When a Feminist Marries

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Jessica Valenti, executive editor of Feministing, is getting married. She decided to open up her personal life to public scrutiny by making the announcement on the blog and inviting commentary (including asking for suggestions about feminist wedding planning).

Feministing is a forum for young women to speak out on issues that affect their lives. It is relevant and refreshing and informative even for Second Wave feminists like me. This latest development in Valenti’s life is a case in point. What do feminists do with the institution of marriage? By examining the issues that surround the whole wedding brouhaha, we are challenged to think more deeply about the way our personal lives can affect others, both as witness and as example.

I admire Valenti’s determination to live her life coherently. She bemoans the fact that merely by writing blogs, she makes the personal (her personal) political. But she also seems to recognize that her political views are nothing more than hot air if they don’t affect her personal decisions. I look forward to hearing about her struggles to reconcile her feminism with something as traditionally socialized as marriage.

Several of my posts last year dealt with the topic of weddings because one of my daughters was getting married. And yet I’ve barely scratched the surface about this issue. I will be avidly reading Valenti’s posts about her upcoming marriage and the comments that she gets to them in order to come up with reflections of my own.

In the meantime, here are some books that might help to spark the conversation about the pros and cons of getting married.

Unmarried to Each Other: The Essential Guide to Living Together as an Unmarried Couple Unmarried to Each Other: The Essential Guide to Living Together as an Unmarried Couple by Dorian Solot
Buy new: $14.00 / Used from: $3.99

The most comprehensive book there is about successful cohabitation, whether you plan to get married eventually or not. Loads of practical information, fun facts, and stories from unmarried partners.
White Weddings: Romancing Heterosexuality in Popular Culture White Weddings: Romancing Heterosexuality in Popular Culture by Chrys Ingraham
Buy used from: $2.99

Smart analysis of the multi-million dollar “marriage-industrial complex” that hopes you’ll marry early and often.
What Is Marriage For? The Strange Social History of Our Most Intimate Institution What Is Marriage For? The Strange Social History of Our Most Intimate Institution by E. J. Graff
Buy used from: $3.23

Traces the ever-changing history of marriage, showing how our concept of “traditional marriage” is a recent invention and arguing that same-sex couples should have the right to marry.
Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation Public Vows: A History of Marriage and the Nation by Nancy F. Cott
Buy used from: $17.57

Offers a glimpse of the role marriage has played in some of the country’s most contentious social issues, from slavery to today’s welfare reform debates.
The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and the Ethics of Queer Life The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and the Ethics of Queer Life by Michael Warner
Buy new: $18.45 / Used from: $8.00

Argues that gay and lesbian people should not fight for the right to marry, but instead work to alter the system of granting privileges on the basis of relationship status.
Young Wives' Tales: New Adventures in Love and Partnership Young Wives’ Tales: New Adventures in Love and Partnership
Buy new: $15.25 / Used from: $0.52

A collection of essays by young women about their marriages and unmarried relationships. Explores the many responses to feminism, the divorce rate, and the expectation that we will all marry.
Pride And Joy: The Lives And Passions Of Women Without Children Pride And Joy: The Lives And Passions Of Women Without Children by Terri Casey
Buy new: $15.25 / Used from: $2.86
Single by Chance, Mothers by Choice: How Women are Choosing Parenthood without Marriage and Creating the New American Family Single by Chance, Mothers by Choice: How Women are Choosing Parenthood without Marriage and Creating the New American Family by Rosanna Hertz
Buy new: $19.76 / Used from: $2.90
Choosing Single Motherhood: The Thinking Woman's Guide Choosing Single Motherhood: The Thinking Woman’s Guide by Mikki Morrissette
Buy used from: $0.94
I Do/I Don't: Queers on Marriage I Do/I Don’t: Queers on Marriage
Buy new: $16.95 / Used from: $0.99
Why Marriage: The History Shaping Today's Debate Over Gay Equality Why Marriage: The History Shaping Today’s Debate Over Gay Equality by George Chauncey
Buy new: $11.01 / Used from: $3.79
Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America by Jonathan Rauch
Buy new: $10.20 / Used from: $0.40
Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality, and Gay People's Right to Marry Why Marriage Matters: America, Equality, and Gay People’s Right to Marry by Evan Wolfson
Buy new: $11.20 / Used from: $0.08
Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage Marriage, a History: How Love Conquered Marriage by Stephanie Coontz
Buy new: $10.88 / Used from: $4.90
The Mommy Myth: The Idealization of Motherhood and How It Has Undermined All Women The Mommy Myth: The Idealization of Motherhood and How It Has Undermined All Women by Susan Douglas
Buy new: $11.70 / Used from: $1.68
Love: An Unromantic Discussion Love: An Unromantic Discussion by Mary Evans
Buy new: $24.95 / Used from: $6.00
The Wedding Complex: Forms of Belonging in Modern American Culture (Series Q) The Wedding Complex: Forms of Belonging in Modern American Culture (Series Q) by Elizabeth Freeman
Buy new: $23.95 / Used from: $4.94
The Feminine Mystique The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan
Buy new: $10.85 / Used from: $5.49
The Trouble with Nature: Sex in Science and Popular Culture The Trouble with Nature: Sex in Science and Popular Culture by Roger N. Lancaster
Buy new: $25.95 / Used from: $7.47
Singled Out: How Singles are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After Singled Out: How Singles are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After by Bella DePaulo
Buy used from: $2.89
Single Woman of a Certain Age: 29 Women Writers on the Unmarried Midlife--Romantic Escapades, Empty Nests, Shifting Shapes, and Serene Independence Single Woman of a Certain Age: 29 Women Writers on the Unmarried Midlife–Romantic Escapades, Empty Nests, Shifting Shapes, and Serene Independence
Buy new: $17.56 / Used from: $2.99
The New Single Woman The New Single Woman by E. Kay Trimberger
Buy new: $12.00 / Used from: $1.99
Living Together: A Legal Guide for Unmarried Couples (13th Edition) Living Together: A Legal Guide for Unmarried Couples (13th Edition) by Toni Lynne Ihara
Buy used from: $1.77
Marriage Proposals: Questioning a Legal Status Marriage Proposals: Questioning a Legal Status by Anita Bernstein
Buy new: $40.00 / Used from: $29.99
Families Like Mine: Children of Gay Parents Tell It Like It Is Families Like Mine: Children of Gay Parents Tell It Like It Is by Abigail Garner
Buy new: $12.56 / Used from: $5.06
Unsung Heroines: Single Mothers and the American Dream Unsung Heroines: Single Mothers and the American Dream by Ruth Sidel
Buy new: $19.95 / Used from: $4.29

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Ellen Keim

Ellen is a freelance writer, essayist and copy editor, living with three cats and a husband in Columbus, OH.

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