Luther College Chips

Why are we striving towards “marriage material?”

Olivia Enquist, Staff Writer

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If summer is wedding season, then fall must be the season to get engaged. At least that’s what it seems to be within my circle of friends and high school acquaintances. Every time I log onto a social media platform, specifically Facebook, I see more and more photos or updates about engagements. While I am pleased that my friends are happy enough to post weekly or even daily updates about an event months away, I have also noticed an annoying trend as an increased number of people get engaged. Alongside engagement notices, I see shared articles about how to be “girlfriend” or “marriage material.”

These articles are often titled things like “10 Things Great Girlfriends Do,” or “8 Ways to Know Your Girlfriend Isn’t Marriage Material.” Even worse yet, some are titled things like “Maybe You Don’t Have a (insert male celebrity of your choosing here) Boyfriend because You Aren’t Acting Like Girlfriend Material.” Barf. I have an endless number of issues with these articles. Even before addressing content issues, the language and style of these articles are unbearable. I cannot believe that people actually get paid for compiling bullet point lists with the same eight GIFs of sitcom characters reacting to things. I also cannot believe that these people then consider themselves published writers, especially considering that the articles they produce both enforce strict gender roles and condemn classic ideas of femininity.

In these articles, there seems to be two contending schools of thought. That to be “marriage material” one must fall within a strict guideline of what it means to be a woman, yet one must like things that are typically considered male. That one must be attractive, fit, funny, smart but never intimidating, engaging but never loud, and always willing to be “one of the guys.” Essentially, that she be a mold of a specific type of woman and yet “not like other girls.” This implies that by liking things typically associated with femininity, such as shopping, she is vain but by not following prescriptive gender norms she is unattractive. The issue here is not with women’s interests or preferred lifestyles. It instead lies with the notion that male things are good, and female things are somehow bad. This is a notion that is only enforced by opinion articles on how to be “marriage material.”

Furthermore, why is being “marriage material” something to aim for? Why is marriage considered a goal that all women must have in their life? That somehow, by not living happily ever after in a heteronormative stereotype, these women are unfulfilled. As if having careers or friendships or volunteering or family is not fulfilling in its own right. Nobody reminds men focusing on their careers that “the clock is ticking” and that they should start settling down. Yet that happens to women all the time. Also, last time I checked, most humans are made up of the same stuff as any other human. The idea that one person is intrinsically better suited for a relationship because they follow more societal norms is ridiculous. There are 7 billion people on the earth, and what makes every one of those people interesting are the differences between them. The idiosyncrasies that make people weird are the things that makes people interesting. The best connections that we have with other people come from relationships where we can be unapologetically ourselves, not some gender norm of what we think we should be within a relationship. So, can we please stop sharing, commenting, and liking articles about how to be “marriage material” when such a thing doesn’t even exist?

Signed,
Olivia Enquist (‘19)

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