Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Confessions of a (Future) Feminist Bride

If you're new here Hi, Betsy's followers! then there are a few things about me you should know.

I'm saving coitus for marriage, but not for religious reasons, although I do identify as Christian.

I'm head-over-heels in love with my boyfriend.

At my dear friend's wedding, May 2012.

I'm a feminist.

I'm obsessed with France.

What do these tidbits have to do with each other? Nothing. And everything.

My particular brand of feminism is a cross between choice feminism and radical feminism, with an emphasis on Christian feminism and sexual ethics.

Yeah, I know. It's complicated. This is why I have a blog. And twitter.

Let me break all that down.

Choice Feminism: I vehemently support a woman's right to make the best choice for her own life, whether that be her major in college, where she lives, the car she drives, her parenting choices, etc.

Radical Feminism: I question why women make certain choices. Choices don't happen in a vacuum. I look at socialization and power structures and legal systems, and I wonder how freely women make their choices. And if your choices include keeping other women from autonomy, then I revoke my support for your freedom of choice. 

Christian Feminism: I know that the history of Christianity is pretty patriarchal and oppressive. I know that most of my choices are influenced by my faith, which is influenced by patriarchy. But I believe in God, and I believe in Jesus, and I can't just un-believe that. 

Sexual Ethics: The Church* teaches several mixed lessons on sex, and the world teaches several other mixed lessons on sex. According to the Church, premarital sex is a sin, but sex within marriage is teh BESTEST ever snowflakes!!!! According to the world, sex sex sex sex all that matters is sexy sexy times. And I'm just here in the middle talking about consent in any sexual relationship, married or otherwise. As Sarah so eloquently explained in her three-part series, people can have sexual ethics outside of the standard Christian narrative.

So. Back to those four points. Are you keeping track? Virginity, boyfriend, feminism, France.

One day, I plan on marrying Beau. I'm pretty excited about it. We get to live together, and snuggle every night, and have coitus whenever we both mutually agree upon it, and cook together, and eventually have kids, and all sorts of awesome stuff.

Plus I get to be on his health insurance! So I won't have to work two jobs!

We won't share a last name, but I'm pretty sure keeping our own last names won't prevent us from having a kickass marriage.

But is marrying Beau a feminist choice?

This Unpopular Opinion over at xoJane thinks not.

Meghan insists that marriage can never be a feminist choice, because it's rooted in patriarchy. Although she never states so explicitly, she implies rather heavily that marriage is an anti-feminist choice.

I beg to differ.

Choice feminism resonates so strongly with me because I believe women are independent, autonomous human beings who are capable of deciding how to live their own lives.

Isn't the pursuit of happiness a vital aspect of living your own life?

Choosing Beau over France might not have been the most feminist choice I ever made, but I don't think putting my happiness first is thus intrinsically anti-feminist. 

Holding onto a heteronormative sexual concept isn't exactly feminist, but I think shaming someone for NOT having sex is even more anti-feminist. 

Marrying Beau won't be the most feminist choice either, but again, I don't think it's thus anti-feminist.

Every choice I make won't Further the Feminist Fight.

Sometimes our choices are just neutral

And that's okay.

I'm writing more about choice feminism over at Betsy's blog for her series Wedding Wednesdays! Find out exactly why I don't plan on taking Beau's last name when we get married.

*Oversimplification of the Christian viewpoint on sex, since not only am I a Christian who doesn't believe premarital sex is a sin, but I frequently cite and link to other Christian writers who agree with me.


  1. Hey Belle,
    Just looked over that article on xo jane and I totally agree with you. Marriage may be rooted in patriarchy, as are so many other things in our society, but that doesn't mean it's the same as what it was. It has and is evolving, and our own marriages can be & represent whatever we want them to.

    Also, I honestly don't think that you choosing Beau over France is in any way anti feminist. I struggled with that kind of question a lot when I decided to move to London to be with my boyfriend. When we first talked about the possibility I wasn't even willing to consider bc I didn't want to be someone who did things like that. But eventually I realized that it's not like I was doing it because he asked me too, or because either of us believed it was more important for me to go where he was than for him to come to me. He's spent tons of time in the US just to spend time with me, but when it came down to long term living, it just made more sense to be in the UK for several reasons (like the cost of education!).

    And the thing is, I don't think there's anything antifeminist about choosing love. In fact, I think it's awesome that I was able to make the choice to just pack up & head off to another country in order to do what felt like the right decision for me.

    It really bothers me when people make claims about what is feminist & what isn't, (like that article), because everyone experiences feminism differently & interprets it in their own way. As always, I love the way you talk about feminism & it was really interesting to see this break-down of the areas of feminism you most relate to.

    1. Pointing out the evolution of institutions rooted in patriarchy is a good point. I mean, as Americans, we're awfully proud of our Constitution and democracy, but it took several amendments for all adult citizens to have the right to vote. Should we just not vote because our system started out as racist, sexist, and classist?

      While I don't think that feminism can be *whatever* we want it to be, it's still very open to personal interpretation and understanding, and I think before we decry something as anti-feminist, we should listen to other people first.

  2. so - thinking out loud here - what happens to the idea of Choice Feminism when what makes you happy is making someone else happy... and that someone else is a man? For instance, what if I didn't really want to have a vegetarian house but my husband was a vegetarian and so I only ate meat when we went out? Would that make me less of a feminist? I don't think so, but where do we draw the line when compromise comes into the conversation?

    1. Don't all personal interactions and relationships have some aspect of compromise to them (or, as some say, sacrifice?). It's highly unlikely we know someone who we agree with 100% of the time on all issues, so we are constantly compromising, be it in determining what restaurant to go to, or more complex issues, like where to live (at least, if you're in my situation and you and your partner were/are both on the employment market). I guess I'm just wondering, at what point does my personal compromise really become someone else's business in determining what is feminism and how feminist I am? Do we really need 50 shades of feminism? It seems like turning it into a competition is just as bad as feeding into the system, or in itself is one way of feeding into the system since it pits woman against woman. I guess to me, shaming someone for making a decision you don't agree with (because perhaps you find it feeding into "the system"), seems inherently anti-feminist.

      Sorry for the word vomit, pretty sure I didn't do a good job of explaining anything well.


    2. I think it comes down to the question of whether or not you have the freedom to make a different choice. In your hypothetical, is your husband making passive aggressive comments about what you eat? Is he insisting you cook all the meals and then complaining about cross-contamination when you cook meat? Is he making life so difficult in your home that you decide to have a vegetarian home? Because that's not a real choice. But if he doesn't mind cooking vegetarian meals for y'all, and he's okay with you eating meat in front of him, and he hasn't pressured you, then choosing to have a vegetarian house to make him happy is a genuine choice.

      Beau goes to art museums with me because he knows I love them, and it makes him happy to see how excited I get when I see paintings by my favorite artists... But he's not that into art. I listen to him talk about cars all the time, and I ask him questions, and I let him teach me stuff that I honestly don't care about because I know how much he loves it.

      It's mutual compromise. If it weren't, then my radical feminism would kick in and question why both partners aren't putting the other first. Is it because we're socialized to think the man is in charge, or that men's needs are most important? It's why all that Christian submissive stuff really freaks me out.

  3. it's you!!!!! i totally agree with ya. as a side note, i read xojane, but every single time i've ever commented, i get nothing but down votes. and so i'm a lurker from afar.

    1. Both Jezebel and xoJane can be super-cliquish in the comments. Sometimes it's just easier to lurk then offer a differing opinion.


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