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article imageOp-Ed: Feminist weddings, real statement, or new racket?

By Paul Wallis     Sep 18, 2013 in Lifestyle
Sydney - Feminist weddings have been around for a long time, but they’re now hitting mainstream media like most sales pitches. The usual problem with feminist ideas is cosmetic feminism, and it looks like a lot of people are getting on the gravy train.
I did a bit of digging around for actual information, and found some non-rhetorical articles and some ultra-spiel, too. Ashley Lauren Samsa, makes some core practical feminist points in Huff Post:
Ditch the engagement ring
… Weddings have traditionally been about transferring property of a woman from father to husband. Now, this starts with the engagement ring, which marks the woman as “taken.”
True. It equates the bride to a chattel, and basically devalues the romance and hopes of all involved.
Write your own vows
Remember when Kate Middleton and Prince William got married and everyone was wondering whether or not she would vow to obey him during the ceremony? (Spoiler: She didn’t, and Princess Diana didn’t either.) Wedding vows are often the most archaic of everything associated with weddings.
Those vows are also legally obsolete, in a lot of cases. A marriage is a “civil contract”, and terms of contracts don’t usually include coercive elements.
Sydney Morning Herald handles the basic ideals:
Dr Zora Simic, lecturer in women's and gender studies at the University of New South Wales, says a general trend towards non-traditional marriage under the influence of feminism has been evident since the 1970s. “Obvious signs of course include the bride keeping her surname, not being 'given' away and not wearing white. If these practices seem normal now it is a good indication that feminism has had a positive influence on the institution of marriage.”
Simic insists however that it is possible to have a feminist wedding and marriage. “It would be silly to consign the whole institution beyond feminist thought, especially given the multiple ways to be a feminist” she adds.
Note that at this point we have an actual feminist expert, steering clear of rhetoric on principle and a bride talking about progressive marriage. A healthy sign, when you’re talking about real lives and real issues.
There’s also a range of less than vague opinions, including the ultra-cynical Why my feminist wedding will s**t all over yours by Helen Morton, a tale of why cliché weddings (and associated problems) get on so many women’s nerves.
Ye mega-hype
Of course, in a multibillion dollar industry, you’d expect a bit of opportunism. A quick search of feminist weddings indicates the industry doesn’t want to be left out. (Apologies to readers for the ridiculously oversized Google search code on previous text. What the hell's wrong with google/feminist weddings, for God's sake?)
Ms Samsa points out elsewhere in her article that cost is a real issue, and that, if anything is a very polite description. I know a couple who’ve been saving for years to get married.
It’d be nice to think there’s some romance left in marriage, but the truth is that weddings are big business. If you do an image search of feminist weddings, you’ll see some very funny stuff, but also some obvious sales pitches. Anne Hathaway would look good in a potato sack, and she's the cover girl for some feminist wedding articles? Not hard to figure out, is it?
Spinning the brides
There’s sometimes some very negative spin about marriage that needs to be adjusted, because it’s just plain wrong.
Let’s clarify a few rhetorical points:
• You don’t “lose your identity” by changing your name in a healthy marriage. (You might lose it married to a dictatorial nutcase, true.) It’s a tradition, not a law, and men do want to carry on their family names.
• Being Mrs Someone is not an insult. It’s an honorific, and a respected honorific. (Some women might say it’s also a way of saving breath, explaining the problem in a couple of words.)
• The old style weddings were a sort of innocent hope for a wonderful wedding, not a conspiracy.
• Being romantic is not anti-feminist, as far as I can tell. None of the women above implied that it was, actually.
• Yes, the old vows are ridiculous, in many ways, which may have something to do with them being centuries old.
• Men want to get married, too, which doesn’t quite stack up to “wanting someone to oppress for the rest of their lives”.
• Divorce tends to damage both parties, often severely, unless you’re a total cynic about who you marry and hang around the morgues a lot.
We’ll have to wait and see whether and when merchandising catches up with feminist weddings. It’ll be interesting to see how someone finds a way to screw this up.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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