I’ve only recently started to describe myself as a feminist. Up until a few years ago, feminism didn’t have the most glowing reputation (burning bras and all) and it wasn’t too popular in mainstream culture; I’d always been proud to be a woman, especially in forward-thinking Canada, but I’d never felt the need to put that fact forward. I just thought it was implied, given my lifestyle.
That was until someone publicly challenged me in that regard.
I have an extremely reliable memory when it comes to people. I remember every face I’ve ever spoken to, or even merely saw a few times. So it’s safe to assume that when someone asks me a question that shakes me to my core, and questions all of my personal values and beliefs, I would remember.
I’m thinking of this specific time back in 2011. I had just started blogging professionally, I was a newlywed living as an expat in France and I was attending a travel blogging conference in Austria where I had been meeting a lot of people. I was having dinner with a bunch of travel bloggers of various ages and backgrounds, when a man (I know precisely who he is, but out of respect I will keep his identity a secret) interrupted me (of course he did) in the middle of a conversation:
The Man Who Shall Not Be Named:
But, let me get this right – you’re married, right?
Yes, indeed. I got married two months ago actually, but we’ve been together for several years.
The Man Who Shall Not Be Named:
But I don’t understand. Your husband is on board with this? He allows you travel by yourself, he gave your his permission?
Well, yes. It’s not like I have to ask or anything.
The Man Who Shall Not Be Named:
That’s completely bullocks, if you ask me.
* cricket sound * cue awkwardness *
This is probably the time I felt the most insulted in all of my adult life. I was so surprised by his archaic question that I muttered something about being independent and laughed it off, when all I really wanted to do was scream all kinds of feminist insults to his face. Complemented by plenty of curse words, obviously.
For crying out loud, what is this, 1942?
What the actual fuck kind of question is that? Are you implying that I’m someone’s property?
Why on Earth would I need my husband’s permission to travel by myself? Or to do anything, for that matter?
Should I have asked him for an allowance before I left?
Last time I checked, Canadian women were free to decide and provide for themselves. As such, I am at liberty to do whatever I damn well please, dude.
You see, this is exactly the kind of attitude that keeps a lot of woman from being completely emancipated, that refrains them from fully achieving their independence.
Boy do I want to hit you in the face. Or should I ask my husband’s permission for that, too?
The problem with this sexist attitude
Although feminism is part of pop culture nowadays, it doesn’t mean that all issues are resolved. Quite the contrary! If this one person was blunt enough to directly ask me a question like that, I can’t imagine how many silent supporters he has. To me, the fact that women should seek permission to do anything all goes back to the sexist argument of the skirt that was a little too short.
Feminism is about stopping gender discrimination in every way possible. It’s about equal rights and opportunities. How many husbands ask their wife’s permission to go abroad on their own? How many guys feel the need to justify their solo adventures? How many of them are judged for their life choices?
I’ve been living on my own since I was 16. Independence isn’t a character trait as far as I’m concerned; it’s a way of life. Various circumstances have forced me to grow up quickly, perhaps much quicker than I should have, and therefore I have very little patience when it comes to people not being autonomous. You can call me ugly, you can call me fat, you can call me whatever you like – I’ll just shrug it off. But don’t you dare tell me that I am not independent and that solo female travel is a silly concept.
That is the last thing you’ll ever say to me.
Why marriage and solo female travel aren’t mutually exclusive
To me, marriage was never about giving up who you are to be with someone for eternity.
It’s more about finding that one person who complements you, who makes you want to be a better version of yourself, and with whom you make a formidable team. And while I agree that everyone’s idea of marriage is different, I have a very hard time accepting versions where man and woman aren’t truly equals.
My husband and I are deeply in love with each other, but we remain two fiercely independent people, each with their own set of interests and hobbies. He’s a complete geek and homebody who prefers countryside getaways to urban adventures; I, on the other hand, am fuelled by cities and I love exploring new ones as often as I can. You guys can see where this could get problematic, right? But early on in our relationship, we decided that it would be better for us to live our passions separately, rather than having to compromise constantly and end up in a situation where no one is truly happy. This does indeed mean we spend quite a bit of time apart, but since we are not a fusional couple, this absence makes us grow fonder of each other. I am never happier than when I come home to my husband after three weeks on the road.
I don’t judge couples who can’t live without each other. Everyone has a different idea of balance. But what strikes me as odd is when someone has to sacrifice a part of his or herself. That is never ok.
In hindsight, I don’t think The Man Who Shall Not Be Named’s question was meant as an insult, but I couldn’t help but feel furious at his assumption that I would ask my husband for anything. With time, it made me realise that through this blog, I have the wonderful privilege to help young women across the globe grasp the full extent of their personal freedom.
Although I was livid at him at the time, I am now thankful for his question.
Mind you, I still think he’s an asshole; but I am now proud to advocate solo travel from a married woman’s point of view, one we don’t hear about much. Every woman and every man in the world should be at liberty to do whatever they please, travel or otherwise. Including married people ;-)