Thursday, November 25, 2010

"Bridezilla" is an anti-feminist concept

In my many travels as a feminist bride, and in the several interviews I have done with reporters, it is inevitable to come across the notion of whether or not I consider myself better than those "Bridezillas" out there. You know, as a feminist, who has basically completely rejected the notion that my wedding was going to be about me as a bride, people assumed I would have a natural aversion to these monsterish, spoiled demanding brides with their faux tans, brazillian waxes and diamond studded veils, standing at the door of the chapel foaming at the mouth because the hydrangeas are the wrong shade of puce.

But while you might think my journey of self discovery would have put an even wider wedge between my and my tiara donning counterparts, that is not exactly what happened.

Look, its easy for me to make the case that my wedding day is not all about me, and not the most important day of my life (although I will say, it was one of the most FUN days of my life), but that is because I was raised to believe I would have many important successes and that finding a partner, while incredibly important, would not be defined by the day we made it official.

And even I, to whom getting married was not a main focus of my life, felt immense pressure when in the thick of it. When you have so many people coming to an event, when you know everyone is going to be looking at you, when you have some significant money invested (and lets be honest, its almost impossible to do it without that unless you are having a picnic in the woods, which sounds really nice, but comes with its own challenges I imagine)...basically, unless you are eloping, there is a lot of stress involved. And its hard to get help. Because a wedding is perceived as female territory (a designation both imposed on women, and by women), many men feel uninterested or uninvited to take part in the planning. Wedding planners and merchants make "once in a lifetime events" everyday of their lives, and a lot of them are terrible at making you feel like yours in anything special. Often there is strife between in-laws and parents and siblings and couples regarding the details and then there is the subtle, corrosive societal pressures that very few among us can ignore completely.

And in the middle of it, is a bride. A woman who is told that this is the most important day of her life, that she has to look perfect, be fit, have her makeup and hair just right. She has to have planned the perfect event, having thought of everyone, foreseen all details, and wear white no less! Can you imagine the pressure cooker situation this is for the average person who has never planned an event before, has no experience in public speaking or even posing for pictures? And when there are cracks, when a bride has an explosion, or makes demands, or get extra frustrated with uninvested parties, we turn around with shock and awe. "What a bitch!" We think. "A total Bridezilla."

Now, I am not above this gawking. I have seen the shows and looked at the pictures with disgust. But going through the wedding myself, and having a few borderline moments, I have a different feeling for these stressed out brides: Pity.

I just think as a society, its really unfair to teach a girl from the time she is born that her wedding day is the crowning acheivement, that it is a reflection of who she is and how well she has done in life, set up IMPOSSIBLE standards for her to reach economically, physically and emotionally, and then turn around and point and laugh in horror in what she becomes.

Not that some of them aren't horrible women, and would be detestable in any situation. But then why are we focusing on them on what might be one of the most stressful days of their life? "Peoplezillas" maybe. "Bridezillas"...I say no more.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Prairie Chic Love Story

There was a sweet little article about our wedding in the most recent issue of Winnipeg Weddings.  You can find the spread with a whole bunch of pictures here:

It's mostly the simple story of how we chose our clothes for the wedding and who made the centre pieces, and other really important things. But I was very pleased to see that they highlighted my quote, which I had written as advice to future brides:

“Plan your wedding together as a bride and groom. It’s so much fun to see a shared vision come to life.”

Looking back, I wish I had said, "Plan your wedding together as a couple", not "a bride and groom", because, obviously not everyone getting married is male and female. But aside from that, I think that despite the fact that I am still searching, discovering and on some level, still making peace with weddings and marriage in general, I can say honestly that this is the best lesson I have learned, and the most important tenet of the feminist wedding as far as I am concerned.
When a wedding (and by virtue, a marriage) is planned by the couple getting married, its a major step toward a true feminist wedding. It takes the pressure off of the bride, off of the idea that the day is somehow more about her. When a couple enters into a wedding and a marriage together, having planned and worked toward a common vision, it makes the day incredibly special, and true representation of two people's commitment to each other.

Somehow, in this day and age, this is still a novel idea to a lot of people. So I am glad I got to say it, especially in a mainstream wedding mag like Winnipeg Weddings.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Sobler by any other name...just isn't a Sobler

Yo, I totally got married.

I can hardly believe it myself, but the husband and I had the weekend of our lives and I have a whole lot to write about regarding the successes and failures of my feminist wedding. Ironically, I expect to write more now on this subject than I did while planning the wedding, mostly because I will have more time, but also because I feel like I have gained some valuable perspective.

And if I was ever wondering whether I was going to keep this blog up after getting married (I didn't really, but still...) I opened up my Alumni Magazine to an enraging article about one woman's under-examined choice to take on her fiance's name.

I was meaning to write about the name change thing for a while, and so I am most excited to have this inspiration, negative as it may be.

You can find the article here, it's very short, and worth reading to gain context on what I am about to say.

I don't know Ms. Grose personally, and she is an editor at Slate, which is a well known site, so I would be interested at some point in engaging in an actual conversation an maybe even a debate on this subject...maybe give her an opportunity to further explore her decision to take her husband's name. Because from the content of this article one would have to assume she hasn't actually put much thought into it.

Look, people do it... a lot of friends of mine have done it, and despite my aversion to making that choice personally, I recognize that people have their reasons. Some people hate the idea of having family members with different names, like their kids and husband won't be readily tied to them. Maybe their life is now about being a wife and mother and so it only makes sense to adopt that identity. And I have spoken to some women who just like the tradition. Choosing which traditions to keep is obviously a woman's right, so far be it for me to judge that choice.

Blah, blah, blah. I can give an argument against all of the above reasons, but the bottom line is people have the right to make their own choice.

That said...

This article really rubbed me the wrong way. First of all, according to the writer, the ultimate reason she has chosen to take her husband's last name is it is "sweet decision". Wow. How thoughtful. I only take issue with this because she herself admits that she had never even considered changing her name. She claims her fiance was "upset" by this, but couldn't really articulate why. So rather than truly ask him to examine his motives and desires for her to give up a large part of her identity, they both shrug their shoulders at the question and decide to go with tradition. Ain't that sweet?

One of her friends, who had a most "un-traditional upbringing", whatever that means, made her case by...get this...surprising her.

"I think you should take his name." she said. "You didn't think I would say that, did you?" I didn't.
Well I don't know about you, but I'm convinced. This un-traditionally brought up friend goes on.

"I hate having a hyphenated name," she added. "And besides, I think it's sweet to take his name."
And that was what did it for our author. It was a "sweet" decision. Never mind that the history of the practice is steeped in property laws and ownership of women. And while the practice may no longer translate to complete submission and the forfeiting of your identity, the fact that it is no longer legally necessary makes one wonder...why is it so expected? When women full expect to maintain their identity after marriage, why is changing our last names such a given practice? And why is it that for someone that is not a given is so easily persuaded by the argument of "sweetness"? And sorry, but does that even mean?

In her essay, Ms. Grose touches upon two points that are almost passable, and would have certainly been a much more satisfying catalyst for a name change, at least for me. The most practical reason is that she has never liked her own last name. I have to concede, it's not the best one, and I am sure she took some abuse growing up. Her fiance's last name is a wonderfully WASPy Winton...a vanilla dream for someone who grew up with the last name pronounced "Gross".

The other argument that borders on intelligent in this article is one made by her friend. For many of us, our current last names are the names of our father's, not our mothers. And so maintaining that name is maintaining the patriarchy we were raised with. OK...

However, I do take issue with the idea she (through a "friend") asserts that "Technically, taking your husband's name is just as patriarchal as keeping your father's." We don't choose our given last names. Our parents choose for us. We re swept along in the patriarchy of our childhoods and upbringings whether we like it or not. But going on being who you are, and choosing to change your name to be the same as your husband's are simply not "the same" as the writer asserts. And anyway, you would hope that by the time you are getting married, you had established enough identity of your own that you are not merely going from someone's daughter to someone's wife.

I won't even get into the fact that at one point in her article someone questions "Is it really such a contentious issue anymore?" and she goes onto matter-of-factly state that it is not. As if now, as women, we've made our point with this whole hyphenating mess, and we can revert back to the way things were, because it doesn't matter what we do...everyone knows what we mean.

I really struggle with this issue because a lot of strong, smart, independent women I know have chosen to change their name, and so I know there is validity in it. But the masquerading of this article as an examination of this decision really irritated me. Not because she changed her name, but because I still don't understand why.

If I made the statement, "I am going to be Alix Sobler until I die," and my fiance looked upset by this, expressed that he expected me to take his name, and then couldn't articulate one reason why, I wouldn't be thinking so hard about whether I could change my name and still be myself. I would be taking a good look at the man I was about to marry, and asking "who the hell are you?"

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Bride's Big Day

I have always been strongly opposed to the idea that the day I get married will somehow be MY DAY. I don't believe a wedding should be all about a bride, for so many obvious reasons, and for a few not so obvious reasons as well. It's not as though the commitment of one's life is bigger for a bride than a groom. They are also dressed to kill and have a lot riding on the success and failures of the day. Not to mention the rest of the family, parents and in-laws and siblings...and very dear friends who (in our case) will be traveling from all over the world to share this experience. I have always believed that if anything, it is a shared day, one that is a collective effort and a collective experience.

But I have gotten into a bit of trouble with that way of thinking. When you start taking everyone's feelings and importance into consideration, you tend to have a whole lot of cooks in the kitchen. And you may be marrying into someone's family, but it doesn't mean you will have have the same taste, or sensibility, and sometimes those decisions get really hard to make when you start "sharing" your day with all the lunatics in your family.

Lately I have found myself feeling a little jealous of the brides who feel like this day is all about them. It would give me free reign to do what I want, plan the wedding I would love and say F you to all the demanders out there. Wow it would be so much easier!

Just a little mainstream dream from a feminist bride.

Monday, January 25, 2010

This Just In...

So my friend Lisa is getting married to my friend Andrew in February, and for Christmas A gave L the "reluctant bride" cake topper. In light of the horrifying cake toppers I have come across in my wedding research, I get a real kick out this. I won't be using it on my cake. But still. Awesome.

Dress to kill

True or false? I have purchased two wedding dresses.
True or false? Combined they cost under $1,000.
True or false? I have been feeling self-righteous and satisfied about that.
True or false? When I found out someone I knew bought a Claire Pettibone dress for her wedding, I went positively GREEN with jealousy.


I have been struggling over the whole wedding dress thing in one way or another since I decided to get married. Granted, I am a shopper, so the obsession over the dress was a predictable turn of events, but it goes beyond wanting to look nice at this point. I can't help but feel like I have succumbed to that ridiculous concept of what I will be wearing on the "most important day of my life."

Bullshit, the most important day of my life. An important day, and one when everyone will be looking at me sure, but I have never bought into the concept of the $5,000 wedding dress because somehow it's MY special day and I need to mark it by going into debt. I was determined to keep it to a decent price, and while I can't seem to pick one of the two I have (the loser will be on ebay, by the way) I think I have narrowed it down to two very lovely, sensibly priced, simple, white (a whole other story) dress.

So how come my eyes well up when I look at the Pettibone coutures?

Is it my socialization that forces me to dream of dressing myself like a fairy princess? Is it the romanticism of the designs that draw me in? They have the vintage appeal I have always wanted and was never able to really find. I am not sure what it is. But when I look at these dresses, and then think of the simple one I went with, I sometimes worry about how I will look wearing my principles, literally.

Not that my dress(es) is not lovely, and I am very lucky to have it (them). I know that.

Just having a realistic bridezilla moment. I am sure it will pass. Also, help me decide on shoes people. Heels or flats. (Keep in mind, the finace is 6'3").

BTW...Wedding plans have been majorly stalled as of late...due to an increasingly taxing schedule of work and rehearsal...I am currently directing feminist icon Carly Churchill's The Skriker. If you are in Winnipeg, come check it out.