What's So Weird About A Feminist Wedding?

Illustration for article titled Whats So Weird About A Feminist Wedding?

Jessica Valenti is a feminist. She's also getting married. This creates some issues…


…But mostly for other people. They think it's weird. In a piece for the Guardian, she writes:

Andrew encountered confused faces when he talked about our non-traditional proposal; my extended family looked similarly quizzical when I mentioned that I would be keeping my last name. The fact that Andrew and I had had conversations about the misogynist traditions that accompany marriage made us a bit of an oddity, it seemed. Then there were the fellow feminists who felt that getting married was a sop to the patriarchy, and the problems that we encountered as a couple. Because, with the best will in the world, kissing goodbye to gender roles can be more difficult than it looks.


But Valenti has a good grasp on the most important part of a marriage — Love. This is in part due to the book Against Love: A Polemic, by Laura Kipnis. Valenti, whose own book, The Purity Myth, was just released, calls the tome "an unabashed critique of romantic love." Kipnis lists all the ways being in a couple can be limiting: "You can't just walk out on your job or quit in a huff. You can't make unilateral career decisions, or change jobs without extensive discussion and negotiation. You can't have your own bank account. You can't leave the dishes for later, wash the dishes badly, not use soap, drink straight from the container." Well, some of these are debatable. But Kipnis' book, according to Valenti, "offers a full-blown critique of a society structured so completely on the idea that people should be coupled." And, Valenti writes, the book made her think of feminism as "the adultery of social norms." For example: "What do you mean you want to keep your own last name when you get married? Or refuse to buy that wrinkle cream? Or play baseball instead of softball? I liken feminism to cheating on the deeply ingrained gender standards that our society clings to as tightly as it holds on to the idea of love."

Yet: Valenti is, indeed, in love. And her partner, Andrew, also identifies as a feminist, and believes in equal partnership. Still, even attempting to be a "non-traditional" bride means getting sort of swept up in wedding stuff, which is a stereotypical lady-thing to do! Valenti explains:

To others, however, the way I was approaching my wedding - questioning old traditions; creating new ones - just made me a bridezilla. Kathryn Lopez of the conservative publication National Review, wrote a post entitled "You've Never Met a Bridezilla Like a Feminist Bridezilla", mocking my attempts to subvert traditional wedding standards. Another blogger wrote about Andrew, featuring his picture and a link to his personal website, in a faux contest - "Beta of the month" - the idea being that a real alpha male wouldn't be caught dead marrying a feminist. (Or a "ball-cutting cybersuccubus", as I was, in fact, described. Think I can get that on a business card?)


It's a known fact that you can't please everyone; but certainly a wedding, with its "women are property" baggage, and historically oppressive implications, can bring up a whole host of issues for someone who is outspoken about sexism and the founder of Feministing.com. Luckily, Valenti seems to know exactly what she's doing:

While our wedding will be politicised, it won't be a feminist caricature: I won't be sporting Birkenstocks under my dress and we won't ask the "Goddess" for a blessing. But we will head into the wedding, and the marriage, as equals.


Which doesn't sound weird at all.

My Big Feminist Wedding [Guardian]
Radicalizing Love [The American Prospect]

Related: Adventures in Feminist Wedding Planning [Feministing]
The Purity Myth [Amazon]

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This image was lost some time after publication.

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A minor note, but: I think it's sad that more women don't keep their last names. I know that most of my mother's friends did when they got married in the 1970's and 1980's, and while it wasn't universally accepted, it was definitely regarded as a viable option for women.

Yet thirty-some years later, it's morphed back into some kind of taboo. Why is that?