The Oxford Union believes women have to sacrifice too much for love

On February 15th, the Oxford Union debated the motion, “This House believes women have to sacrifice too much for love.” This Valentine’s Day-themed debate is the second all-women debate in the Union’s history since the first one was held in Trinity Term 2022. 

Manon Hammond, Deputy Director of Press at the Oxford Union, spoke first for the proposition. Hammond launched a series of hard statistics: women CEOs only outnumbered CEOs with the first name John among S&P 500 companies in 2023, only 27.8 percent of women compared to 90% of new fathers are in full-time work or self-employed three years post-childbirth, the gender pay gap has been growing since the 1970s. 

Hammond then referenced a part of Gloria’s monologue in the film Barbie, on the impossible double standards of being a woman, arguing that we should recognize the sacrifices for love and combat them. Hammond closed her speech, asking the floor to think about what their mother and motherly figure have done for them, and the extent of their sacrifice.

Opening the debate for the opposition, Karma Gad, the Union’s Press and Sponsorship Officer, argued that women today are not forced to choose between love and success. She said that from her grandmother, who sacrificed the prospect of her medicine degree to support her grandfather’s career, to herself studying Law at Oxford, there are decades of work by hard-working women, and social reforms including the abolishment of the marriage bar in 1946 and the Equal Pay Act in 1970. 

Gad also denounced the sexist, double standard narratives that stay-at-home husbands are praised for being “good husbands and good fathers,” while women fall exclusively into the sacrificial pigeonhole. Finally, she believed choosing love is an informed, autonomous choice and it should not be framed around the concept of loss. “We are not Damsels in distress who cannot help ourselves to sacrifice for romance,” she finished.

Speaking next for the proposition was Chidera Eggerue, known as The Slumflower, a British-Nigerian writer and author of the bestselling book “What a Time to be Alone,” stressing that women are taught a very different definition of love. She said women are taught from a young age to see love as a “haven” and to believe in the myth of finding “the one”. 

She believed that love has derailed women from their personal purpose, where power and value are divested from the pursuit of romantic love. Lastly, she urged that women should “dream beyond being loved by a man,” and that this love “would not compare to the love you have for yourself.”

Dana Denis-Smith, CEO of the legal support network Obelisk Support aimed to reshape the law profession’s gender dynamic, argued for the opposition that there is a difference between sacrificing for love and choosing love. Her father “sacrificed the opportunity” for further prospects and education because he is a father to 3 daughters and he “chose to be with his family, legacy, and love.” 

Despite using a male figure, Denis tried to make a case that love is a choice rather than a sacrifice, because “we are no longer living in a Jane Austen novel.” She also believed that love is worth a choice, and love combats loneliness. “We are so worried about sacrificing your passion and dream, we are at risk of sacrificing love itself,” Denis concluded. 

Lottie Moss, English fashion model who appeared on Celebs Go Dating and half-sister of Kate Moss, closed the debate for the proposition. She argued that even though she enjoyed her time working on OnlyFans, this “love” cost her reputation, and career growth working with prominent brands. Moss stated that women are constantly expected to give up so much for love, and that for example, women sacrificed their health for their partners and children as women die every 2 minutes from pregnancy, as per a United Nations study. Finally, Moss declared that “It’s time to define love as partnerships of equals, with both partners can thrive without sacrificing individuality.”

Olivia Hawkin, former Love Island contestant, closed the debate for the opposition. Hawkin deemed that the so-called sacrifice of leaving work to stay at home should be attributed to the poor system that doesn’t adequately support maternity and paternity leave, childcare compensations, and flexible working hours. “We can have it all without sacrifice. If anything, love empowers us to do more,” she said.

The motion passed, with 131 members voting in favour and 80 members voting against.