"But You’re Married" : My thoughts on sexism

Over the course of the next year I doubt I will have much time to write. Not just to write notes for patients, or the occasional cooking post, but to really think about social constructs, political mishaps, cultural norms, etc. and put my thoughts to paper, or e-paper as it were, in a constructed, polished fashion. So for the most part I’ll abstain from writing. We’ll see though.

But before I stop clicking away entirely, I have one thought I wanted to share about the phrase: “but you’re married.” Over the course of the short time we have been married, multiple people have said that to me, usually in the context of a comment I make about someone else’s good looks. Over the course of the short time we have been married zero people have said that to my husband, but multiple people have asked him why is he married? Looking at these two statements a little closer, it is not hard to make the jump that…

1. Why are you married? (to my husband) = why are you married when you could be out there livin’ it up with the ladies.

2. You’re married. (to me) = you’re married, so therefore your eyes belong to your husband alone.

I don’t think I have to discuss the sexist nature of the first question, other than to say I have only rarely gotten that question and when I have it has been wondering if I did it for tax purposes or a green card.

On to the second, and potentially more problematic, point. Now the obvious and defensive response to this is that I’m looking too closely at a benign statement, or it’s just people being surprised that I might say “damn that guy is hot!” when I’m married.

Regarding the first explanation, that I am looking too closely for a problem that is not there, I say that in the world we live in now it is the insidious statements that can be the most damaging. It is the unintended hidden meaning behind the sentence that we can fail to realize, allowing subconscious sexism to slip into our actions. Looking closely at a sentence and saying it is problematic is not to suggest it is malevolence-driven, but to call attention to problems deeply ingrained in our society and ourselves that we must fix.

When a person gets married, do they lose their ability to see? Is the only thing that makes a marriage or partnership solid willful blindness to other physical attractiveness around you? Is the depth of your love and devotion to your partner reflected in whether or not you find someone else good to look at? And most importantly — why is that my husband does not receive comments like this, but I do?

The implication of this, with a little mental processing, is that by getting married I signed on to an asymmetrical contract wherein he owns the entirety of my female sexuality — including my ability to comment on the attractiveness of others. As such, men (most frequently but not exclusively) feel the need to remind me that I signed on to this binding contract by saying, “but you’re married” in a mildly disapproving or scandalized tone.

From there, it is inferable that female sexuality is still something we as a society have not fully come to terms with. After years of bra-burning, birth control having, voting rights supporting feminism, we have reached new heights for women’s rights, but it is clear that the jezebel-construct still underlies much of our social discourse. While seemingly innocuous, “reminding me” that I am married has the dual effect of shaming me for what I said and thought while making clear my husband’s ownership.

This is another facet of modern-day sexism. It is not always in your face women-can’t-drive-or-work comments, it is simple reminders, or shocked tones. If we accept these comments at face value, we will ultimately fail to move forward in our fight (and yes, it is still a fight) for equal rights on all grounds. It may be uncomfortable, but we must fight for equal footing on sexuality, or we will never really be equal.

So the next time you hope to remind me that I’m married, I can assure you that I happily remember, and I would ask that you reflect on why it is that you felt the need to say that. Hopefully, in doing so, you can realize any internal biases you may hold and help the next generation of young women step into a more fair world.

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