A Woman is Not Her Marital Status

Leslie and Arnaud’s wedding rings and invitation. Image credit:  Ian Holmes.

Leslie and Arnaud’s wedding rings and invitation. Image credit: Ian Holmes.

Not long ago, a promotional video for a pediatric oncology center went viral on Facebook. In it, two parents and an oncologist talk about a young female patient with brain cancer.

I won’t link to or embed it here, because it infuriates me.

The video recounts the father’s reaction when told that his daughter had an aggressive cerebral tumor: “Will I ever get to walk my daughter in her wedding?”

Next, the announcer tells us that the girl’s cancer has gone into remission and closes with the father stating that the physician will walk the daughter down the aisle when she gets married someday. In response, the doctor says that he’ll retire when that happens, because he can’t imagine a greater sense of accomplishment.

Hold on a moment. My blood boils again.

I can’t believe that the organization that created this video didn’t see its offensiveness. And I can’t believe that people actually shared it.

Tell me you see the problem here.

Someone tells you that your little girl—a miracle of life and possibility—may not make it past another year. You don’t despair that she may not live to cure influenza or develop the next world-changing technology or, more simply, have a brilliant career and fulfilled life of rich relationships and mind-expanding experiences.

Of course not. Your main concern? That she may not get married.

This reaction exposes the shockingly common notion that a woman’s primary value comes from marriage. As though an altar and a husband mean success for the female sex.

Would this father have said such a thing about his male offspring? Would losing a chance to see his son stand at the wedding altar be the first thought this dad had when he heard about his boy’s likely death?

Doubtful. Highly doubtful.

I’ve never married, though I’ve had the option. Frankly, marriage to anyone I’ve dated so far would have reduced my current happiness and held me back from my achievements to date. Sure, I hope to find a life partner at some point. Yet if I never do, I won’t consider my life wasted or a failure.

And if my father feels that way, he’d sure as hell better not tell me so.

This type of thinking about women drives females to tie their self-worth to their appearance, limiting their happiness and their possibilities. This line of thought leads directly into the princess culture. This perspective pushes women to think that their primary objectives wait at the end of an aisle, rather than in career achievement, challenging life experiences, and fulfilling relationships (even the marital kind). These cultural assumptions push women into unhappy relationships because they feel society expects them wedded—and keep them in unhappy and even abusive unions long after they should have left.

Marriage does not shine as the glorious summit of a woman’s existence. Whether she chooses marriage or her family, religion, or culture make marriage a necessary yet not necessarily life-culminating rite of passage, a woman’s marital status does not bear on her worth as a human or her value to this world. It has no more significance than the color of her hair or her skin. She means so much more than one contract, even a good one.

And we need to halt the currents that make it seem otherwise.