Mattie Jo Cowsert
Feminine Frontlines Part 2
Updated: May 5, 2020
I hope you enjoyed my last blog post clarifying that feminism doesn’t mean burning bras and/or having a bowl cut. It means equality for women. Together, Cardi B and I gave you permission to call yourself a feminist, even if you’re a young mother who enjoys a little too much Real Housewives. Yay feminism!
The article I linked in my last blog entitled The One Life That Makes Every Girl Blush spurred so many thoughts I decided to, as not to overwhelm your attention span, address them in different blog posts. Here is the entire article if you’re interested in reading the whole thing: The One Life Dream That Makes a Girl Blush
Here are the snippets I’d like to address today:
Because of my work, I sit down regularly with single, young women. Single young women who want nothing more than a wedding ring, the kids, the house, the whole lot. And mind you, their wishes are never wicked or wrong. What they desire is not evil. What they hope for isn’t silly...
And yet, I see it... After they’ve told me all of they’ve said of their current life, their work, their time, their goals. They don’t want to say it, for fear that admitting it will make them look weak.
“I know it’s silly,” one girl said. “I know. But…” she hesitated, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. “I really just want to be married. To raise some kids. To take care of a home.” She’s almost embarrassed by the time she’s finished saying the sentiment.
Can we stop treating wives and moms with the eye-rolling disdain that says “only the simple-minded woman would choose such an outdated path?" We all buy into this narrative so much that when a 21-year-old girl sits across the table from me and tells me that she wants to be a mother, she blushes and gives a thousand caveats as to why she knows it’s not the optimal choice.
As I said in my last blog post, there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to be married, have a family, “the whole lot.” I too desire to be married and raise a family someday. The young woman (women) she speaks of in this article are indeed not wrong in their desires.
Buuuuuuuuut, the girl (yes, GIRL) she speaks of in this particular example telling of her “...current life, their work, their time, their goals…” is 21. When I was 21 I was still smuggling Diet Mountain Dew out of the dining hall in my camelback and spending way too much loan money on sorority T-shirts. Could I really be trusted with a decision like who I will spend my entire life with and/or have babies? I will tell you. No, I could not.
Most importantly, I’d lose my virginity before I turned 23! Thank the Heavens.
If I was sitting across from that 21 year old, my response/advice via blog would look a little different. It would look something like this:
Hey 21 year old who hasn’t even graduated college, been on her own health insurance, or had a social outing in 4 years that didn’t include meeting at a subtle-Biblical-reference-in-the-name-coffee-shop (lookin at you, Potter’s House) and/or a drunken evening with your sorority sisters you should probably repent for like yesterday. Calm down.
Are you really heart broken because you’re not on the track to marriage? Or are you just ready to get laid? Those two things are not the same. Decipher wisely because, regardless of what the church has told you about sex outside of marriage, it’s not near as consequential as marrying someone before you’re truly ready just for the sake of gettin it in.
Maybe you’re thinking, “Okay, STRANGER, how do you know I’m not ready to be married? YOU DON’T KNOW ME.” Which is fair. I don’t know YOU specifically. But I know a lot of yous who are now in their late twenties and divorced. I also know you because I was you.
My first serious boyfriend was perfectly timed for my Evangelical trajectory. We met when I was 19 years old at a 4 year University. I was a freshman and he was a junior. It was perfect! We could be together for at least 3 years while I finished college, he’d be working, I’d graduate college, and we’d both definitely be grown up enough to take vows. Most importantly, I’d lose my virginity before I turned 23! Thank the Heavens.
Spoiler, my college boyfriend and I did not stay together until I graduated. Lucky for me/us, God knew our deepest desires did not involve getting married before 25 just because we both enjoyed Jesus and/or sexual repression. Nope, turns out, there is A LOT more to being compatible with a person than religious views and commitment to sexual misery. I mean, purity… (you can read more about my holy couple years here).
I got to choose my life
So while most of my friends were still on the “Ring by Spring” track, I was newly single and ready to escape the wedding marathon madness by moving to New York City after graduation. What ensued was nothing short of an identity crisis. My years of singlehood in a city totally different than where I grew up offered endless opportunities for new experiences and personal growth.
I lived with highly accomplished women (one of my roommates went to Oxford and Harvard Law. I didn’t even know people like her existed outside of movies) in their 30s who were not at all concerned with their singleness. I once dated a guy who called my background “Evangelican” and I thought this is the kind of religious ignorance I need in my life. I got to spend my money traveling instead of saving for a wedding I could never afford anyway. I got to unlearn harmful messages from my past, redefine my faith, and ultimately how I showed up in the world.
I got to choose my life.
Evangelical culture vilifies women who do prioritize themselves before getting married. We’re called selfish, self-centered, and giving into “desires of the flesh.”
No one else in your circle is going to tell you this so just trust me here, 21 year old. The Evangelical church preys on young women like you in their ignorance. There is strategic indoctrination that firmly establishes a belief that women are nothing if not the virginal wife of a man. Our value is dependent on a man’s choosing of us and we must do everything in our power to live out that limited expression of womanhood.
Furthermore, Evangelical culture vilifies women who do prioritize themselves before getting married. We’re called selfish, self-centered, and giving into “desires of the flesh.” The only reason we left the church is because we want to fuck recklessly without guilt (read more about how this is absolutely NOT the case). The opposite of the selfless #Proverbs31Woman God wants us to be.
Before you have any chance to choose how you want to show up as an individual, you’re anchored to someone else(s). Before you’ve given yourself any attention, your attention is completely on another. The shame of even considering divorce for your “own selfish desires” is debilitating. Thinking of yourself before your partner or kids isn’t an option. You took vows. You’re a mom now.
The courage and identity overhaul it would require to escape that shame-filled, fear based messaging feels insurmountable. So you stay. It’s God’s way, afterall. It’s not supposed to be easy. Pray harder. The path to life is narrow (Matthew 7:14).
Before everyone throws stones, let me be clear. I’m not suggesting every single person who gets married between ages 20-25 is doomed to be unhappy one day/not totally capable of making a rational decision about long term monogamous commitment. After all, a marriage that happens in your late 30s or 40s can end up unhappy one day. I have many friends and family (my parents were married at 19 and my sister at 21) that married young whom I believe are so lucky to have found their person early on. What a joy to spend more of your living decades together than not with your best friend and lover! Hallelu!
They’re afraid if you take any time for yourself, your beliefs will be challenged
I also don’t believe every young marriage is always entered into because of social pressure for the woman to assume the matronly role and/or lack of exposure to other options. I know couples who married in college, pursuing their PhDs, and are kid-free. I know couples who still bring the best party, followed by the greatest hangover brunch. I know couples who spend all their free time traveling abroad, Baby Bjourn in tow. I understand that a young marriage doesn’t mean you’re suddenly Amish.
All I’m saying is, 21 year old, what’s the rush? Why is the Evangelical church so afraid of you living a life that is truly yours before you go sharing it with another human/raising little humans? My guess is, if I had to take a gander, they’re afraid of you.
They’re afraid if you take any time for yourself, your beliefs will be challenged. Challenged to the point of probably changing. Now you know better. You’ve confidently called bullshit on the lies they always claimed were absolute truth and they no longer have control.
The best thing that ever happened to me was my college breakup. Sure, it sucked. Heartbreak always does. But at least my partner now will know they're with a healthy individual, not a mess of projections and inherited beliefs. At least I'll be actively choosing my partner, not just committing because I don't think I have another choice. And more than anything I'll be committed to real person, not just an idea.
So, 21 year old. Hold that desire for a husband and kids. Put it on a vision board, I don’t care. But don’t believe the hype that you have to do it by a certain age or with your hymen intact. Don’t believe that living “selfishly” in your 20s is the opposite of Godly. Don’t let church (NOT GOD) messaging corner you into living a life based in scarcity. Don’t let fear ingrained by straight white guys keep you from choosing your life. There is so much life to live. Get to it :)