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I am a 25-year-old woman who recently became engaged. I have been a feminist since the tender age of fourteen. I am deeply in love with my husband to be, and I want to spend the rest of my life with him. However, I have made it clear that I would still like to retain my identity and my independence. I will not be taking his last name, and other customs and traditions such as the "giving away of the bride" or wearing a white dress will not be a part of my ceremony.

My boyfriend has been very receptive to my feminist beliefs for the most part, and I was quite shocked (and very disappointed) when he mentioned that he was planning to ask for my father's "permission" to marry me. I told him that I didn't like the meaning behind this tradition, or the implications of it. It harks back to a time when women were considered the property" of their father's and husband's. He was willing to respect my feelings. However, there are some people who have said that I was making a big deal out of nothing" and that if it was important to him I should have just went along with it. Also, when I state our intention to live in separate dwellings, people often respond with shock and disapproval. They will make comments like "What's the point of getting married then? Why not just stay single?" I have always been very independent, and I am the kind of person who needs her own space. It seems that a lot of people are under the impression that when a woman gets married she is no longer a person in her own right, and must be willing to give up all of her freedom and independence. These comments are both hurtful and insulting.

I don't know why people feel so threatened by women like me, who have a mind of our own and will not allow ourselves to be bound by sexist, patriarchal values and traditions.” On the one hand I want other people's approval, and I want to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance. On the other hand, I want to be true to myself and live by my convictions. Do you have any advice for me? I am sure this is something that other young feminists have struggled with at one time or another. Thank you.

I am actually not married, but live with my boyfriend and we have two kids together, so I have had to withstand similar comments and because I'm a feminist people attribute my decisions entirely to some supposed feminist rulebook. This is all to say that I can relate to your scenario. I do think it's important to be adamant about keeping your independence and because doing so if often an exception, I think we often have to go to extremes in order to end up at a more neutral place. And so essentially you have to go to an extreme because others are more likely to just resign themselves to tradition.

However, all of that said, I also think that relationships are inherently about compromise — not about one person compromising, but about each person giving and taking and that's just a natural element of relationships. I think that problems often arise in relationships when there is an expectation of compromise and it's not that the compromise itself is shattering, but that you never thought it would happen. It's better to lower the expectation and be happily surprised. I also think that in this day and age marriage is increasingly confusing. Historically there was a real need for marriage — especially for women for whom marriage was an escape from their families.

Today, women don't need marriage the way they once did, but people still treat the institution as sacred and yet it increasingly is exposed as a legal bond. And that latter point is threatening to people who want to see it solely as a romantic act. I think that some of the reaction you are getting has less to do with what people really think about you and more to do with people being forced to re-examine or justify their own experience. I think that your example will go a long way toward encouraging others to ask for/expect more, but sadly, in the process it's likely that people will feel put off by that.

— Amy