Malala Yousafzai: I’m still a feminist, even though I married a hot guy

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Last week, Malala Yousafzai announced her marriage to Asser Malik. People were very happy for her because Asser is hot, he seems like a good guy and he looks like he adores her. People were happy for Asser because he’s married to a cool, amazing, Nobel-Prize-winning lady. But of course we all brought up Malala’s interview in British Vogue over the summer, where she talked sh-t about marriage about how she didn’t want to get hitched. Well, Malala heard people bringing up her marriage views and she would like to set the record straight: her qualms about marriage were justified because she has seen how girls are basically forced into marriage as teens. She wrote a short essay for British Vogue about this and let me tell you, she can barely contain the fact that she met a hot piece, fell in love and it rocked her world.

She’s a feminist: “I do not want to get married… or at least not until I’m 35.” I heard myself blurt out those words – reactionary, half-consciously – many times over the last few years when asked about relationships. I wasn’t against marriage, but I was cautious about its practice. I questioned the patriarchal roots of the institution, the compromises women are expected to make after the wedding, and how laws regarding relationships are influenced by cultural norms and misogyny in many corners of the world. I feared losing my humanity, my independence, my womanhood – my solution was to avoid getting married at all.

Child brides: I couldn’t call myself a feminist if I didn’t have reservations. According to Girls Not Brides, 12 million girls aged under 18 get married every year. For most of these girls, marriage is not a fulfilling partnership – it is servitude. Growing up in the north of Pakistan, girls were taught that marriage was a substitute for an independent life. If you don’t study, get a job and build a place for yourself, you must get married soon. You failed your exams? You can’t find work? Get married!

Another way: With education, awareness and empowerment, we can start to redefine the concept of marriage and the structure of relationships, along with many other social norms and practices. Culture is made by people – and people can change it too. My conversations with my friends, mentors and my now partner Asser helped me consider how I could have a relationship – a marriage – and remain true to my values of equality, fairness and integrity.

She’s known Asser since 2018: In the summer of 2018, Asser was visiting friends at Oxford and we crossed paths. He worked in cricket, so I immediately had a lot to discuss with him. He liked my sense of humour. We became best friends. We found we had common values and enjoyed each other’s company. We stood by each other in moments of happiness and disappointment. Through our individual ups and downs, we talked and listened to each other. And when words failed, I sent him a link to our horoscope compatibility, hoping the stars could help reinforce our connection. In Asser, I found a best friend and companion. I still don’t have all the answers for the challenges facing women – but I believe that I can enjoy friendship, love and equality in marriage. So, on Tuesday, 9 November, we celebrated our nikkah at home with our families and closest friends in Birmingham.

[From British Vogue]

You absolutely KNOW that she was head over heels when she gets to the part about sending him horoscopes!! She was anti-marriage until she found a hot guy! And that’s totally fine! We’ve all been there, Malala. It’s completely hilarious. I also think it’s cool that Malala and Asser have known each other for years now, and she makes it sound like she did some of the pursuit. “I don’t want to get married, now here are some horoscopes which show that we are meant to be.”

Malala was also recently on the Andrew Marr Show and she once again emphasized that her anti-marriage sentiments were legitimate because of child-marriage and the “imbalance of power” which comes with so many marriages: “I was not against marriage, I had concerns about marriage and that is true for many girls around the world who have seen reports about child marriage and reports about forced marriage.” She also said that it’s important for women to question “these customs [which] are influenced by patriarchy and misogyny. So you have to question the systems that we are living in and we have to question the status quo but I am lucky that I found a person who understands my values.”

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Photos courtesy of Malala’s social media.

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49 Responses to “Malala Yousafzai: I’m still a feminist, even though I married a hot guy”

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  1. lanne says:

    It’s so refreshing to see someone who survived attempted murder, and then devoted herself to speaking out as an advocate for girls, also behave like a young girl. It’s touching because she was so very close to never getting the opportunity to swoon like a young girl, and here she is. If the marriage doesn’t work out, if they grow apart, she’s at least in a situation where she can end it. She gets to live her life, have her triumphs, make her mistakes, celebrate her joys, endure her sufferings, gain insights from acquired and accumulated experience. She gets to live her life on her own terms, the way ALL girls deserve to live, even thought so many never get the chance to.
    Bravo Malala!

    • Branvoyage says:

      Wonderful comments and I totally agree! :)

    • GrnieWnie says:

      yeah, I agree. I think it’s refreshing to hear her talk about women redefining marriage in terms that work for them. And she’s providing an example of that – one that is particularly poignant because she’s offering this example within a cultural setting that defines marriage so rigidly. This is what women from very conservative cultures can offer the world when they have access to education. So this just makes me want to cheer for women around the world who are struggling against the forces trying to keep them ignorant, disenfranchised, and disempowered.

      • Betsy says:

        And that’s precisely why the men in power of these patriarchal religions (and I am speaking mostly of conservative Christianity, because I don’t know much about conservative Judaism, Islam or any other patriarchal religion) fight education and fight birth control and abortion rights. They really fight anything that might give women the idea that they have the same worth and same rights as men.

      • lanne says:

        Ultraorthodox Judaism and Islam do the same thing as Christianity. Luckily the cat’s out of the bag with social media and a connected world. In the west at least, there’s no way to deny a woman with a cell phone an education–or it’s incredibly dififcult to do so without major social isolation. I think a lot of the patriarchy now is about punishing the women they can’t control. I’m curious to see what the women of Afghanistan, especially those in the cities who never knew the Taliban, do in response to the Taliban coup. I don’t think it’s enough to tell women to stay home–not over time. They are going to have to fight to get their rights back–a fight they thought they had won 20 years ago. but hey, we in the USA are having to do the same damn thing. Our fight for equality is just getting started.

    • Otaku fairy says:

      So true.

  2. Kiera says:

    You go Glenn Coco!

    • Kiera says:

      Btw I mean that in a really great way. Like this just made my day reading this happy. My go to for awesome things is you go glen coco. I realized after I posted that it might be seen as flippant.

  3. Cg2495 says:

    Dang, the woman is allowed to change her mind without the world criticizing. I did not wanted children , I am turning the big 4-0 next year and finally want a child. I will do it as a single woman. So yeah, we can change our minds and is ok. We don’t need the world to pile on us because we do.

    Congrats to Malala and wish her all the happiness !

    • L says:

      being a single mom can have hard moments, but overall i really, REALLY prefer it! im in a co-parenting situation, with my kid’s father living in another state, and it works for us quite well. pandemic, especially at the breakout, had him less capable of flying over to visit for a moment, but otherwise its been real decent as an arrangement. fingers crossed for you! being a mom is one of my favorite things, truly.

    • Ariel says:

      @Cg2495 – I wish you success and great happiness in your journey and the challenges you’ll face along the way. Life changes, views change, needs change. Good for you for not being stuck in what you wanted then, and embracing what you want now!

      • Cg2495 says:

        @ARIEL @L thank you so much ladies! I am scared shitless and anxious but excited at the same time. My marriage failed and going through a divorce now but my desire for being a mom whichever way it comes is still there. My views on what is family has changed and I see so many happy single parents by choice out there and reading your stories makes me feel happy… that I can also do it. Thank you ladies and hope my journey to motherhood is a happy one!

    • Glow says:

      From a fellow single mom by choice, yay and good luck to you. I love being a single parent to my two. Never regretted it for a minute.

    • Brandy Alexander says:

      I was the same as you – didn’t want children my entire life, then I hit 39 and a switch just flipped. I have one amazing little boy and am so glad I did it at the time when I was actually ready for it. I’m not single, but I was raised by an amazing single women and as long as there is lots of love to give, you guys will be great (when the time comes)!

    • lucy2 says:

      Exactly – women are allowed to change their minds.

    • teehee says:

      Me too…. :P nothing is static. Learning means also changing- so its bad to actually always stay the same. And emotionally, in human relationships, we adapt to each other and grow – so there’s no way things can all stay 100% identical for all time.

    • IMUCU says:

      Ohmigosh, are you me?! I am also going on 40, going through a divorce and considering bringing a child into my life after everything settles down. I’ve always been interested in fostering or adopting. Good luck on your journey!

  4. OriginalLala says:

    In my friend group from Uni I was the least likely to get married, was not interested at all – when I met my now-husband a few years later, I was the first of our friend group to get married. It happens, people change.

    What she says about the reality of marriage for many women around the globe (and throughout history) is true and its definitely something we all should think and talk more about.

  5. Cessily says:

    I hope he is a good guy, and good to her. I wish them both peace and happiness That’s it.

  6. K says:

    The only thing that matters is that she is happy and thriving.I wish them the best. I cannot wait to see what she accomplishes.

  7. Sofia says:

    You can change your mind about things – including marriage. I wish her and her husband lots of happiness.

  8. Chill says:

    I’m married and I still have doubts about the institution of marriage. I get it. But, you have to find the right partner.

    • bettyrose says:

      Hard same. I still don’t understand why people outside the U.S. – e.g. in countries with national healthcare – get married. That’s the single most important marriage benefit in the U.S. But it sucks that people often have to get married to share health care benefits before they’re ready for marriage. Or on the other side of the coin, some couples in love can’t get married because being eligible for private health care would mean giving up medicare coverage. I’m just rambling. But I wish Malala and all in love couples all the best. I just question the legal institution.

      • Silent Star says:

        I feel the same @BETTYROSE. I’m Canadian and don’t intend to ever marry my life partner with whom I have 2 kids. There’s just no need. I don’t really get why people get married unless they get a legal benefit out of it.

  9. Doodle says:

    I am in love with the picture of her against the leaves looking at him. The colors are absolutely gorgeous! I feel like she doesn’t need to justify a thing to any of us. It’s apparent to me that she’s a strong woman and if she made the decision to get married then why should I have a problem with it? People aren’t robots and they are allowed to grow and change.

  10. Amy Bee says:

    Why is Andrew Marr asking her getting married? Like it’s some gotcha that she got married.

  11. Ariel says:

    I wish her all the happiness in the world. And i hope this partnership works out for her.
    This makes my heart sing.

  12. marisa says:

    tearing up. i love how he is looking at her. she is amazing and i wish her all the happiness in the world.

  13. Eni says:

    While mariage can be used as a tool for subjugation, at its core, historically it protects women. In pre-modern societies where might makes right, what prevents a man from kicking his wife to the curb and leave her to die? Nothing, except a legally binding agreement – a marriage contract. He (and often his family) are legally obligated to provide her with food and shelter until she dies. So in societies where women have no right of property, that’s the difference between life and death.
    I feel the conversation should be: we should strive towards a world where marriage is NOT necessary, because all women will be financially independent.

    • Bettyrose says:

      Eni – I see what you’re saying but the argument that marriage protects women from a system designed to punish unmarried women is a little regressive. The only answer in my opinion is to have a complete division between a spiritual commitment and legal benefits. Marriage should not be the source of legal protections. But of course all adults should have the power to assign legal rights to another adult. Their lover, their sibling, their best friend. Whenever they share their life with.

    • Ange says:

      I think you have it backwards. Historically women weren’t put into marriage for their protection but as trade between families or to strengthen alliances. We were property to be bred for more bargaining chips and usually treated as such. Even noble, financially secure women were treated abominably in marriage but nothing was done because the alliance they secured was more important than their comfort and security.

      A woman was much better protected by never getting married because that gave them far more determinism in their own life. Women often ran businesses or traded, more so than women in later times.

    • A.Key says:

      Eni, marriage historically was a contract to own a woman who was considered property, in the literal sense. You were acquiring a transportable baby producing vessel that was meant to give you heirs to inherit your estate/assets, and that was it. As long as the woman gave you legitimate healthy sons nobody gave a F if she died afterwards. So lets not romanticize historical marriage please. Also, if she survived childbirth then you got free labor to boot.

  14. Lizzie Bathory says:

    It’s true that the institution of marriage has not historically been a good or progressive one for girls/women. And it’s also true that if you are lucky enough to meet your person, you’d still fall head over heels in love & want to be with them forever. The second time I met Mr. Bathory, I knew I’d marry him. And we’re very happy more than a decade later. Wishing all the best to Malala & Asser.

    • lanne says:

      You make so many kind and insightful comments, and your name is so horrifying. I giggled at the mention of Mr. Bathory–imagining the 2 of you toasting with goblets of human blood. Anyway, just curious, have you ever said why you selected your screenname?

      • Lizzie Bathory says:

        Oh, thanks, @lanne! I always appreciate your comments, too.

        No one’s ever asked about my name before. I’ve always been interested in the legend around Elizabeth Bathory & before that was fascinated with Lizzie Borden (I was a rather morbid child). So I sort of got a kick out of putting them together & seeing the name onscreen. If you’re into podcasts, Dana Schwartz’s Noble Blood recently did an episode about Elizabeth Bathory that was really interesting.

      • BeanieBean says:

        I’m so glad somebody asked this! I heard the History Chicks podcast about Elizabeth Bathory & I just…couldn’t understand why a person who wrote interesting and thoughtful comments on this website would choose that name. I get being a morbid kid, though; I loved Poe starting in about 5th-6th grade & Wednesday Addams with her decapitated dolls was my hero.

  15. RoyalBlue says:

    In Uni, I was the president of the spinsters’ club….until I wasn’t.

    Congrats to the happy couple. Life happens.

  16. goofpuff says:

    Its completely ok for a woman to change her mind. It is also possible to be a feminist and be married. It depends on how you define marriage – for me its a union of equals and formalizes a relationship conferring benefits (usually based on local laws) that don’t exist outside of it in many countries.

    Congrats to her and she is fierce :)

  17. Savu says:

    The institution of marriage has historically been used to oppress women, and is still being used that way in many parts of the world. Especially to young girls. You can believe in marriage and condemn how it’s been used – the same way I see lots of progressive Christians saying uh please don’t use my religion as a way to justify hate toward anyone, including POC and LGBTQ people. They’re not mutually exclusive!

    I share in Kaiser’s joy watching her be so head over heels.

  18. Nivz says:

    I admire Malala, and I am thrilled for her that she has fallen in love, and has had the fullness of that experience.

    I wish them every happiness and hope it works out. I have thoughts, being south Asian myself, about deeply internalised beliefs men who grow up in the culture have towards gender roles within a marriage, that they don’t even realize they have. Even the self declared progressives. I hope this attractive young man is an exception. I am aware these are my own issues I’m imposing on this situation, perhaps unfairly.

    • Petra says:

      @Nivz, I get what you’re saying, but I also think things are starting to change. My south Asian friend is a stay at home dad for 2 kids. He left is medical practice because he wanted to support his south Asian wife choice to continue working. He says his actions are the best modelling for his 2 sons. He’s not a first generation, but has lived in Canada for 10 years.

  19. AMA1977 says:

    I love that she is so happy and that they both appear head-over-heels for each other. The pictures are beautiful. I am also reminded that, despite her strength and wisdom, she’s a young woman, and part of growth and maturing is re-evaluating your previous opinions and changing your mind when necessary. I don’t know why re-evaluating a decision and making a different one has such a negative connotation in our society. It’s a sign of maturity and intelligence.

    A marriage of equals who define their own terms and support and champion each other is very different from the “marriages” she was exposed to earlier in her life, and I am glad that she has found someone to share her remarkable life with. I wish them a lifetime of happiness.

  20. els says:

    Everything is true. Just because you’re feminist doesn’t mean you hate marriage. It’s how society defined marriage, especially women’s role in a marriage that I don’t agree with. She explained perfectly. Congrats for her!!

  21. Betsy says:

    She doesn’t need to justify anything to anyone. I’m a feminist and so is my husband and I love being married. I wish them the best.

  22. Stacy Dresden says:

    Every wish of happiness and love to Malala, who has given the world so much.

  23. jferber says:

    I love her and always have and will.

  24. MrsBump says:

    So happy for malala ! I hope he’s worthy of her

  25. A says:

    I mean, her comments on marriage make more sense now given that she’s gotten married, and was likely planning her wedding, or at least thinking about his proposal at the time right? I imagine he’d asked her and she’d gone back and forth on it and then ultimately decided to say yes, but still questioned the value and validity of the institution as a whole.

    Marriage means different things to different people. I didn’t understand the point of it when I was younger, but I do get it now, years later. A friend of mine who has only every seen people in her life struggle in shitty marriages they can’t get out of never imagined she’d get married. She still really can’t. But she’s warming up to it now that she’s met someone she might want to get married to and stay married to.

    I imagine Malala Yousafzai thought of it similarly. She’s seen how marriage can be for people within her particular community, within her country, etc. Her parents are happy, but she stated they had an arranged marriage, and at the end of the day, I imagine she wonders if they would have chosen each other if they had the option. You think about these things within the context of where she comes from and what her upbringing is. I know I do. My parents adore each other, and can’t imagine life without one another. But they also had what was pretty much an arranged marriage. It works on the same odds as any other marriage does, but it brings with it its own set of questions.

    On an unrelated note, I liked what she had to say about her wearing a headscarf in that interview she gave previously too. That it wasn’t religious as much as it was cultural, bc she is Pashtun and Pashtun women wear a scarf and style it a particular way. And I’d like to point out to people that ethnicity is more relevant here for Malala Yousafzai than religion. She is Pashtun. There is a particular cultural context here, even within the realm of religion, that’s important. This stuff gets missed or glossed over in media a lot of the time.

  26. Petra says:

    I was anti marriage until I got married in my mid thirties. My anti marriage stand had nothing to do with me being a feminist. Are people really saying not wanting to get married is about feminism? Malala fell in love, it seems the man she fell in love with is a great person. She is satisfy with this man in her life. I’m happy for them. May they have a blessed and lasting union.