Reading The Female Eunuch in midlife after 8 years of marriage....

(33 Posts)
tootsietoo Sun 24-Mar-13 17:26:11

....not a good idea is it really? I'm on the "Misery" and "Resentment" chapters at the moment, so perhaps it gets better. I'm hoping for some helpful ideas at the end!

Two people have used the same phrase when I've mentioned it to them - life changing. When did you read it for the first time, and did it change your life?

Zatopek Tue 26-Mar-13 21:21:33

Tootsietoos- Is being unmarried with children really so controversial these days?

Obviously it is down to your upbringing but class has nothing to do with it surely. I have a friend who felt she had to get married because she came from a catholic family where everyone had married before having children. I come from what some would consider a "MC" background myself but it wasn't particularly conventional although my mum is religious. We all have a good feminist streak though.

And actually most people I meet don't particularly know whether I'm married or not. They never ask and actually more often than not work colleagues will ask about my "husband". THey could be using it as a synonym for partner for all I know.
I could correct them. but it seems a bit churlish to do so. If they asked whether I was married, I would say No but it's a question no one asks.

I'm fairly sure there is a class element. I would have to find stats, but I would put money on that getting married before you have children is still something middle-class, even if it is much, much less of an issue than it was a generation ago.

Obviously this is just anecdote, but I went to a naice middle-class school and only one person had her children before she got married - but she had a mortgage on a house with her partner and she did tell me she occasionally got comments as if this somehow needed to be known about in order to make up for her not being married. confused Everyone else has got married before having kids. It has really surprised me how very conventional people get about things like marriage.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Wed 27-Mar-13 19:45:25

I dunno, LRD - until civil partnerships for opposite sex couples are allowed, it's the simplest way legally to sort stuff - it's like buying life insurance before you go on a trip. If you are making the mortgage, wills, kids decisions then it's going to be in the mix.

Practical is a big part of it as well as conventional (and conventions no doubt sprang from practicality too in part)

ediblewoman Wed 27-Mar-13 19:58:29

I know the discussion has moved on a bit but I read the Female Eunuch at 16 almost 17 and it blew my mind. I don't always agree with everything GG says but I agree with a lot of it, even some of the more unpopular stuff. I loved her boldness, her certainty and her bravery. I still do.

The marriage issue is a funny one. I got married because I wanted to make a public statement about a private sentiment, my love and commitment to DH, and because, cold practical alert, we wanted children and had a house and it circumvented the need for complex legal arrangements that would still fall short on the protection that marriage/civil partnership can provide.

MidnightMasquerader Wed 27-Mar-13 20:39:44

I read TFE in my early university years - so maybe 19, 20? I thought it was amazing.

I haven't read it since. I suspect I probably shouldn't. I have been a feminist from as soon as I heard and understood the word, but my feminist sensibilities have been totally heightened since having DC and becoming a Mum. I'm in a great partnership with a hands-on Dad/husband who had a stint of his own as a SAHD. But... my eyes have been opened so much further as a result of motherhood, wifehood, etc, nonetheless.

I think re-reading it may just get me too riled up...

As for marriage, yes, I completely relate to the conventional middle class upbringing, and expectations, and the 'good girl' phenomenon.

Out of my circle, I can only think of one friend who had a baby before wedlock - but even then, it was a stable, long-term relationship and they are both graduate professionals. They got married before No. 2 was conceived...

Zatopek Wed 27-Mar-13 20:50:30

I'm going to offer a few stereotypes here (but I'm genuinely fascinated to know what part of the middle class is so "conventional" I'm assuming it's an upper middle class thing? Public School, Telegraph (Daily Mail) reading parents

Are the parents who would like their daughters to be "good girls" expecting them to be virgins on your wedding day too?

Plenty of Guardian reading liberals amongst the middle classes too who I'm sure would have been enjoying the "freedoms" of the 60s and possibly burning their bras to boot and would not expect their daughters to marry.

snowshapes Wed 27-Mar-13 21:12:55

Zatopek, that was really what I was thinking. It is of course correct that you are more likely to have a child out of wedlock if you come from a less privileged background, but that was not really what I meant. Historically, the women who have challenged the conventional/traditional discourses around marriage have been those who have been able to access education and follow a different path, or they had the financial means to be able to live independently from a husband. I am thinking about say, the New Woman discussions of the 1890s, which really questioned marriage and motherhood as women's destiny. Working class women may have been living independently from their husbands, but it was a precarious existence, eking out a living and dependent often on relatives or public assistance.

I think the second wave feminists who would not expect their daughters to marry are another example, yes. They may not statistically be the largest group, but because they are often in public positions (say, universities) with some intellectual clout, they maybe have more impact.

That said, I do think there is a huge pressure to get married, even today. I managed to do it twice, when I would have been far, far better not doing it at all. I am not exactly sure what legal protection it does offer you, really, especially if you are financially independent to start with.

doctrine - oh, absolutely. In fact I think a lot of it is practical - I know plenty of people who married so they'd have simpler mortgage arrangements. I was really just thinking about the class side of it.

zato - nope, the people I know are Guardian-reading liberals mostly. My own parents are, and certainly didn't expect no sex before marriage for their children. It was what doctrine describes - half and half practicality and half and half, yes, an assumption that it was the 'done thing'.

Mind you, my Guardian-reading dad told me I wouldn't be a real adult until I was married hmm, so I leave you to judge how far his 'liberal' credentials might go!

I don't think it's about the virgin-bride thing ... I think it's an unexpressed snobbery about someone getting married being seen to be 'secure'. I reckon that's why the mortgage was a good substitute for the one person who had kids before marriage. I do think amongst some circles there is still a stigma against having children in a relationship that's not seen to be stable. It is really sad, actually.

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