LB Note: I wrote this piece about six weeks ago, but things have been pretty crazy around here since. It's a personal essay, nothing finance-y, so there's your disclosure 🙂
At FinCon this year, I was approached by many who read this piece I wrote about last year’s conference. I heard from so many who thought the piece really resonated and it made me so good to hear that people remembered, even a year later. I’ve been mulling over the piece I’m typing right now for a while, but being at FinCon really solidified these feelings for me.
Being at FinCon during the Brett Kavanagh hearing was interesting, to say the least.
I undoubtedly believe we’re currently living in the best time to be a woman.
I also know that I have never thought more about my womanhood and what that means and the stance I take on certain issues. It's been an awakening of sorts; pre-2016 I never really thought about what it meant to be a woman. Now it's on my mind with every major decision I make.
But now that men are closing their mouths, in the silence women’s voices are now rushing to the front. And while this is a beautiful and amazing thing, I'm also hearing (and feeling) a level of judgment, particularly when it comes to the state of matrimony.
It All Comes Down to a Ring
Perhaps it is the super awesome, fiscally savvy crowd I run with, but in this circle a fancy car, a blinged out engagement ring, or an expensive wedding is frowned upon. But aside from the financials behind an engagement ring, some feel the tradition is archaic and that it doesn’t promote female equality.
And I get it. An engagement ring was essentially an antiquated business contract between a man and a woman. It signifies a monetary payment for a woman’s fidelity. In olden times, in the event the engagement was broken, the man became free to marry again, but the woman (considered damaged goods at this point) well, she probably won’t marry again but at least she had a diamond as consolation.
I get it. A tradition so steeped in gender inequality, one wonders how it ever became the “thing.”
Others take umbrage with the fact that the diamond is (at its essence) a symbol of the wealth of a husband, how “well” a woman did to catch a (rich) man, and not, in fact, indicative of the wealth of the female.
And yet….I wanted one.
When I stated this, one blogger asked me why I wanted to be “branded,” in such a way.
Meekly at the time I replied, “Well, I’m southern. I like traditions.”
Which is like, the lamest answer of all time, (but I never said I was good with confrontation!) Even to this day, when women are more emboldened to speak up and out than ever, I can only really string together something compelling with the words I write.
But here’s my point. I shouldn’t HAVE to explain why I, as a woman, want something nice.
For me, it is just a token of love, a gift. The nicest thing I’ve ever owned (and likely will ever own) and the love of my life gave it to me as a symbol of his commitment to building a future together. He paid in cash and we could afford it.
Why do I have to justify why I want a nice gift? Does a man have to justify why he gives it?
My First Foray Into Feminism
About five years ago, (back when I was “L Bee and the Money Tree”) I wrote an essay about how I felt that going to college and taking out student loans was a total waste of money if you eventually one day you only wanted to be a stay at home Mom.
I was young and misguided, and have learned a lot in the seven years since about what a delicate financial and emotional decision it is to be a stay at home parent. Subsequently, a stay-at-home mom blogger read it and LIT ME ON FIRE on her blog.
It was the first time I’d seen someone write angry words about my website, and the first time I’d had a page full of comments directed at me and something I’d written.
Primarily, I see now I was wrong because I see now that feminism isn’t only about the right to work as a man or earn like a man.
It's also about a woman's right to choose.
So, when we ask women to justify their choices, big or small, even casually and harmlessly, we essentially negate the very thing we all want to fight for. As a woman, I want to be treated equally and fairly, and for me, that also means not having to defend my own agency at every turn.
I can be a woman who is a little sad about the fact that my wedding is one of the most championed milestones in my life, and still want to participate in the tradition of engagement rings. It can be both.
Why? Because it's my life and I get to dictate the terms.
Ultimately, I'd love to be free to live in a world where I can make the choices I want to make without criticism, questions, and opinions. It's not the world we live in, but I continue to hope that one day it will be.
A (small) part of me feels like nowadays there is a line in the sand, that there is only one way to be a feminist. Anything on the right side is, well, right, and anything to left is deemed wrong and women get slammed for it.
I understand that in order to change big things, big shifts in our cultural norms and traditions need to happen. But frankly, I think women need to ease up a little on their fellow woman.
The female-on-female judgment makes me feel like even on my winningest day, when I make my most empowered decisions, I'm still losing somehow.
I’m sure this article will sound like I’m calling out my own gender, but I assure you that’s not the case. I’m merely presenting now, how instead of men from the FIRE community throwing shade on my decision to go back to work, sometimes its also women who are quickest to make judgements on the decisions of others too.