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Why are we under so much pressure to get hitched before we hit 30? (Shutterstock/*)
I recently had a small get-together with my high-school friends. The conversation between us revolved around reminiscing about our time as students way back then, jobs, keeping up to date with what was happening with our respective lives and gossiping.
And then this topic came up: Marriage.
A female friend said this during our meeting: “My parents are very traditional; they want me to get married before I turn 30."
Another friend chimed in, “You know this so-and-so is also feeling galau [insecure] lately because she’s still single.”
This type of conversation about relationship and marriage has become a staple discussion whenever I go out with my fellow female friends who are in their 20s. The constant chatter about it prompts me to wonder - why are we under so much pressure to get hitched before we hit 30?
Out of frustration, I once asked my mother about this and this is what she said to me, “There’s this stigma surrounding women who are still not married by the age of 30 being labeled as ‘unwanted’ or ‘left over’.”
It saddened me to hear her answer because it underlies the message that for us women, despite how hard we’ve worked to make a living, or no matter how well educated you are, you’re still a failure if you don’t get yourself a husband.
(Read also: Islamic feminism matters)
A survey conducted in 2012 by Yahoo! She Indonesia found that of 7,335 female respondents asked “should women get married?” 37 percent answered no, while 63 percent preferred to settle down because “It is women’s fate”.
During a powerful TED Talk on feminism, famed novelist and writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie addresses this same issue, saying “We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise, you would threaten the man. Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important.”
At the end of the video, she acknowledges the need to change a culture that doesn’t fully acknowledge the humanity of women, explaining that it is not culture that makes people but people that make culture.
If culture is indeed the thing that has shaped our mindset, then let’s change it. Culture evolves as society evolves. In the past it might have been an acceptable norm for women to just wait for a man to ask for her hand in marriage because back then women weren’t even allowed to go to school and had to be kept at home until a man agreed to wed her.
But thanks to our national heroine R.A. Kartini, who fought hard for education for girls, now we are allowed to go to school just like boys. In fact, Indonesia’s school participation rate is higher for females than males nowadays and there are more female than male students in university.
So why do we still have to stick to the old tradition that doesn’t represent the current situation of women?
In a touching advertisement by cosmetic brand SK-II that went viral a few months ago, I was so moved by the single young Chinese women profiled in the video who bravely stood up against their parents’ pressure and the status quo that label them as “leftover women”. One woman said in the video, “I have a great career, and there’s another term for that: ‘powerful woman’.”
Your success in life doesn't depend on whether men find you attractive or not, success depends on yourself alone.
Be independent, be a leader, get your dream job, pursue your passion, be who you want to be and love who you want to love.
If you’re still single in your 20s,it’s not the end of the world! Being single can help you in finding your true self; it’s also the time where you can learn to love yourself. No one can make you happy until you're happy with yourself first.
And no, I’m not implying that all young women in their 20s should put marriage on hold before they turn 30. If you do want to settle down, make sure it is because you love that person and you feel that it really is the right time for you to share the rest of your future with this special someone.
Let the decision come from your heart and mind, not from the pressure that the society places upon your shoulders.
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.