Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Can hair equal heart?

No bride or groom ever entered into a marriage contract without experiencing some sort of cold feet beforehand. Mine was a case of cold feet by the entire family. Trying to look pass the embroidered veil, I asked a few important people in my life if my decision was a good one – not right, but good, for right is subjective. One such response that I’ll never forget was someone telling me maybe I should wait a while because knowing the person that I am, I supposedly have much more to achieve, and by tying the knot, I might be tying myself down too soon with the possibility of wasting future opportunities. As much as I disagree, I understood the sentiment came from love. Needless to say, that was not the last I heard of the “reach for the stars before settling down” argument.

One of the things I find troubling in our society is that we want our kids to go as far as they could, yet looked down upon people who choose to settle down at a young age. A Bachelor’s Degree is not enough anymore, as most would agree. But to go far means marriage would have to take a backseat while we grow older and older. What bothers me is that people do realize that today is a different world – sex and romance are everywhere on every corner. Thus, do we really expect our youths to be infallible while they reach for this ever-afar, ever-unreachable state of contentment? Yes, I am a conservative…or am I realistic? Regardless of your preferred ideological label, how na├»ve are we to expect people who are getting older to not yearn for love and comfort at the same time?

A couple of years back, someone mistakenly called me a feminist. The question is what truly makes a woman a feminist? The conventional definition of a feminist is a person who does not need a man behind her back while she makes her own wealth, buys her own material comforts, and most importantly, depends on no one for love and security. In order to achieve all these, a woman has to gain expertise as fiercely as the male version of them. Those women who choose to stay at home and cook for their husbands are regarded as incompetent, trapped in the image of their late ancestors. But is this fair?

In Mona Lisa Smile, a movie set in the 50s featuring Julia Roberts (Katherine), Kirsten Dunst, and Julia Stiles (Joan), there is a scene that I feel is so powerful relating to women empowerment. Joan is a very bright student at a prestigious college where Katherine was accepted to teach art history. As they approach graduation, Katherine encourages Joan to apply for Law School at Yale, where she was accepted. However, when her teacher visits her at home, Joan informs her that she has decided to move to Philadelphia instead to support her new husband at the University of Pennsylvania. Obviously, her very modern teacher was upset. And that’s when Joan spoke these words of wisdom we seldom hear:

“Do you think one day I’ll wake up and regret not being a lawyer? . . . Not as much as I’ll regret not having a family. Not being there to raise them. I know exactly what I’m doing and it doesn’t make me any less smart. . . You stand in class and tell us to look beyond the image but you don’t. For you a housewife is someone who sold her soul for a centre-hall colonial; she has no depth, no intellect, no interest. You’re the one who said I can do anything I wanted. This is what I want.”

Feminism is about choice. Women empowerment has nothing to do with the right to drive, to be naked, or to climb the corporate ladder. Women empowerment is about the right, as a woman, to choose your own path. Joan was right, since when is it a crime for a woman who has a higher education to stay at home and raise her children – in my case, to get married? John Stuart Mill, a liberal thinker in the 19th century, wrote in On The Subjection of Women that liberty and education to the female gender is important, if not most, for an educated woman is a happy woman that will have more to offer her future children, the future generation. I am not saying that all women should be a stay-at-home mom; but for those who do decide to do so, there is no reason for the general public to think so low of them because you never know what credentials such women may hold – they may even be smarter than you.