Bridal Party: Surprise! Misogyny is Here!
Holy moly, readers! Nothing brings misogyny to the yard like weddings and impending marriage.
For a brief moment I thought, “this would be a great place for me to talk about Lacan’s redux of the castration complex!” Then I realized that it would probably end up being a long-winded snoozefest wherein I eventually get angry and confuse myself. Also there's the whole problem of gender-essentializing, what with psychoanalysis and Lacan working and living during a time when that was everyone’s favorite pastime anyway.
BUT WAIT! Gender-essentializing is STILL a popular pastime around ideas of wedlock in Dominant Culture (I like to capitalize Dominant Culture because I often personify it like a little creature on my shoulder telling me a bunch of WTF). I believe we’re all familiar with the Dominant Culture-style tradition wherein male-ness likes to disavow positive feelings about commitment, despite the irony that historically/traditionally, the self-identified man was the person responsible for initiating said commitment in the first place because women weren’t allowed to do much for centuries.
A rough retelling of the story about cultural gender binary/essentializing commitment:
A fellow falls for a gal. Said fellow spends some amount of time with said gal. The fellow decides he better live up to some socially expected duty and pop the question to the gal. The gal says yes. The wedding planning begins. The fellow knows he has willingly trapped himself, SURE he’s going to want to keep sexin’ around with any number of gals FOREVER even though he hasn’t been doing that to date. The gal begins her transformation from awesome girlfriend to shrill shrew-wife over the course of wedding planning. Marriage happens. The man’s life is over.
There are a number of theories about how this narrative was and is perpetuated, but the one I’m most interested in is the one that originates from the tradition of women being the symbolic, physical embodiment of the exchange of property and economic resources in a patriarchal system. In fact, marriage was SUCH a civil and economic affair, Martin Luther actually declared that marriage was "a worldly thing... that belongs to the realm of government," and the English Puritans of the 17th Century passed an Act of Parlaiment that relegated marriage to a purely secular realm having nothing to do with religion.
Back to the idea. Which is that because historically men depended on the exchange of women in order to acquire an improved station in life (after all, romantic marriages based on the idea of love are a modern invention), they ultimately resented their wives as the necessary burdens of financial success, but also as unwelcome economic and emotional burdens.
Which in a way does make some sense. I mean, if culture dictated that I had to buy a stranger from another person in order to improve my economic outlook, and that I had to take care of said stranger for the rest of my life, I'd probably feel a little resentful of said stranger, too. Now we're stuck with centuries of bridal resentment engrained in our cultural fabric like a rude little sexist seed.
And despite the fact that no one's buying brides as a culture here anymore, we still like to tap into that nasty history by having fathers “give away” their daughters (I would like to note that I realize many people continue this tradition from a really sweet place and I’ve seen some pretty tear-jerking, tender versions of it and am not advocating that it’s evil or something, just demarcating its root, which is gross). We also as a culture like to produce so so many movies and images that equate wives with sexless, burdensome, money pits.
LIKE THIS RUDE LITTLE SEXIST BEER COOZY
What the hell!? Misogyny 100% just ruined one of life’s best inventions: the beer coozy! There you are, trying to find something to keep the sweat from a pleasantly chilled IPA off of your skin while you’re at the river or pool or whatever and BAM! Uninvited sexism ruins the whole shebang.
Also, while I appreciate the deep bow of the little bathroom symbol man, I don’t understand why he’d have to give over his credit card to the bathroom symbol girl. Don’t most people just have their own credit cards? Or at the very least, debit cards with a Visa or Mastercard logo? Has the bathroom symbol wife spent all of her own money? And if so, why is the bathroom symbol husband bowing down in the process of doing something that’s already uncomfortable? My chilled IPA will never be the same again.
If this is what dominant culture says about marriage, no wonder it says so many crappy things about weddings, the gateway drug to marriage. Things like how the future husband, seeing as how he’s walking into a trap of his own making, generally isn’t into helping plan the wedding. That’s the future bride’s job, right? Right, Dominant Culture? But then, Dominant Culture also says the day should be perfect, should cost A LOT of money because impressing people proves how much you love each other, and so on and so forth.
In fact, Dominant Culture has quite a bit to say about your ritualistic ceremony that speaks to the love, respect, and trust you’ve built with one another. Geez! Listening to the tropes of Dominant Culture during wedding planning is pretty stressful, a gal could get pretty stressed out, there's a lot of pressure and not much support, it's pretty STRESSFUL. Uh-oh! Enter the term bridezilla—the more hilarious modern-day equivalent of the term hysterical.
Oh no! According to the narrative of Dominant Culture, the pupation stage of “lovely girlfriend” is concluding and the emergence of the “shrew-wife” begins in this, the Bridezilla stage.
The best illustration of the "shrew-wife" trope I think came in the form of The Hangover's Melissa. Watch below as Melissa nags and emasculates the metaphorically castrated Stu:
"Paging Dr. Faggot?" Woop, woop! Sexism AND homophobia for the price of one scene!
You know what, Dominant Culture? Hush. And I call bullshit on you, modern-day equivalent of “female hysteria” spread by the mechanisms of Dominant Culture. I think you’re an overblown bit of sexist propaganda facilitated by an overcommitment to the gender binary. That's my opinion.
Because what happens to sexist wedding/marriage narratives when there is no bride? No groom? No clear delineation and therefore no way to essentialize?
Let’s look next week! How’s that for a cliff hanger?
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