Why I’m Getting Married: A Feminist Defence
I’ve talked before about how my aversion to the wedding industry. This, coupled with my bullish Marxist-feminist beliefs that have led me to despair over the way weddings have been taken over by capitalistic and patriarchal imperatives, make the entire planning process agonizing. In response to that, a few people have rightly pointed out that if I find the entire wedding planning process so abhorrent, why not forgo it altogether? Two friends actually expressed their ‘disappointment’ in my decision to get married, which they felt was quite unfeminist. I have to admit that stung a bit. So let me clarify that when I make pointed observations about marriages and weddings, this isn’t because I don’t want to get married. I very much do.
Let me start by saying that criticizing people for deciding to get married for being unfeminist is actually, bizarrely, falling into the same patriarchal trope that leads one to think that all marriages and all weddings are, by their very essence, sexist. It’s an observation not corroborated by empirics but by the hasty desire to judge. If two (or, heck, multiple) people decide that they want to signify the next stage of their relationship by getting married, then who is anyone else outside the couple to judge their decisions to do so? They might have a traditional relationship defined by traditional gender roles or they may not. Who knows? Who cares? If this is the arrangement that works for them, then more power to them.
I prioritize the symbolism that defines weddings. And no, when I say symbols, I don’t mean the veil, or the white dress, and any of those tropes. I think that the symbolic value of weddings is in how they enable different communities to come together to support a new partnership. For me, having a ceremony surrounded by family and friends that affirms this new chapter in our lives is meaningful. Being in the same room with all the people who we love and who love us - and having them bear witness to us beginning our lives together –is crucial to both of us for this shows that MOTL and I have a support network of people who are there rooting for us.
I can definitely intellectualize arguments against what I just said: weddings and marriages are but economic arrangements each partner enters into to bolster their economic security; communities of trust and support don’t really exist and being altruistic was never man’s “natural” state in the state of nature; blah blah blah. However, I won’t give them credence in this blog post. My decision to get married and to have a wedding is primarily emotive and is perhaps ultimately illogical but having emotions trump logic doesn’t matter to me. If we find reason to complain and to nitpick about every single decision that others make - if we base all of our life decisions on logic and reason – then what’s the fun in that? Having children ultimately isn’t logical, but people have them anyway. Doing this PhD was probably the least logical thing I could have done with my life, but hey, I did it, and despite my incessant whinging, I love it.
The key thing for MOTL and I at this point is to not get swept up by the industry and to keep telling ourselves that the wedding isn’t about anything else but forming a foundation of community support to set the stage for our marriage. This is obviously easier said than done. It’s hard to plan the wedding when the entire industry is based on regressive ideas of gender relations. These ideas inform how different things, like wedding dresses, wedding cakes, wedding venues, etc., are packaged. For example, when trying to assess our options, I stumbled upon a website called “Babbling Brides,” which is but one off-shoot of similarly titled websites like “the Knot,” “Canadian Bride,” and “Wedding Belles.” In clicking through the forums giving information on venues, I was appalled to see the anonymous posters end their messages with the following taglines:
“Enjoying the rest of our lives together! I’m a Mrs!”
“LLL is all married up!”
“We are man and wife.”
“Countdown to being Mrs. X: 14 months and 7 days!”
Because the wedding industry seems to be entirely based on catering to women (never men!) with these sentiments, it makes it even harder for those of us who don’t want any of this sexist drivel. Do you know the number of times I’ve had to clarify that I do not want to be a princess during the big day or that my goal isn’t to be the most radiant person in the room (if I did look ‘radiant’ on the day, it’s because my cheeks will be flushed from all the wine I’ll be consuming)? I’ve lost count.
In sum, MOTL and I have decided to forego these expectations and keep reminding ourselves of why we are getting married in the first place: we want a community of loved ones around us. We want to have a kickass party with family and friends from different stages of our lives. Off the top of my head, I have my family, my high school friends, my undergrad crew, my PhD crew, my UN/human rights crew and my London crew – having everyone finally meet each other and spend the night eating and dancing will be such good fun. And MOTL, I am sure, feels the same way about having his different groups of family and friends gathered around him. Celebrating with our respective people will be what will make it a good day, and not, say, the presence of expensive linen or china, or the availability of a string quartet during the reception or any of the other things being peddled to us by assorted wedding salesreps.