I first met my husband when I was 22 years old, and we were married by the time I was 24. I met him after a series of bad relationships and I’d decided that if I ever got involved with someone again, I would not compromise with my ideologies as a feminist. It was something I had previously given lesser importance to, but I gradually realized that I couldn’t deprioritize my feminist identity.
When I met my husband, I was doing my Master’s. A lot of our discussions were about my classes – especially about the subject of my interest, gender, which surprisingly for me, was his interest too. As we spoke about issues surrounding gender, he came to realize that he too was a feminist. Now that I had found someone who believed in the same ideologies as me, I began to think that this could be a potential long-term relationship and we decided to get married.
I faced quite a bit of heat from my friends due to my decision of an early marriage and its implication on my identity as a feminist. Marriage is a controversial concept when one sees it under the lens of feminism. Often it is accused of being a patriarchal concept and considered to weigh down women, and very often, this is true as well. But the decision that I took then for my personal life, puts me in a happy space currently.
So when I decided to get married, the standard response was “I can’t believe you are getting married!” laced with a lot of covert judgment. The ‘Oh!’ expressions and “Aah! That sounds… great” comments started to make me question my decision. My choice to embark upon a marriage now put me in a position of dilemma vis-a-vis my identity as a feminist. Was I give in to the patriarchy?
Like everyone else, my understanding of marriage has been derived from my parents. As I observed my father doing the laundry while my mother cooked dinner, I realized that they themselves have had quite a feminist marriage. I have seen my parents share responsibilities, irrespective of how they have been gendered by the society. My father has changed diapers while my mother has gone out and worked. They may not consider it a feminist marriage due to the stigma around the word, but they have a fairly feminist approach to their marriage. That is what I aspired for, and I wouldn’t settle for less.
My husband is not my “knight in shining armour”. He is the one who stands by me while I put on that armour to fight my own battles. From fighting depression to struggling for a job, I fight each battle on my own, but I get all the support I ask for. And the case is the same the other way round. He doesn’t need me to cook his meals or wash his underwear or vice versa. He knows his life skills which make him an independent human being, and not an over-grown child in constant need of attention and help.
My husband is not my “knight in shining armour”. He stands by me while I put on my own armour.
Not once in the past two years of being married have I heard from him that he ‘helps’ me with house chores. He knows it is his house too and he has equal responsibility towards it. If I put clothes in for laundry in the washing machine, he’ll put them out. If I’m unwell he takes charge of the house and I do the same if he is ill. It’s not a favour we do for each other, but simply us fulfilling our responsibility towards the person we married.
I don’t need to take his ‘permission’ to wear clothes of my choice, to talk to friends or meet my family. I don’t need to stay at home, because “that’s a woman’s duty”. In fact, he hopes that one day I’ll have an income to sustain the both of us, so he gets to be at home to enjoy doing what he loves to do, cooking! All our financial, emotional, personal and familial decisions are taken where we both have a say, even if it’s something as simple as ordering food.
However, nothing is perfect, and as human beings living in a patriarchal society, we tend to have some deeply ingrained patriarchal ideas. For example, I get incredibly nervous when my in-laws come to visit us. I spend all day cleaning up and cooking. My husband still doesn’t understand why I get so worked up, as being the ‘efficient daughter-in-law’ with a spotless house and a fully-stocked kitchen is not something that is expected of me, even by his parents. But this is a patriarchal social conditioning that I have not been able to rid myself of, being the imperfect feminist that I am.
Being married, doing domestic work, or being a woman – these are things that are trivialised and made inferior by patriarchy, not feminism. It is patriarchy that tells us that being responsible of your domestic chores, being a wife, and being a woman in general are the work and identity of the “weaker sex”. Feminism, on the other hand, talks about equality which is inclusive of all. Then how could feminism be against a choice I make for myself!
Being married, doing domestic work, or being a woman – these are things that are made inferior by patriarchy, not feminism.
Feminism gives me the liberty and the right to make my own choices! It gives me the right to be able to take my own decisions, whether it is to marry at the age of 24 or to never marry at all. The judgment I faced for being a feminist who married young were the only reasons that I had doubts about being married. However, my stance on my feminist ideology have not wavered and that is when my doubts about getting married were settled. I no longer needed to debate with myself and others’ judgment did not bother me.
I didn’t need to justify anymore, to myself or anyone else. My identity and my marriage coexist and do so wonderfully.
Also Read: 4 Things That Do NOT Make You A Bad Feminist