Weddings – How to be a Feminist in a Sexist Institution

On 14th November 2015, I was lucky enough to marry my best friend. If it wasn’t for that day, I wouldn’t be signing all of my blog posts off as Mrs Helfy! Looking back at my wedding day, it was the best day of my life. Not only did I get to marry my soulmate, but I also got to spend the day celebrating this with friends and family. I also have lots of nice photos to look back on where I don’t feel too ashamed about my appearance.

Weddings aren’t all sunshine, happiness and rainbows

As someone who has very strong feminist ideals, I found that extremely soon after we announced that we were planning to get married, all of the misogynists started crawling out of the woodwork. I was immediately bombarded with completely inappropriate gender-specific questions and assumptions – the first of which I found to be about my surname. People automatically assume that, because you are a female in a female/male relationship, you will be taking your husband’s surname. When you tell them that this won’t necessarily be the case, you are greeted with shocked and sometimes aggrieved faces. “And what does HE think of that?!” I love my husband to pieces but, honestly, his views on the matter are not as important as mine. If I want to call myself Mrs Talula Pixie Flamethrower Rammstein Consortenstine, that’s my prerogative (genuinely would want to be called Rammstein though).

As well as people trying to dictate what I would call myself, I also experienced dozens of other forms of sexism. A small excerpt is below:

  • Several “jokes” about not angering the bride for fear of bringing out bridezilla
  • Wedding vendors refusing to communicate with my husband without me being there
  • Wedding vendors talking exclusively to me about choices for the day but then happy enough to talk to just my husband about the financial side
  • Getting make-up shamed on my wedding day – I actually had comments from people saying, “You look so nice with makeup on! Now you know what it looks like, you can do it more often!” For my thoughts on why this is repugnant, see my post about my relationship with makeup.
  • Bridal magazines – most of these wretched things focus on weight loss
  • People automatically assuming that my father would “give me away” – to quote Jasmine from Aladdin, “I am not a prize to be won!”

“It’s the bride’s day”

One of the things that annoyed me the most in the run up to my wedding day was how nearly every Wedding Industry “Professional” decided to tell me that, because I am female, that it was the bride’s day. Purely because I am female, the day should be all about me. I found myself getting extremely riled by this. My husband and I wanted to dedicate our lives to each other… so guess what… it’s the groom’s day too. Just because you have your head stuck in a bygone era where women were offered up to men as gifts on their wedding day, it doesn’t mean that the day belongs to the bride.

Weddings have never been about the bride

Historically, the purpose of a wedding was so that a father could pass his daughter off as property to another man. The bride was the centre of attention and dressed up in a lovely wedding dress because a present has to be nicely wrapped for its future owner. So you know what that means? Weddings were not about the bride. The sole purpose of weddings was to engorge the male ego. Yes, that’s right – weddings were about The Man.

Heteronormativity of the wedding industry

Even though I clearly had several issues whilst waddling through the minefield that is wedding planning, as a woman that is in a relationship with a man, my journey was undoubtedly easy in comparison to what others experience. Almost every single vendor that you approach automatically assumes that the couple is a cis straight man and a cis straight woman. I personally experienced a vendor that not only made assumptions that everyone who got married was straight, but he was outwardly homophobic and therefore assumed that we would be too. Just because my husband and I are in a man/woman relationship, it doesn’t mean that either one of us is straight. It also doesn’t mean that we are homophobic either! We are, in fact, the exact opposite of homophobic and were so disgusted that we went on to publicly name and shame this chap because of his disgusting views.

How can I justify being a feminist and taking part in the wedding industry, and therefore, marriage?

I have to say that this is something that I struggle with sometimes. I do regularly have internal debates about whether I am a hypocrite for loving being a married woman and yet being so utterly disgusted by the history of marriage and also how the wedding industry still behaves. The reason that my husband and I got married was because we wanted to publicly and eternally commit ourselves to each other. I am proud to be his wife and want the world to know! So how do I justify being so proud, even though there are obvious problems with the concept? Despite the wedding industry being inherently misogynist, you can still be a feminist and love being married. If you recognise and challenge the unsavoury behaviours that it exudes, you will help quash the negative side of it and hopefully pave the way to a better experience for future married couples.

So there we have it – that is my personal story of how I navigated the wedding industry as a feminist. What’s your story? Let me know!

Mrs Helfy

xxx

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