminist to aspire to these things. Marriage is today more than just a bestowment of a privileged social status- this might have played and still play a big part in some societies but this was never the true essence of it. Rather than just discarding parts of our culture we should take traditional concepts such as marriage along with its seemingly archaic features such as submission and fidelity and bring its core benefits into the enlightened feminist world we are creating.
There are many things up for debate in the core attributes of something like marriage. For example- should we still keep the title of the man as the head of the house? Controversial but yes, I believe so. Every organisation has a functional head. “Must this be the man?” You ask. Well, there are biblical and evolutionary arguments for the man but if you do not care for these points of view then by all means go ahead and be the boss! Many marriages today in fact have the woman as the head but it would be smart to consider the long term probability of your marriage surviving those dynamics. Whatever you decide, it just needs to be made clear that a woman who really really wants to get married or who takes her husband’s name or who stays at home is every bit as entitled to be a 21st century feminist as a woman who refuses to take on her husband’s name or who feels she has no need to marry.
Feminism isn’t about proving our independence from men, hopefully the women who have gone before us have proven this and so we just simply need to BE! Without making lifestyle choices solely on the basis of proving a point. We exist as part of our traditions and culture and so as we carry on creating this feminist world of equal opportunities for men and women (we have come a long way but it is still very much WIP), we mustn’t strip it of our culture and our core identities. We don’t have to change womanhood into a completely new form — just adapt and refine.