“So, when are you getting married?”
This question has quite possibly been the bane of my existence for most of my life, I’m speaking from purely a Somali perspective here but I know many women from other cultures will relate to this. As children we’re essentially spoon fed the idea that we’ll get married and have children, and it gets to the point that it becomes a milestone, something that we need to achieve to been seen as successful.
I have vivid memories of debating with adults about this concept, because I was always on side with the school of thought that we should only get married if we want to, but they way they discussed it was as if it wasn’t a choice. I was drilled with the idea that I would go to school, university then get married, and getting a job was always in the ‘maybe’ category. I even debated with an imam at mosque once who told us that Islamic we have to get married, and I shut him down, it’s sunnah, but it’s not obligatory. I almost got kicked out for that one.
Essentially we’re told that we should get married so much that when we eventually reach the age of doing it, it feels like we’ve failed if we haven’t done it – and that sucks. This isn’t a post judging married people in anyway shape or form, be happy, have partners, but let’s not raise children to be wives for their husbands. Let’s not fill them with so much pressure that they feel like they have to marry the first person that they believe their parents would accept.
Alongside being drilled with these thoughts we are also trained to become caretakers to our ‘future husbands’. We’re piled with loads of domestic responsibilities from a very young age, we’re made to cook, clean, babysit and honestly by the age of 16 a Somali girl has basically lived a 10 lives worth of running the house. We are honestly made to do too much, and the fact that I can say I’ve changed more nappies than both my parents is saying something.
I also spent a lot of my teenage years baby sitting, changing nappies, running the house whenever my parents went out. I even looked after the kids when my mum was giving birth, despite also being considered quite young. I was so used to the responsibility that I didn’t realise that this wasn’t the norm for a lot of people.
So once I finally graduated I was suddenly asked the fateful question again by one of my aunts, and I answered ‘not any time soon’, and that shocked people. Which is weird because my family are considered pretty chill compared to other Somali families, but the lingering pressure was still there. I did however preempt this and spend most of my teenage years preparing my parents for the fact that I probably wouldn’t get married any time soon, and the decreased likelihood of having children. They dealt with it well, I know deep down my mum does wish I didn’t feel like this, but one positive thing about having divorced parents is that they can’t reinforce the need to get married as heavily as some do.
I also know I’m quite lucky, I grew up with a lot of girls who were emotionally blackmailed by their parents when it came to marriage. Some cultures only see the girls role as one of marriage, and creating families, so some girls had to argue with their parents to even get further education. Some still receive the pressure to get married, and if they say no, it’s going against their families.
Free will is one of those things that I wish was offered to everyone regardless of gender, but that just isn’t the world we live in. My culture loves to let our boys run rampant, but we control our girls, keep them cooking, cleaning and occasionally they can fly the nest, but in a lot of cases it takes a lot of planning.
So let’s stop telling young girls they need to get married, let’s focus on getting them educated. If they want to get married and have children, that can be something they want to do, and not something they feel like they have to. If they want to be a house wife, let them do that too, but remember they need to have free will and be able to make choices about their future. 🙂