I love The Princess Bride.
I thought it would be fun to think about what a feminist marriage would be like and if there can be such a thing. I’ll start by going step by step through traditional western wedding and pulling out everything sexist (and otherwise oppressive to the extent that I’m aware), and then we’ll see what’s left. By the way, I don’t think you’re a bad person if you have this kind of wedding.
0. It’s about a man and a woman.
1. Man asks woman’s father for permission.
-Implies that fathers own daughters (sons are not owned); implies that men initiate the decision to get married.
2. Man buys diamond ring.
-Probably supports diamond-based violence.
-Diamond shows level of wealth; classist.
-Implies that man brings money to the relationship; care to guess what the woman brings?
3. Man picks a moment, gets down on one knee, and says “Will you marry me?” Woman says “Yes!” Man puts diamond ring on her finger.
-Again, men initiate the decision, often without running it by the woman pre-dramatic moment. She’s supposed to be surprised and make the decision immediately, while he had time to think it over. Not a great way to make a major life decision.
-Down on one knee sounds like chivalry.
4. The woman plans the wedding (picks colors, flowers, dresses, hairdos, venue, stationery; invites people, registers for gifts).
-The man is usually less involved, the wedding is seen as “her day.” This means she gets the brunt of the very stressful work, and that she is believed to be benefiting from getting married and enjoying the process more than he is.
-Supports gender stereotypes that women are good at these things and men are not.
-Supports wedding industrial complex; people are supposed to spend a ton of money. Why should it be necessary to spend that much in order to declare you love someone and want to live jointly with them?
5. The bride picks bridesmaids, the groom picks groomsmen.
-They’re each supposed to stick with their own gender, as if they couldn’t have any opposite-gender friends.
6. Invitations are sent out saying that the bride’s parents invite you to the wedding.
– There’s her parents being in charge of the wedding again. At least it’s not just her father, I guess.
– The bride’s parents pay for the wedding, which is why they write the invitations. Sort of like a dowry…sends the message that the bride’s family needs to persuade the groom to marry her.
7. The bride and groom don’t see each other for 24 hours before the wedding.
– As if to mimic how they were supposed to put off having sex? Or because in the old days they would have just met each other anyway? Otherwise, I don’t think this is bad, just kind of weird.
8. They go to a church.
– Marriage is assumed to be tied to religion, although that’s obviously not always the case.
9. The groom stands at the altar while first the bridal party walks down the aisle, and then finally the bride walks.
– Major emphasis on the bride’s looks and probably some chivalry.
10. The bride’s father gives her away.
-That was originally not a metaphor.
11. The couple say their vows.
– Depending on how you interpret them, they could require that you stay married regardless of abuse and so on.
12. The celebrant, traditionally a male member of the clergy, says “I now pronounce you man and wife.”
– A man is again in charge of this process.
– It is again tied with religion.
– “man and wife” echoes the way women change their last names and titles but men don’t – the identity of the woman changes, while the man just acquires a wife.
13. “You may kiss the bride.”
– He addresses the man.
– The man initiates the action.
– It implies that they haven’t kissed before, echoing both the “we just met” possibility and the “virgin till marriage” issue.
14. The couple runs out and people throw rice.
– No problem there, just kind of weird again.
15. Lots of pictures.
– Besides being tiresome, no issue.
16. They go to the reception.
– Parties are cool.
17. The bride dances with her father.
– Are you tired of the dad theme yet?
18. The bride throws her bouquet and other females try to catch it so they’ll be the next to get married.
– Again with women being desperate to get married as if it determines their worth and success in life.
19. The groom takes off the bride’s garter and throws it to the men. The one who catches it puts it on the bouquet catcher.
– I don’t even know what to do with that, but suffice it to say I see some power and sex issues. Here’s some history. Key phrase: “relinquishment of her virginity.” The article also says that “something blue” for the bride was supposed to represent purity and virginity and even the Virgin Mary. Oh, and don’t forget the veil.
20. The best man gives a toast.
– Not necessarily the maiden/matron of honor.
21. The couple eat cake and drink champagne.
– In and of itself, cool, but note that the groom’s cake is a smaller less ornate one, emphasizing that the wedding is really about the woman.
22. People dance and eat and chat.
23. The couple goes off on their honeymoon. Everyone knows what they’re about to do.
– Normally everyone would disapprove, but since the couple has completed the ceremony, sex is ok by society. Do you need your sex to be okayed by 200 of your closest friends?
24. They ride off in a decorated car.
– Again, nothing more than weird. Except that their choice to lead their lives together is supposed to get them special treatment from other people. Which reminds me of the gifts the guests are supposed to send – kind of like a reward for doing things the societally-approved way, although to be fair, people are also just happy for you being in love.
25. The man carries the woman over the threshold of their honeymoon suite.
– Chivalry. The man is in control and the woman is supposed to be flattered by that. It’s assumed via gender stereotype that the man should be strong and the woman should be thin, making this easy.
26. They have sex to consummate the marriage. (Now it’s real.)
– Preferably for the first time. After going through this ass-kissing of sexist traditions, the woman is granted permission to have sex without being labeled a whore, even though, according to these traditions, she is having sex in exchange for stuff like diamond rings and other financial support.
– Penile-vaginal sex is assumed. Bleeding and pain for the woman is a bonus.
Whew. I’ll have to put off thinking about what could and should be salvaged from that mess till later.