If getting a layoff notice was a low point on the roller coaster, then getting engaged was definitely a high point. This post doesn’t focus on the actual engagement but, rather, on my forays into the wild and wacky world of wedding planning.
Even before my fiancé and I announced our engagement*, I knew that once we went public, we’d be sucked immediately into the Wedding Industrial Vortex. (Believe me, it’s much more like a vortex than a complex.) Weddings are a multi-billion-dollar industry, after all. And it’s almost impossible not to internalize any of that industry’s messages, especially if you are a woman.
Plus, I knew our friends and families would have expectations of what a wedding is that might well differ from our own. (You should have seen some of my Aunties’ reactions when they learned that I wouldn’t be having a bouquet toss. Priceless!)
And, I knew that no matter what kind of wedding my fiancé and I had, we’d still be engaging (hee!) in a set of patriarchal, capitalist, heteronormative, hegemonic, manufactured and commodified practices** that encourage women to become self-absorbed to a degree that wouldn’t be socially acceptable in any other circumstance.
I was prepared for all that. I accepted that I would have to make compromises between “Dominique, leftist, feminist, and womanist” and “Dominique, bride-to-be who just wants her wedding to be simple, beautiful, and joyful for everyone involved”. I was determined, however, that these compromises would be considered, thoughtful, and still in keeping with my overall politics…
Until I started shopping for my wedding dress.
I usually hate shopping. I’m the person who only shops at one or two trusted stores, where I’m guaranteed to find clothes I like at a price I can afford, and I can purchase everything I need in less than two hours.
Thus far, I’ve visited five bridal shops. (And am scheduled to visit at least two more.)
I’ve tried on about forty dresses, give or take a few.
This is not because I’m obsessed with finding The Perfect Dress (though do I want to find a dress that flatters me), but because I’m having so. much. fun. I love looking at all the different styles, colours, and fabrics that wedding dresses come in, and I am constantly amazed by the level of artistry and craftsmanship that goes into making them. And, to be perfectly honest, I also love getting in touch with my inner Princess. (I know there are those among you who’ll say that my inner Princess isn’t all that “inner”. To you I say, “I command thee to be quiet!”) Somehow, putting on a stunning wedding dress makes me feel like utterly feminist: I stand more regally, I carry myself more purposefully, and I own the space around me in ways that I don’t normally do. In short, I become powerful… Which is in direct contrast to how society generally represents and regards women.
Now, it can be argued that the reason I feel this way is because I am outwardly validating the internalized notion that a woman is only powerful when she looks beautiful. Therefore, I’m not subverting the patriarchal order so much as supporting it, by offering myself up for others’ (mostly men’s) visual consumption.
However, I can’t help thinking about this awesome post on Racialicious: Gender/Queer: Dressed to Kill, Fight To Win. The following paragraph is, in my opinion, particularly awesome:
Instead of condemning cosmetic or trans surgeries, straightened hair, hijab or high heels [or wedding dresses!] as “unnatural,” we would be better served as feminist theorists of culture to ask: Which kinds of bodily practices are normalized as “appropriate” to feminine persons, and to masculine persons, and how? What values (of race, nation, gender, economic status) do these practices normalize? What ideologies are embedded in these often-literal inscriptions upon differentiated bodies? How have these discourses and practices changed in historically and culturally specific ways?
These are incredibly important questions to ask, and I am more than happy to discuss them…
But not until after my wedding. 😉
* I called all my friends, while he changed his Facebook status. That, right there, says pretty much everything you need to know about our relationship.
** Once an academic, always an academic!