December 18, 2010

The Failingest Day of Their Lives 2

Filed under: Christmas Time!,Estrogen,What the hell? — Katrina @ 5:26 pm

Three years ago today, I ranted and raved on how stupid weddings are. Or at least how stupid they usually are, depending on the people involved. Yet as time went by, I realized I certainly omitted some important things from there. Not intentionally. Just didn’t think of them when I first wrote it.

For one, look at what the bride and groom wear. Groom wears a tux, something guys wear at their own weddings as well as weddings of others and a number of other black tie occasions. The bride? She wears a special white dress that is worn at absolutely no other time ever. In that weird sense, it’s like the wedding is its own special day for her while for the guy it’s just another formal affair like any other.

And that wedding dress is supposed to be pure white. Why? White dress means virgin bride. The bride wears white, signifying her all so important virginity, while the groom’s tux bears no sign of his virginal status at all. Because, in bizarre wedding world, who gives a shit whether a guy is a virgin? But if that bride is worth her salt, she damn well better be!

Why? Because the wedding is just a fancy ceremony for the transfer of property, human female property. And if her hymen’s not intact, why that just brings down her value! In the wedding, her tuxedoed father walks her down the aisle to the tuxedoed groom. I guess that’s why the groom’s outfit is so ordinary. For him, this is merely a transaction of sorts. A female is being transferred from one male-owner to another!

I mean, you can see the change right there in her last name, as the transaction also means she sheds the last name she’s had all her life to takes on that of her new master.

Alright, I realize this is all very archaic. Very few brides walk down the aisle as virgins. Marriages are expected to be equal partnerships nowadays.

But why do we hang onto these traditions from those archaic misogynistic days? Why do brides have to wear white? Why does her father have to walk her down the aisle? Why in some cases do the boyfriends still ask her father for “permission” to marry her? Why, a full century and a half after Lucy Stone, is it still unusual for wives to keep the last names they had their whole lives rather than taking their husbands’? Why do the children of that marriage always take their father’s last name?

Unlike many, I do not believe these things to be inherent parts of weddings and marriages. At least they don’t need to be. Celebrating a lifelong partnership does not need to be about human ownership, but promises to each other. Nothing to do with sexual history. Nothing to do with your own parents. Certainly not something that little girls need to be taught will be the single most important day of their lives.

That shit pisses me off. With girls, there’s always mentions of “when she gets married” practically from the time she’s in the womb. Only occasionally is this said of boys with so much authority, as if his wedding is the single most important thing in his life as opposed to a nice thing to happen (a bride and subsequent children a nice thing to acquire) but not totally necessary. For boys, what’s important is career and success. For girls, well, nowadays career and success are moving in as important for their futures, but they still often take a back seat to the requirement that her husband have the career and success. This stems from the days when girls mostly couldn’t or didn’t have careers at all, so marriage in fact was so important because she otherwise would not be able to support herself well at all. But those days are over and marriage is not so economically vital for women anymore, so stop fucking treating it like it is!

What is marriage? Well, that’s a hard question. I recall having dinner with two girls back in college where the question of “why get married?” came up, and we fell silent, unable to answer. (Both of those girls are now married, LOL) But what it isn’t is celebrating the woman becoming her husband’s property after being that of her father.

What is it? The sacred loving promise between two (or perhaps more) people. No economics. No property. Certainly no matter the genders of those involved. Just that sacred bond, of long term companionship. Don’t know about you, but I think this newfangled marriage without the misogyny, even merely symbolic misogyny, looks way more sanctified!

2 Comments

  1. Here via @sciville on Twitter and feelI must note that white wedding dresses do not, in actual fact, signify virginity.

    Before Queen Victoria’s wedding in 1840, most brides wore colors (blue was popular). They also typically wore whatever was the best dress they owned, not necessarily something specifically made/bought for the occasion. Then Queen Victoria wore a white dress, defying expected tradition, since she had been anticipated to wear silver. Her wedding was the media event of the age, she was Queen, and soon after her wedding it became The Done Thing to wear a white wedding dress — just like the Queen.

    Later on, people began to assert that white wedding dresses were a sign of virginity. It isn’t historically so, though.

    (I mention this only because I wrote an entire book on the history of virginity, Virgin: The Untouched History, in which I discuss this issue at some length if you should care to read more. It’s a historimyth I encounter a lot.)

    I agree with you that the wedding-industrial complex is tremendously misogynist and economically punitive in ways that disproportionately affect women. So maybe it’s at least a cheering thing to know, in the face of all the wedding-related stuff that is pretty terrible, that the whole white-for-virginity thing *isn’t* true.

    Comment by Hanne — April 26, 2011 @ 11:17 am

  2. Oh, wow, I did not know that. Thanks for the info! 🙂

    Comment by Katrina — April 26, 2011 @ 7:58 pm

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