When The Financial Diet shared that quote on their Instagram this week, I was winded. “Celebrate them when they land a fantastic job” they implored, “or master a new skill, or move to a new city or surprise themselves by doing something they thought impossible. Start celebrating women for more than just their attachment to a man – celebrate them for the things they actually are.”
Because, god, if that’s not just it.
For me, and a lot of women my age, it already feels like – after graduating – that the next big party for us will be thrown when there’s a ring on our fingers, no matter what we may achieve in the time between it. The jobs, the promotions, relocations, even every day great things are all subordinate to (and often a distraction of) that One Big Thing all girls are supposed to aspire to: marriage.
Firstly, fuck off and let me live. Secondly, to wait for my wedding to celebrate me is unfair. Not only is it that, but it’s also problematic. Why?
Because finding someone to marry is not an achievement.
It’s not that I don’t love weddings – I’m the only person in my immediate friendship group that actually, actively wants to get married. No time soon, mind, but as excited as I am for that day, I can’t help but feel a bit… overlooked. Because – plainly – I think I deserve to be recognised both more, for more. We all do.
To someone like me, who subscribes to the idea of marriage, it is something special. But it’s not something I’ve worked for or earned. It’s literally just a pretty cool but very small part of a much larger, much richer life – one I hope will see me travel the world and write books one day. But also: what about the things I’ll achieve before then? And after? And all the stuff previously?
It does not reduce weddings to say that they’re not an actual achievement, but it does reduce women to say that it’s their greatest one or the one they should be most celebrated for. This is not Jane Austen. The work of my life is not to trick, convince, or encourage a good man into marital commitment.
Like 70% of millennials – the generation above me – I do want to get married. But I also want to be able to shout about what I’ve achieved besides that, an action often scorned.
The Guardian’s interview with Megan Rapinoe a few weeks ago exemplified this perfectly. After winning the World Cup alongside her America teammates, Rapinoe was the subject of unsavoury headlines and tweets regarding her wide-armed, chest out goal celebrations. Tweets came from the President, directly alongside adoring think-pieces dissecting Rapinoe’s feminist protest. How funny that women could, generally, better understand and relate to what I saw many men on Twitter call cocky and unnecessary.
You only have to look to the backlash she got from kissing the World Cup trophy and yelling I deserve this (reader: she did) during the victory parade to see how little women are allowed to celebrate themselves for the things they are proud of. That isn’t being unapologetic, as Rapinoe is often labelled, but being allowed to define their own successes and be as loud or as quiet as they want about them.
In the interview, she makes the point that women are socialised not to take up space, whereas men are. Even the spaces they do take up are defined for them, policed into what should and shouldn’t be shouted about (when really, it all should). When President Trump tweeted that “Megan should win before she talks”, he was attempting to put her back in what he deemed her place. Shrink her ego. But why? Because whilst we all like to glorify a culture of “celebrating strong women”, many men still wince when women try and take that power for themselves, on their own terms.
Idiot Trump: “Megan should win before she talks”
Megan Rapinoe: pic.twitter.com/xS0ZeBSGUp
— Stone 🥶 (@stonecold2050) 8 July 2019
Yet I understand the privilege I hold when – as a white cis woman – I complain of being inhibited by society’s allowances and expectations. The struggle is both universal, and yet so, so much harder for others.
What it comes down to is this: I know I am more than a potential bride or mother. I’m even more than a potential author. I am all of the big and small things that may happen to me in a lifetime that I think deserve to be honoured – the things that, as The Financial Diet says, actually make me.
I don’t think the party for myself has to wait until I’m married to start, or should stop any time soon.
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