I don’t want to get married: I’m not actively trying to, at least. It’s purely symbolic at this point, and even if one does get married, it is clearly no longer the lifelong commitment it was once suggested to be. But me, a woman? Not wanting to get married? That’s still a hot take for some. My parents know and they’re rather okay with it. As immigrants working hard-labor jobs, they’ve noticed the way I’ve been Americanized, but they know they can trust me to make my own decisions. I got to Williams College by my own volition and determination as a first-generation American and first-generation college student, so I suppose they don’t think I’m a complete idiot. I think I’ve got a lot going for me, and I honestly don’t think that I need to get married in order to live a happy and fulfilled life.
Marriage is an essential element of the nuclear family: You’ve got the husband as the breadwinner, the wife as the caretaker and the balls of chaotic energy that often end up being the only reason the couple stays together (also known as children). This worked pretty well until the second feminist movement, which prompted divorce rates to surge dramatically in the 1970s and ’80s. I guess housewives got fed up with being housewives, despite being initially convinced that they need a husband in order to be happy and that it would be absolutely impossible for a woman to be successful as a single mother. Women became empowered with the rise of Title IX and gender equality, giving women greater opportunities to become self-sufficient entities, financially independent and capable of leading their own careers and lives.
The development of birth control was definitely a large motivating factor in encouraging the feminist movement. Women took their reproductive rights into their own hands and gained the opportunity to have an active and fulfilling sex life. While that may have caused women to become commodities of lustful desire for the male gaze, considering the rapid exploitation of female sexuality that occurred in the 1980s and ’90s, I would like to think that we are crossing into a period where women are able to own that sexuality and appeal as a personal choice. In the time after the second feminist movement, images of nude women increased by 30 percent in the media, and according to a 2018 article from TIME magazine titled, “How the ’90s Tricked Women Into Thinking They’d Gained Gender Equality,” by Allison Yarrow, women were degraded to “gruesome sexual fantasies and misogynistic stereotypes” in the media in order to combat their newfound political, economic, and social power. Women eventually commercialized their own sexuality and insecurity, ingraining the idea of who and what a slutty bitch is, without leaving room to question the validity of such claims in a media landscape dominated by the constant stream of new information during the peak of the 24-hour news cycle’s development.
However, considering the candy-condom bowls that you can find in every entry common room, women are now clearly more inclined to seize their sexualities. With social media and the rise of sexually empowered celebrities like Kylie Jenner and Lizzo, girls are encouraged to embrace their sexualities and to enjoy life. While the sexual promiscuity of men, as it was in the past, is left unquestioned, women are just beginning to approach an equal playing field with men when it comes to their personal initiative in the bedroom. Of course, it’s impossible to avoid judging the personal choices of somebody, but I’d like to suggest that perhaps, as a generation of students graduating in the 2020s, we are in the process of fully leaving behind the days of desperate co-eds and the days of blatant slut-shaming.
I’m at Williams. I’m still shocked, and I’ve been here for more than a year. It wouldn’t have happened if the College hadn’t become co-ed in 1970, encouraged by the feminist revolution of the ’60s. Thanks, ladies. This means that I get to join the Williams community and that maybe I could actually get someplace in life by myself and my own initiative. But regardless of how emotionally jaded as I am as a person, I must admit that there’s value in human connection. I like being close to my friends and I love being close to the people I love. There’s value in being close to somebody, even if you both know that you won’t be together forever; even if it’s just for a single night or even if it’s close in the most superficial sense of the term. Life is short and meant to be enjoyed. Maybe I’ll luck out and find somebody with whom I’d want to spend a long time. Maybe I’ll have a kid, and maybe I could have a marriage ritual for the mere beautiful symbolism of it, but maybe not. I’m fine with any of the options.
Students come to Williams from all over the United States, and the international students here represent over 35 different countries. I know that not everybody comes from a place as liberal as New York City, but I’ll tell y’all that the dirty indulgence of the city is kind of mystical, especially if you take the time to leave your comfortable surroundings and broaden your horizons. It’s always at least a little scary, but it can be unbelievably fun and valuable. Riding the subway and wandering through the neighborhoods of the city as a kid in Queens, I’ve seen my fair share of people that were aggressively different from me in every single way. I’d even call them crazy, but then again, who’s to say that I’m not the crazy one here? I’ve had my eyes opened to a variety of human experiences, all often justified in their own way, often easily contradicting one another, but I accept them all with ease and the simple understanding that I am not them, and that this is merely life. Now, that’s empathy. I recommend it.
Victoria Michalska ’22 is from Maspeth, N.Y.