December 2015: Traditions / sexism

Your Wedding Is Not For You

*Note:  This piece does focus on heterosexual weddings, because that’s the kind I’m currently planning. Therefore a lot of the issues presented are exclusive to hetero couples and may not necessarily apply to everyone.

I have always hated weddings. Growing up, I never dreamed about my dress or my groom. I was far too busy fantasizing about Leonardo Dicaprio, and I assure you, a wedding had no place in those fantasies. As a kid I never really had reasons to hate them; I just did. As I got older I found every reason they suck – it’s too formal; it’s too expensive; it’s an outdated ceremony giving you the OK to have sex, but we all know you’re fucking already anyway. Bottom line –  I just thought it wasn’t for me.

Of course, because life is funny, I’m engaged now. If it were totally up to me we would elope and then have some kind of party to celebrate. But I’m in a relationship, and it’s not up to me, so here we are. At every stage of the planning I’m reminded of how completely sexist marriage and weddings are. And I’m having to reconcile tradition with my feminism, while also feeling family obligations. So let’s talk this out.

Even the engagement is dominated by the man

Traditionally the man proposes to the woman, but that has been changing in recent years. It’s more and more common for the woman to take the initiative to propose.  What hasn’t changed is how that act is viewed socially. To hear that a woman proposed to her partner somehow threatens the masculinity of the man in the relationship.  It’s treated as though proposing to a woman is your right as a man, and now she has taken that right from you.  

I now pronounce you “Man & Wife”

To end the ceremony with this line and to present the couple as “Mr. and Mrs. [insert dude’s name here] is ridiculous. He’s still a man, but I am only a wife? My own name has been removed, and now I’m just “Mrs. Dude’s Wife”? Not into that.

Taking the man’s last name

It may seem weird, but my name is part of my identity. I’ve lived with it for 26 years now, and parting with it isn’t something I can take lightly. I’m the last one in my family to have my last name. If I take my husband’s, the name is just gone. There are totally other options though. It’s been more common recently for the woman to keep her own last name or for the man to take the woman’s last name. So that’s a big decision we have to make together.  

Don’t slut shame me at my own wedding, please

The bride is to wear a white dress, symbolizing her virginity/purity. To wear anything else would signal that you are not a virgin, and therefore, a total slut. And who wants to marry a slut, right?  

My dad “giving me away”

This just brings back the idea of dowries, of a woman being a commodity that can be given to someone. The officiant speech even reads: “Who gives this bride today?” The bride couldn’t possibly give herself, because women can’t make decisions on their own. This is the toughest one for me to swallow, because I know my dad will be expecting it. But it just really makes me uncomfortable, and I don’t think anyone should be made to feel uncomfortable on their wedding day.

Gender exclusive wedding parties

When I sat to make my list of who would be in my bridal party, I realized that by listing only women I’m excluding people that are really important to me. My nephew, for one, and one of my best friends. It seems ridiculous to keep them out of the wedding based solely on their genitalia.  

In the past when I’ve brought up any of these things to my friends, it’s been pretty common to get the response “it’s tradition!” What’s problematic is that I think what they really mean is “it’s not about what you want.” A wedding is not for the people getting married; it’s for the people in their life that want to watch this important moment. Starting the conversation about abandoning these traditions and doing things my own way is going to be awkward, and I’m definitely prepared for some hostility.  

But honestly, it’s my day, and I just have to stop giving a shit what anyone else wants it to be.

Stephanie Ashe
Blogging about feminism, cats, and TV – all at the same time if I’m really on my game.
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