I curated a Spotify playlist which I titled “어쩌라고.” which in Korean means: “So What?”
Yeah, it sounds obnoxious I know, but bear with me because I swear I have a reason. I’m a 20 year old Malaysian Chinese female who comes from a relatively traditional extended family. Very joystick-toting, “no boyfriend yet ah?”, children-are-meant-to-be-seen-and-not heard type family. You know what I’m talking about right?
So, it’s no wonder that I get weird looks at every reunion dinner when I tell my family, confidently and unashamedly in response to their barrage of questions, that I don’t even plan on looking for a boyfriend till I’m 26 or 27.
“No one will want you by then.” They joke.
“Wouldn’t you be an old maid by then?” They tease.
“Marry a rich man la.” They advise me.
(When one of them said that I actually candidly said: “I’m not going to marry a rich man, I plan on being the rich man.”)
Of course all of these are said in jest, or so I hope. I often sweep these under the carpet, attributing this behaviour to years and years of generational ideals that stem from patriarchal behaviour. And besides, it’s just my extended family, it’s not like I have to see them every day right?
Just smile and let it slide Ashley.
But there was one thing that really, really hit home while I was driving my mom back from our dog, Boba’s, vet appointment. My usual vet is a wonderful woman in her late 20s whom we adore mainly because of her patience when it comes to us fretting over Boba.
“The vet will make a good wife one day. She’s sweet, soft spoken and patient.”
Which are amazing attributes, I agree. But is that really all a woman is meant to be? I mean she’s a successful vet who regularly performs surgery on animals, a feat that I can’t even begin to wrap my head around because of the stress and emotional weight of the job. And the one thing that my mom takes away from that is that she’s good “wife material”?
Yes, being respectful to your future partner is one of the core foundations of every marriage, but does that mean every “good” wife has to be sweet and soft spoken? And what about their male counterparts? When I asked her what makes good “husband” material she went on to list out:
“Well, he should be the breadwinner of the family, tough and carry on his family name.”
The thing is, I can’t blame her for thinking like that, but I grew up in a world where the Internet liberated me from such ideals. Which is probably why if you ask anyone in the MUSA office or even my fellow editors that I honestly, in the most respectful way possible do not give as much of a f*** as I should when it comes to these traditions.
I’ve always been a feminist, which I think many people often associate with the fact that I’m misogynistic, which is the farthest from the truth (my shrine to NCT Dream in my office will certainly prove otherwise). The thing about feminism, or at least my version of is that I just want the same number of opportunities to be provided to the female community, without having to put down anyone else. I believe an individual, regardless of the reproductive organs they are born with, should be treated based on their merit and qualifications without prejudice, a quality which extends to my image of an “ideal husband”.
Who says that men can’t be stay at home dads?
Who says that women can’t bring back the bacon while also fulfilling the maternal desire to have children?
Who says that men can’t cry after they’ve had a long day at work?
These gendered stereotypes of husband and wife need to be crumpled, tossed out of the window and purged in every other way imaginable, because we live in a society where women are marrying later and having less children while men are learning how to be more emotionally vulnerable in a world that has always forced them to repress their feelings.
So what if I prioritise my career over my love life?
So what if I want a guy that’s just as sweet spoken as I should be?
So what if I want someone who ultimately isn’t good “husband” or even “wife” material but just a good partner?
Written by Ashley Lim