Getting married has always been my dream (well, my oldest dream anyways) fragile masculinity be damned!
For me, there has always been something magical, divine almost, about finding someone who complements you, who is ready to partner you in a tag team match against life and it’s many foibles that y’all might lose. Someone who knows you at your most flawed and is still like, “yup, that’s the psycho I’ll spend my life with”… There is something indescribably beautiful about a loving union that as a kid (and even today, fully grown), I wished to have too.
I recognize that my views are not typical, least of all are they representative of the lived experiences of women. However, as an ally of women, a feminist and lazy student in need of a break from reading for my “Bacterial and Viral diseases of Man” examination schedule for 11hrs from now (as I write this), I feel the need to wade into the recent brouhaha on Adiche’s comment on Hilary’s Bio. So here goes.
I think the critique of Adiche’s critique is valid and it’s very crucial that such backlash be made even if it gives some patriarchs temporary moments of glee.
Firstly, Adiche’s comparison of Hilary’s Bio to Bill’s and the insinuation that her prioritisation of her role as a wife and mother is wrong is indeed problematic because, as many have said (so I won’t repeat the argument at length here), feminism is not a dictatorship aimed at mainstreaming a single path of actualisation or set of priorities for women, patriarchy already has that covered. Feminism, thus must be accommodating of women’s choices, even as it attacks the pervasive socio-cultural structures which may skew women’s ability to freely make those choices.
Many who have defended Adiche are right in saying marriage is not an ideal freely chosen by all women. It is true for example that the social pressures for women to get married in Nigeria for example are so great that opting not to is setting oneself up for social ostracization and emotional abuse. As such, whether a woman’s choice of label was freely arrived at may be questioned. These social norms are not exactly applicable to America though. So, being a single mother or divorced or eschewing marriage entirely is not as culturally condemnable there as it is here. Why then would it be wrong to assume a smart, driven young attorney as Hilary then was would’ve freely chosen to get married and would be proud of her choice? Why do we still second-guess her agency and priorities?
It is very unprogressive and condescending when the liberal position to women who choose traditional roles is to challenge their agency and to ask them to be more like their husbands.
Lastly, regardless of your opinion on what Adiche said, I believe we can all agree that the vigorous engagement on this issue is laudable because it symbolises that feminism in particular and liberalism as a whole hasn’t calcified. The ability to check icons of a movement when they’re perceived to have errred is proof of a very horizontal movement, not beholden to status, with ideals well understood by it’s adherents. The last thing liberals should do is engage in clannish apologetics for one side or the other. Openness to critique and continuous engagement are bedrocks of progressive movements and feminism is only made the stronger for it.
To wit, I find Hilary’s Bio inspirational. Not despite the fact of her leading with being a Wife, but because of it. To have achieved so much accross so many endeavours and still lead with “Wife” makes me feel that she has in her life enjoyed a bit of the magic that is a loving union (problematic as you may think her husband is). I hope to have that as well one day. To be proudly described as Husband, Father, Citizen and then all else.