A very dear friend sent me a link to a Mumsnet thread this morning. It’s ten to 11 and I’ve been up since 7.30 having only got to bed at 3 thanks to my toddler who has her days and nights confused somehow. So it’s fair to say I’m in no mood to be fucked with.
The thread in question was titled “AIBU to think we should encourage our daughters to ‘marry well’?” (AIBU stands for ‘Am I being unreasonable’) The question was raised by a lady who identifies as a strong feminist but feels like, from surveying her peers, those who married successful or rich men have a happier and easier life.
Please don’t misinterpret this as an attack on the lady posing this question – i’m simply exploring the ideas raised by the original post and the discussion that followed.
Here’s the original question in it’s entirety:
I know ‘marrying well’ is something our mothers and grandmothers crowed about but it’s not a phrase I’ve heard much these days and it feels quite an anti-feminist sentiment in a world where women can do well without men.
Yet I wonder if marrying well – marrying into money or marrying someone who is in a well-paid profession – is something we should be encouraging our daughters to do. Why? Because not every woman wants to have a career and if you want to be a SAHM then really that’s easiest if your DH is well paid. Also women still experience a pay gap and are in lower-paid roles by comparison, so having a well paid DH really does make up that pay gap.
Plus – when I look around at my female friends and peers (I’m mid-40s) of the ones who have a comfortable lifestyle and are able to work part-time or be SAHM, for about 3/4 that lifestyle is attributed to having a well-paid or wealthy DH. The other 1/4 got there through their work/career, family money etc. This is purely a sample of my peers, by no means the norm.
I’m a staunch feminist so it’s a bit hard to write this but I’m also a single parent and know what a slog it can be making everything work on my own salary. Marrying well doesn’t mean a good marriage or relationship but it does make things easier. In the end shouldn’t we be having an honest conversation with our daughters about this and encouraging them to think a bit more about ‘marrying well’?
My first thought on reading this thread and the comments that followed was outrage. Surely our daughters, and by extension us, aren’t chattel to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Aren’t there more imporatant things in life than money? How wrong is it to look at men and only see their earning potential not their capacity to be great friends, fathers, partners. It occurred to me that maybe that was a bit of a knee jerk reaction and I should examine this issue a bit more carefully.
There is no doubt that women are at a financial disadvantage to men. Despite major strides for equality the average women will earn less in her lifetime than her male counterparts. Our daughters are more likely to be in a physically abusive relationship, discriminated against in the workplace and sexually assaulted than our sons.
Can we also stop for a minute to examine the notion that we should be encouraging our daughters to marry at all. What’s wrong with not being married? Is a wedding ring the only path to happiness and security – emotional or financial. There’s nothing wrong with having a dreamy fantasy of your daughter meeting the man of her dreams and having a big white wedding but let’s aim a little higher here.
There are other achivements and callings in life. Some are noble like highpowered medical careers and some are ordinary, like being a really bloody amazing friend but there is more to being a human being than meeting your match and settling down.
On balance, here’s how it is (according to me)
There’s no doubt that having a healthy income opens doors. If you’re wealthy your can travel, have access to further education, have the luxury to choose whether to work or not. You can give your children these same opportunities.
But. There is more to life than things and money. Some of the most profound experiences are absolutely free. There are more important things to teach our daughters than how to spot a young man destined for wealth.
Have a bit of faith in society, in your daughters and in yourselves as parents trying to raise the best little human you can.
Teach her to be kind.
Show her what it means to have integrity.
Let her make mistakes.
Reinforce her self-worth.
Let her hear you talking postively about yourself and other women.
Make her do her homework.
Teach her to call out inequality and discrimiation wherever she sees it.
Give her access to books, music and podcasts that will broaden her horizons.
Have faith in her.