*****When my wife and I got married in 2005, she was very much a feminist. I was, by any practical definition, a feminist too: I advocated for feminist viewpoints in conversation, I wanted our marriage to be as egalitarian as possible, I marched with lesbian friends in gay pride parades, and so on. But I didn’t call myself a feminist because I was just plain unaware what feminism really meant, plus I was male so I didn’t think it applied to me. And I just thought it was cooler to call myself other things: hippie, liberal, radical, etc.
What really changed everything for me was having children. When we decided to become parents, we agreed that we’d love a parent to stay home with the kids while they were little. And it quickly became obvious that that parent should be me. I worked as a freelancer, so taking a few years off was no problem, while my wife’s career would’ve collapsed if she took years off. I’m a little more patient and willing to “do nothing” with babies, so personality-wise it made sense too. So we took the plunge, and I became an at-home dad (with a few part-time jobs to keep my freelancing options open in later years).
Our friends and family were outwardly very supportive of that decision, but suddenly so many feminist issues became entirely unavoidable. Strangers would tell me how great it was that I was “babysitting” that day, when I was actually my kids’ primary childcare. Or family would call me “the most amazing dad EVER” when I was just doing what parents all over the world do every day, AND what they also meant to do was make my wife feel bad for abdicating her motherly responsibilities. Resources for at-home parents were almost entirely “moms only,” so I found myself advocating for including dads in parenting discussions. And so, after the whole world hit me over the head with the need for feminism, I finally started to call myself a feminist. I became an outspoken feminist. In a feminist marriage.
I’m a little embarrassed that it took feminist issues affecting me directly (instead of just all the women I’m close to) for me to embrace the term. But now I embrace it wholeheartedly. I pick fights with my fellow men when they get nervous about calling themselves feminists. I point out gender inequality in the workplace to friends who don’t believe it exists. I do not keep silent on this issue, ever.
This has shaped what our marriage is like, very much. We consciously divvy up the housekeeping tasks based on our strengths and weaknesses (and free time) rather than gender roles. We both have close friends of both genders, and we don’t see this as cause for jealousy, or a reason to worry; we’re just friends with the people who we get along with best. We have a framed copy of the Seneca Falls “Declaration of Sentiments” on our living room wall!
And we make a point of subverting gender roles publicly as much as possible. We live in a very conservative part of the country, and simply living in an openly gender-equitable way makes waves in this community. So I make a point of being the parent who shows up at the PTA. I bring baked goods to various events (and I’m a pretty damn good baker, if I dare say so myself). I volunteer to watch friends’ kids when schools are closed. And generally, we let it be known that our roles in a marriage (and in raising a family) aren’t based on our gender but on our individual personalities and strengths. Hopefully we’re making some small difference in our community as it relates to gender norms.
For me, having a feminist marriage means that we are free to create the marriage that works best for us, not the marriage society expects. We are free to choose the roles that fit us, not the ones that are assumed of us. I love how much my wife and I have both been able to grow and become what our inner selves strive to be, instead of having to stay with what our prescribed gender roles would have us become.