August 13, 2019
Married at 21: Can I Still be Called a Feminist?

In the beginning, I often felt guilty about my decision to get married at such a young age, and worried that I’d be judged harshly by other feminists.

by Fatima Kamila
Issues // Relationship
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There are a lot of preconceived notions about a married woman. A lot of people assume that she will be too lazy to have a job or even to continue her studies since she already has a husband who will provide for her. Others think a married woman has no choice but to obey her husband because he is the perceived head of the household.  

As someone who is constantly being exposed to the idea of feminism, women’s empowerment and equality, I often felt guilty about my decision to be married at such a young age. I questioned myself whether I had made the right decision or not. 

Although it is hard for me to admit, deep inside I felt like being married make me seem less educated and less powerful. I do not agree with this idea, still, it was hard for me to stop believing that people, weirdly feminists in particular, look severely on my decision to be married in my early 20s. Because of this, in the beginning of my marriage, I often felt embarrassed to admit that I was married. I often lied when asked about my relationship status in internship applications because I feared the recruiters would see me as a stereotypical a young-married woman. 

Also read: A Feminist Guide to Surviving Wedding Parties

I tried to figure out where this fear of being judged, especially by feminists, came from. Eventually I found out that it is because I felt like they would not see me as an independent woman, since I am now “dependent” on my husband.

On the other hand, I felt this way of thinking contradictory to what my understanding that feminism should empower a woman to do anything that she desires. That means if I choose to be married at such a young age, feminists should respect my decision.

This contradiction led me to seek an answer. I decided to read several articles related to marriage and feminism and finally found one that is the closest to my heart. It is an article written by Maggie Pahos titled “Being a Wife is not a Feminist Failure.”

Maggie writes about how some of the female badasses that she knows – Wonder Woman, the Little Red Hen, Emily Dickinson, and Medusa – are fully alone and did not rely on men for anything, which made her anxious and feel like a feminist failure because she is married. But after reflecting on herself and the relationship she has with her husband, she realizes that her decision to be married is also an act of feminism.

“Being badass means deciding for ourselves on what terms we want to live our lives. Whatever that looks like. Whether or not it includes a man. Being badass means designing a marriage that works for me, that feeds me yet provides me with freedom. That anchors me yet urges me to wander,” she writes.

Also read: Before Planning the Wedding: We Need to Talk About Money, Honey

I put this quote in the context of my relationship with my husband and felt relieved that our relationship is a relationship that provides me with freedom. Never once do I feel like he has treated me unequally. Our marriage was not forced on us, but the result of our own desire. He never tells me to stop working, nor does he tell me that I should work. He always supports my passion and education, and he never expects me to perform the kind of chores that people expect from housewives.

I do feel like we are a team and that we are equal. I begin to realize that in our relationship, I’m not the only person relying on him, but we both are reliant on each other. I think this does not make me any less of a feminist. Being married does not stop me from doing anything that I want, and it does not stop me from being treated equally.

This realization helps me understand that marriage and equality are not always opposite; you just need to find the right partner at the right time. I am writing this article not to romanticize or promote marriage, but to let you know that marriage does not and will not stop you from being a feminist.

Fatima Kamila is a fresh graduate of the English Studies program at Universitas Indonesia. She is passionate about writing, reading, and photography, but is often too insecure to share her works. She is an over-thinker who has finally realized that writing is the only activity that can cure this problem.