By JAMILA RIZVI
Yep, you clicked on that headline. We knew that you would…
Because this headline and the controversial article it accompanied (which you can read in full here) was one of last year’s most clicked on articles from US site, The Huffington Post.
That’s right, an article, which tells women why they’re not good enough has been shared a whopping 100,000+ times on via social media and email.
What’s unclear is whether the sharing was done by single women themselves or those who think single women should read it.
The basic argument made by writer Tracey McMillan is this: “if whatever you’re doing right now was going to get you married, you’d already have a ring on it.” She then proceeds to list the reasons why a woman might not be married (and why they’re all HER FAULT).
The reasons include:
You’re a Bitch. Here’s what I mean by bitch. I mean you’re angry. You probably don’t think you’re angry. You think you’re super smart, or if you’ve been to a lot of therapy, that you’re setting boundaries. But the truth is you’re pissed. At your mom. At the military-industrial complex. At Sarah Palin. And it’s scaring men off.
You’re Shallow. When it comes to choosing a husband, only one thing really, truly matters: character. So it stands to reason that a man’s character should be at the top of the list of things you are looking for, right? But if you’re not married, I already know it isn’t.
You’re a Slut. Hooking up with some guy in a hot tub on a rooftop is fine for the ladies of Jersey Shore — but they’re not trying to get married. You are. Which means, unfortunately, that if you’re having sex outside committed relationships, you will have to stop.
You’re Selfish. If you’re not married, chances are you think a lot about you. You think about your thighs, your outfits, your naso-labial folds. You think about your career, or if you don’t have one, you think about doing yoga teacher training.
That’s just a taste. Other reasons include “You’re a liar” and “You’re not good enough”.
Now, I could rant all day about why I think this post is absurd and that the way that it sets up marriage as the paramount goal of every woman’s life is insulting to our intelligence.
But I’m not going to.
Because I actually think there might be something to learn from McMillan’s article.
Why is it that in 2012, when women have access to the WHOLE internet, did this particular article shoot to the top of the ‘most read’ and ‘most shared’ posts? Why did hundreds of thousands of women choose to read this list of reasons why they weren’t married? And why were tens of thousands of them enamored enough by its points to publicly share it with their friends on social media.
I was one of them. I clicked. I read. Something in my brain went ‘this will be relevant to me’. Why?
Well, the reason is kind of obvious: I want to get married.
I don’t want to get married IMMEDIATELY. (My relatively-new boyfriend’s hyperventilating should be slowing a little now. Just breathe babe, it’s going to be fine). But I would like it to happen one day. With the right person. When we’re both ready.
Do I NEED to get married? Of course not.
My parents raised me – and so far the world has continued to teach me – that I really can have whatever I want from life. I have a great job, I live with friends not a partner, I don’t need a bloke to do anything for me other than reach things from the top shelf (and actually I have some excellent and very sturdy chairs for that) BUT…. At some point, I would still like wear a white dress, tell someone I love them and then spend a lifetime together.
And for some reason that has become something I am not supposed to say aloud. And it’s something most of my contemporaries wouldn’t own up to either. If we do so, it is with a real trepidation that other women will think we’ve betrayed the sisterhood or implied that women should live in some mad pursuit of a getting someone – ANYONE – put put a ring on it.
If we state our desire to get married one day, we are terrified that men will run for the nearest Playstation and lock themselves in a room with it forever more, because they think we’re cloying, obsessive and Muriel-esque..
We recently ran a post on Mamamia from a woman who lives with her partner of many years and they have a baby together. She and her partner have a great relationship but she wants to get married and he doesn’t. And the fact that they aren’t married is eating her up.
She asked for Mamamia reader’s advice. Boy, did she get it.
I even received an email explaining the injustice Mamamia had done to the author of the post, to feminism, to the sisterhood and to the WORLD in allowing these ‘backward attitudes that promote marriage as the only thing women should aspire to’ to be published.
Well of course that’s just silly. I also think women should aspire to turn real life into a musical, where ordinary conversation is replaced by boisterous song and rousing chorus. Seriously. I do. It would be fun.
I digress. My point is this: Why does aspiring to marriage have to be a bad thing?
For me, marriage is about finding someone you love so much that you want to spend the rest of your life with them and that by some great fortune and meeting of the moons and all that hoo-ha, they want to do the same thing. Oh and it also means a really big party and a new dress to kick it off. Um, why wouldn’t you aspire to it? Along with a bunch of other things, OBVIOUSLY.
The crux of what causes so much concern though, is the fact that what I’ve just described isn’t about marriage, it’s about love. The marriage bit is simply how our society has traditionally chosen to formalise that love.
Of course I aspire to love. Don’t we all? Love is lovely.
And while McMillan’s headlines are unnecessarily inflammatory, some (emphasis on the some) of her points may be valid. For some people.
We’ve all had moments in our lives, where on reflection, we realise our actions have been selfish, or our first impressions shallow, or we’ve taken our anger out on someone who didn’t deserve it.
I know I certainly have.
In fact I know I’ve had far more than moments, I’ve had full blown chunks of my life dedicated to those realisations. And reflecting on those times, recognising the scale of mistakes made and endeavouring to do better have been important.
Am I still bitchy, shallow and selfish on occasion? Of course. Regularly in fact. But far less so than I was three years ago when I still believed I was the centre of my own world and everyone else’s too.
McMillan’s article, beneath the shock tactics it employs, is really about self reflection and prompting a more deliberate effort to be more chivalrous and giving to people around you.
And in a world that could use a little more kindness, there is some real merit in that.