Young, feminist, and… married!

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Marriage is not something that’s generally on my radar these days. I live and work in a world where everyone is so busy and crazy liberal and questioning of every social norm that it’s not something that really comes up, except when it’s being critiqued. Ever since graduating college, it seems like my friends are too smart and fabulous and busy doing amazing things to get married so young. For the most part, that’s been true. That’s why I was a little surprised to find myself at lunch this weekend with four friends from college, and three of them were wearing wedding rings!

Many feminists look down on women who marry young. Because marriage is the “traditional” choice, we assume that anyone who wants to get married is “giving up” on feminism, doing it because that’s what’s expected. And sure, societal expectations are probably why a lot of people choose to marry. But why rush to assume that young people aren’t giving their decisions all the careful consideration they deserve?

People get married for all sorts of reasons – financial stability, immigration, religion, celebration of love, and cultural symbolism, just to name a few. Some people get married these days because, after many years of discrimination, they finally can. Getting married can certainly look like being a sheep, going along with the majority instead of forging your own path through life, but talking with my friends got me thinking – in this day and age, can marriage be a revolutionary act?

Yes, the divorce rate is over 50%, the institution of marriage is maybe a little outdated and based on patriarchal notions of gender roles. But who’s to say we can’t change the system from within? All the feminists I know who’ve married young have faced a backlash from their own feminist communities. Feministing’s own Jessica Valenti wrote a few years ago about her struggle with negotiating marriage as a young feminist. Fighting against the odds and often against popular opinion in order to live life on your own terms – isn’t that what feminism has always been about?

The bottom line for me is that feminism is about being empowered to make the choices you want about your body and your life and having those choices be respected in your community. If you want to be in a monogamous relationship, that’s great. If you want to be in an open or polyamorous relationship, that’s great too. If you want to date someone significantly older or younger than yourself, or someone of a different race, religion, or socioeconomic class, or anything else that doesn’t fit in with “traditional” ideals of what is an acceptable relationship, good for you. And if you want to get married, who am I to judge or make assumptions about your reasoning? Personal relationships are PERSONAL, between people, so as long as you and your partner(s) are happy with the arrangement, that should be all that matters.

Pretty much everyone I know has faced backlash from their community at some point because of who they loved or how they chose to express that love. Anyone have tips on how to make things easier?

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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