​Social Studies: A feminist defence of not being a ‘bridezilla’

Remember that great scene in Good Will Hunting when Will goes toe-to-toe against the Michael Bolton clone about education?

“You dropped 150 grand on a f--king education you could have got for a dollar fifty in late charges at the public library!” Will tells him in their Boston bar face-off.

I’ve always thought a similar analogy can be made regarding many North American weddings: You can be part of the herd and spend, on average, $35,000, according to this wedding website, or you can go to city hall and for about a $100, tie the knot just as effectively.

But a recent piece in the New York Times suggested that there is no choice: societal pressures force women’s hands to deliver a blow out kind of day. What’s more, it’s anti-feminist to then blame the bride who morphs into a “bridezilla” leading up to the nuptials. She is just being organized and professional. A boss, essentially. 

Titled “A Feminist Defence of Bridezillas,” Kelsey McKinney writes that there are two “unspoken requirements” for modern American weddings: “1) that the events be stunning, awe-inspiring, love-filled, unique and fun all at once, and 2) that they appear to have occurred miraculously, with zero effort or emotional output on the part of the bride.”

If you don’t live up to the second caveat, “A woman (nobody will be surprised to learn that this is only a risk for women) will be labeled a “bridezilla,” she writes. 

She equates the trials and tribulations that a bride faces in planning her perfect day to Hillary Clinton’s on the campaign trail. 

“Just as a competent, civil presidential candidate was called a ‘nasty woman’ and little girls who show leadership skills are scolded for being ‘bossy,’ ‘bridezilla’ is specifically designed to condemn a woman who puts any energy and authority toward trying to achieve entirely reasonable goals. It’s efficient shorthand to remind her, ‘Hey, the world actually likes you a lot better without opinions.’ You might ask: But how is she supposed to communicate, let alone meet ever-loftier wedding day expectations, without expressing those opinions? It’s impossible.”

Only it isn’t. Because you could choose to ignore those expectations that have been fabricated by an industry that targets and manipulates women, which which would be decidedly more feminist than embracing them like a boss. What's more, those expectations have been fabricated by 

The piece also ignores the patriarchal roots of the institution of marriage, and as a result it comes across as an incomplete thought, and as a feminist argument that’s almost as shallow as those who anoint witches into the folds of the ideology.

“We are redefining what power, leadership, beauty and value look like on our own terms. And the witch is the ultimate symbol of female power,” an author of a book called What Is a Witch told Salon last August. “Doing witchcraft is a way to connect to that energy, which is so needed right now, as we’re beginning to collectively course correct thousands of years of sexism and oppression.”

Using the same superstitious ideology that saw tens of thousands of women murdered hundreds of years ago on account of their gender may not be the best way forward for feminism. Similarly, defending ‘bridezillas” as holding up the feminist torch ignores the systematic sexism of the wedding industry that they’re embracing.

Some traditions, like getting married at the age of 14, for example, and dowries, are out of fashion in many parts of the world. 

Others, however, have carried over. If you include “does anyone object to this union?” at your nuptial, that’s a tradition from the Middle Ages when wedding notices were posted on church doors so that people could object on grounds of incest or outstanding debts or loose morals—almost always with regard to the bride, who was considered property.

If you choose to wear a wedding veil, it was traditionally used to hide the face of the bride until right after the groom said “I do,” so he couldn’t back out once he saw what was underneath.

As for the systematic sexism, consider this: The multi-billion-dollar wedding industry pressures women to essentially enter a pissing match with each other—to make sure their wedding is bigger and better than the last one they attended (or their last one.) It’s an industry that feeds on overselling women—let’s be honest, we are more likely to pick up the latest edition of Modern Bride than a man—on unnecessary frills for their fairytale. Cakes, dresses, rings, flowers, and food can triple in price once “wedding” is added as an adjective. I’m not sure it is “entirely reasonable” to feed the beast. 

Rebecca Mead wrote an entire book dedicated to the dark underbelly of the wedding industry. “For her, the American wedding is an exercise in cheap sentiment and pricey self-indulgence, orchestrated by an industry that cunningly plays on the romantic delusions of the betrothed,” the New York Times wrote in May, 2007 when the book was published—just in time for the summer wedding season. 

I’ve ignored the way culture complicates this. A colleague, who is the daughter of Italian immigrants, is planning her wedding. Months ago, when the planning suggested that vast sums of money was to be spent, her fiancé suggested they elope. She was tempted. She recognized that the wedding should simply be about them, and their love. But in the end, her family—and it’s large—trumped easy and cheap. She’s been attending showers and bridal expos every weekend since. And a friend, whose parents are Indian immigrants, will most likely bow down to her mother’s wishes, which includes a very large guest list. 

It’s not as simple as suggesting these daughter make their mothers watch the first Sex and the City movie to help sway them—“But Ma! Look what happened to Carrie when her wedding got too big and complicated!”—because this brand of pressure is more real than Vivienne Westwood gifting you your gown. 

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It’s also something I have no first-hand experience with because a) I have no cultural traditions of which to speak, and b) my parents haven’t seen each other in 22 years. They would fully support me getting married, if I choose to, at city hall. In fact, they might beg.

For everyone else buckling under the yolk of the manipulative wedding machine, let’s go back to Good Will Hunting, as many brides and grooms alike are wont to do. The Michael Bolton clone admits Will is right about overspending on his education. But at least he’ll have a degree, unlike Will, who will be serving his kids “fries at a drive-thru on our way to a skiing trip.”

“That may be,” Will responds, “But at least I won’t be unoriginal.”

Put down Modern Bride. Be original. What’s the worst thing that could happen? Aunt Tina complains that you went with white carnations instead of calla lilies? 

So what? Besides, Aunt Tina sounds like a nasty woman. 

 
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