Can feminism save your marriage?
I'm 34 years old and it's taken me my entire adult life to realize that feminism is here for me. I just wish I'd had that perspective when I was married.
Think feminism isn't for you? That's OK. You've probably spent most of your life being told that feminism means hating men and being really angry all the time. I agree — that doesn't sound like much fun. I happen to like men and I definitely like being happy.
It can be difficult to conceptualize feminism on a broad, academic scale. If your eyes start to glaze over as soon as someone starts talking about the patriarchy, consider the fact that feminism affects you on a very personal level. Feminism isn't just about work opportunities and women's rights. It can also be about your marriage. Feminism can make your marriage awesome.
Support and respect sound pretty good
Here's something you may have never considered: Your husband can support feminism. Before you start picturing your husband burning your bras, remember what feminism really means. Feminist men believe in respecting women, giving women equal opportunities and acknowledging that our society inherently gives guys an advantage. It certainly won't hurt your marriage if your husband holds these ideas. I'll go one step further and say that feminism can actually save your marriage.
Pamela Clark, a Ph.D. candidate in political science at York University, writes about social justice and politics. She developed a list of 35 practical ways for men to support feminism. I had a long, hard cry as I read it. My former marriage had been difficult for a long time, and it made me ache to realize how many seemingly simple gestures would have allowed me to feel supported and respected within my relationship.
Why is equal housework effort so farfetched?
If you're married, you've probably had the chores fight before. You know, the one that makes you feel like a nag. Or maybe you've even been called a nag or worse for asking for help. You've swallowed back resentment, but you're starting to feel like your head might actually pop right off your body if you see another pile of dirty gym clothes on the bedroom floor. How does feminism remove this growing wedge of sadness and frustration? Clark's very first suggestion is that men do 50 percent (or more) of housework. Depending on the structure of your marriage, this might sound completely ludicrous. But think about how good it would make you feel, and how much time it would free up and how nice it would be if your partner helped out without needing prompting.
Feminism is an investment in the health of your marriage
"Make sure that honesty and respect guide your romantic and sexual relationships with women," Clark writes to men. It's a simple concept, but it's also revolutionary. Honesty and respect — from both partners — can repair a marriage or build a stronger foundation from the start. A guy who identifies as a feminist and puts his money where his mouth is will be an attentive lover and a faithful partner. Sounds good to me.
And while we're on the subject of marriage health, let's not forget your man's actual health, too. We all know that mancolds are a thing and that a lot of men resist going to the doctor. It's something women joke about, but the scary reality is that men who don't take care of themselves won't live long, healthy lives. Clark advises men to take responsibility for their own health. This means men should schedule their own doctors' appointments, and monitor their own symptoms. Within the framework of marriage, this benefits both partners. You have better things to do than hold yourself responsible for his health, and obviously you kind of want him to be alive when you're both retired and touring the U.S. in a swanky RV.
The little things make a big difference
There are plenty of helpful tools on Clark's list, but the one that stuck out to me the most seemed inconsequential. "Be responsible for events and special dates associated with your side of the family," Clark writes. When I was married, I bought cards and gifts for his relatives. I arranged travel to see them on holidays. I wonder now, what would have happened if I'd asked him to take over that responsibility when it came to his family. I wonder why I would have needed to ask in the first place.
Before you laugh off the idea of feminism benefiting your marriage, examine the inequalities that never registered before. Imagine life without the little disparities that build up and leave you feeling worn down and unappreciated. Imagine being freer to love and live the life you want to lead with the support of a partner who meets you in the middle. Feminism didn't have a place in my marriage, but it'll be a baseline the next time I give my all in a relationship.