March 10, 2014, by
2 comments

Feminist Bride?

 

 

 

BrideFishCwide

Hello again! And welcome back to BroadFish Blogging.

As I often do, I am creating a show that parallels the events in my life. So I’m writing a story about a woman who plans a wedding before finding her groom and I’m in the midst of planning my very own wedding*

*Don’t worry – I have the groom.  :)

Here’s the thing: I was always a bit of a Judgemental Judy around weddings.

A lot of the marriages I witnessed growing up were not happy and seemed to involve sacrifice as opposed to compromise, which led to a great deal of resentment in both husband and wife.

I worked as a cater waiter for large events, and witnessed horrible things like full plates of food being thrown away, and mean shouting matches on wedding days between warring family members.

I was also raised as an Italian Catholic – so marriage was wrapped up in patriarchal ideas about ownership, property and old-fashioned gender roles. And that’s not my jam.

As a gal who was determined to have a career and a life of adventure, I made the assumption that marriage wouldn’t be a part of my future. And I was totally okay with that.

Plus, I worked as a story editor on this show:


Rich Bride, Poor Bride on WE tv! by WEtv

So it was pretty easy to be cynical about people and their weddings.

And then I met my fiancé, Matt, online on OKCupid. Online dating. It works. Who knew?

As we grew to love one another deeply, I realized that I had found in him a partner that not only supported my career ambitions and my desire for a life of creativity and art, but also one who was pursuing the very same goals and whose presence in my life elevated it and made it fuller, and brighter.

And it caught me completely off guard, because I 100% wanted to marry this glorious human being. I wanted to live the rest of my days with him in my corner and at my side. No question.  Surprise! I’m going to get married!

So we started to plan a wedding. And it seriously made me examine everything in my life: my relationship to the cosmos, my feelings around money, and my identification as a feminist. Yep. There it is. The F word. Still with me?

I absolutely consider myself a feminist. A proud feminist. And I’m proud to be marrying a feminist. My fiancé Matt is an advocate for human rights, and equality. It’s great.

When we started to plan our wedding, I went through a very interesting internal struggle. The judgemental part of me wanted to slough off the giddy joy I’d feel when we’d plan the littlest detail. I didn’t want to tell most of my friends that we had an engagement shoot, even though I had a blast doing one. And I felt embarrassed sometimes when I talked about my plans with certain people who didn’t see me as a ‘bride’ or ‘someone who bought into all of that’.

Matt and I in the engagement shoot I've been slightly embarrassed to discuss. But no more! Photograph by the fabulous Gillian Williamson at Ikonica

Matt and I in the engagement shoot I’ve been slightly embarrassed to discuss. But no more! Photograph by the fabulous Gillian Williamson at Ikonica

The truth: I was really happy planning a celebration that would solidify my wondrous partnership.

So why all this shame? A few reasons, I think.

I do a lot of satire and comedy, and I’m a university educated artist, mentor and an advocate for women’s rights. Because of this, I somehow felt that I should downplay my girlish excitement.  That it was foolish. I feared I had become some sort of Bridezilla-esque beast infected with the frivolity of fairy tales.

And then I read several articles full of judgement, like this one and it made me really angry:

Huffington Post: Let’s Ban Weddings and Baby Showers

Now let me say this: the wedding industry is full of all kinds of cons. Short cons. Long cons. Hideous, tulle-covered cons. But buying a beautiful dress for your wedding day doesn’t mean you’ve ‘bought in’ to something. Necessarily. And people are welcome to spend as much money on a wedding day as they’d like. Who the fuck is anyone else to criticize? But they do. A lot.

And my biggest beef with that article I posted above is that despite the author’s efforts to make the post a criticism of the industry, or an indictment of reality television (which I can totally go along with), she inevitably makes it about forcing her own judgments around how much money is too much money to spend, or that weddings in general are distractions from other pursuits for women. I think this is a slippery slope. Is there truth in some of what she says? Sure. Is there also an absurd amount of judgment around women’s personal choices? You bet.

Aren’t we supposed to support one another’s personal choices? Or, if not support, not completely invalidate one another’s personal choices?

Yes weddings can be steeped in old-fashioned ideas and gender roles. And yes, it can be damaging if women only see themselves within the context of relationships to the men in their lives. And there is still, most definitely, far more emphasis on being a ‘princess’ than being any other kind of woman. But isn’t denigrating women for wanting traditionally labeled ‘feminine’ experiences just as damaging? There’s challenging the patriarchy, and then there’s creating a new stifling system where we as women dismiss our own gender through rigidity and criticism. Can we be feminists and want poofy dresses? I think we can.

When I was growing up, feminism was about equality. At least for me. It was about choices. Birth control, abortion rights, equal pay – it was about being in charge of my own choices, and wanting the same thing for other women. Other people. Period.

I know it’s more nuanced than that. Patriarchy, privilege, power systems. I know.

But at the base of it all: could we avoid perpetuating the idea that you’re either an intellectual or you’re a princess? Could we be more than that? Could we be queens and rule over our own bodies, our own minds and our own choices? And honour other queens, whether they get married or don’t, have babies or don’t, wear dresses or don’t? Can we be critical and still be able to celebrate? Still love beautiful things? Still like the idea of being someone’s wife?

Seriously:

I think there should be more women in political power, that we MUST protect pro-choice laws, and that the key to a more progressive world lies in the liberation of women from outmoded ideals/systems, AND I also absolutely love planning my wedding with Matt. I am both of these. At the same time. Plus a whole bunch of other things. BAM.

What I’m witnessing is that as I allow room for love, joy, femininity, and companionship in my life I am able to allow room for others to experience these things in the way they see fit. And that is heartening.

Here’s to celebrating our choices!

Agree? Disagree? Let me know! @melissadags

More soon.

 

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2 comments:

  1. Rob Kempson says:

    I felt your “bam”… and I like that it required a sentence of its own. In many communities, and in many ways, we love to box ourselves in–assuming that we cannot possibly appreciate two points of view that are occasionally in conflict. If that were true, and for some it is, wouldn’t that be an incredibly boring existence? Making art is all about the tension of conflict, the release or amplification of that tension, and the desire to share the stories that come from that tension with an audience. Making life (or I suppose “living” life) should be similar I’d think… living in tension from time to time is healthy, and essential.

    Your wedding will be beautiful. I know it. And maybe you can give out Naomi Wolf books as favours… just to balance it all out. ;)

  2. Hahaha — I love that wedding favour idea. Perfection!

    Thanks for your comment, Rob. I really appreciate what you are saying. As I said in the post, planning our wedding has brought up fundamental questions about our beliefs for both Matt and for myself. I didn’t expect that at all. I thought it would simply be a matter of picking a dress and some decor — planning an event. But really, it’s mapping out a way of life. It’s making one decision after another that creates a foundation for how we want to live and what we want to contribute to the world around us. Both as individuals nd as a unit. Which is fantastic and overwhelming and a marvellous gift!

    I also enjoy that you liken it to making art, because it is very similar. The truth is that I was very nervous about this post and how it might be received. I was trivializing my own struggle as ‘frivolous’ or ‘unimportant’. It is great to receive feedback about how others are relating to my own struggle and conflict. I do really believe that conflict is an essential part of living an interesting life. My sister used to work for Joe Pantalone and he always said that life was a clash of value systems. I loved that idea.

    My art has always come out of me bashing a bunch of contradictory ideas around and trying to make sense of them. I’m currently inside of that bashing around. Thanks for helping me make more sense of things! And for your warm words. :)

    Melissa