Summer is the most popular time for weddings. Driving by a church on a Saturday afternoon will most often mean watching a bride and groom pose for pictures while families smile with what is in some cases constructed glee. Though many mainstream feminists claim to have thrown off the mantle of princess, when the white dress and alter call it all comes rushing back in a wave of bad bridesmaid dresses and tacky dances at the reception. How many have done the Macarena at a reception, forcing a smile, while desperately counting how many more of these “celebratory” events were left on the calendar for the year?
No matter what conventions we change, a wedding will always be a wedding, even though reclamation is very popular in progressive circles. Many have also worked hard to reclaim words like “b*tch” and “slut,” but show me one woman that is happy to be called either name and I’ll show you a woman so drunk on patriarchal values that a polyester turtleneck in the middle of July seems like a good idea.
Can we just be honest between us girls? No matter how committed we are to feminist ideals, each day in small ways we collude with patriarchy to maintain male hegemony.
We could burn every single bra we own, throw all of our makeup out, grow hair on our bodies until we can braid it, and purchase stock in Birkenstocks, but by choosing to live in society we cannot avoid acting in ways which support the subordination of women. To lead a totally feminist existence, we would have to move to some deserted island and lead a subsistence-geared life, solely in the company of our fellow eschewers of the great phallus. Since I cannot think of any modern tribes of Amazons, it is safe to assume that despite our best intentions as womanists/feminists, we daily collude with patriarchy.
Reading the writings of progressive women it is clear that we watch movies like “40-Year Old Virgin” and television shows like “Big Love” even though we know that they contain an anti-woman message. In our less guarded moments, we might even admit to laughing when we know damn well we should be shaking our fists with rage. Some of us will even secretly say “but I’m a girl” to avoid doing something gross like taking out the garbage or rescuing a mouse that our cat caught, yet when it comes to admitting that participating in a ceremony that has its foundation in treating women like property, the blinders come out faster than you can say something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.
It begins with a moment of apologizing for not waiting until all could legally marry, but hey, it is possible to use this archaic patriarchal ceremony to advance same sex marriage. Just use rainbow flag napkins or some cool fauxgressive symbol and your lack of solidarity will hopefully be forgotten. Make sure you use your wedding as an opportunity for activism and awareness, even as you participate in a ceremony that legitimizes heterosexuality and male headship. Don’t worry about wearing that glass slipper instead of Birkenstocks on your big day, perhaps if you forgo shaving your legs you can still display some sort of coded resistance. Remember, the personal is political and the more you can convince others that this is your great stand for justice, the less silly you will look when you fall into stereotypical gender roles.
Somehow, your man above all others managed to avoid internalizing patriarchal values, so the cursory interest he is displaying in wedding invitations and seating charts, is because he is more concerned with ensuring that his attendants (notice I didn’t say groomsmen), are busy planning a feminist-geared bachelor party for him. Not to worry, you’ll get all the fancy underwear and pots and pans you will need at the other traditionally feminist event – your bridal shower.
If your father gets upset about being asked to forgo the tradition of “giving away” the bride, just ask your mother to join you on your jaunt down the aisle. Now you will have two people confirming that you are property that can be given away. When you order your closest friends into hideous dresses that they will never wear again, be sure to refer to them as attendants and not bridesmaids, we would not want to give credence to the idea that all women are secretly waiting their turn to be princess for a day.
Perhaps, you’ll be really radical and decide to keep your own name, and we’ll all just ignore the symbol of ownership, or should I say wedding band, that goes along with this little ceremony. You can be a Mrs or a Ms, though isn’t that having your cake and eating it too?
That’s feminism for you: the freedom to participate in what is not necessarily a feminist act, while talking yourself into believing that somehow you as an individual are being disruptive of social norms.