The world anticipated, watched and analysed the Royal wedding. The headlines begged who was the designer? Where can you get a lookalike dress? (Average wedding dress is £1,385.) How expensive was the ring? (Average wedding ring is £573) Who was the florist? And how your wedding could be a budget comparison to keep up with the stifling £12 billion pound industry selling material love.
But amongst all those questions, the watchful eye of consumerism seeks its next prey. As it dangles Disney stories and princes and princesses, consumerism weaves a web that almost every girl gets caught in: the romanticism of their wedding day. But this blind and phantom-like desire for the perfect wedding conceals and perpetuates the dated wedding traditions that so many women continue to fight against.
‘Oh, but isn’t he such a gentleman for asking the father first?’
‘Isn’t’ he so charming and polite?’
I’ve already warned my parents, if anyone comes asking for my hand, tell me immediately so I can avoid that disastrous mismatch. You see, asking for my hand in marriage doesn’t make you right with my parents, nor does being walked down the aisle by anyone, for that is you continuing a tradition that passes women and girls from man to man and denying their power to say yes or no.
I see this frequently played out in my day-to-day life. Sexism has become so ingrained that certain expressions and attitudes that have been passed through generations rarely get noticed.
How many times have you been asked by a man if you’d like to dance? Or if they could buy you a drink? You’ve politely declined because you simply don’t want to, and yet your ‘no’ doesn’t resonate until you finally say: ‘sorry, I have a boyfriend’ Why? Because he respects a man more than he does you. Or what about the humorous, ‘you’ve got balls!’ Which is supposed to be a compliment. Yet why is it that to be brave I must be more masculine? Why can’t I be brave and complimented for having a vagina! Something I often say, which confuses people for a few seconds until they realise what I’ve done.
When I watch weddings, I’m intrigued to see if the woman will wear a veil — especially when the couple have been together for years. Am I weird to feel slightly perplexed when the partner lifts the veil? A reminder of forced marriage and women being terrified of the kind of man this may be, or what his expectations are.
Even the wedding ring, which could be seen as a promise, a commitment and a public display of loyalty, can have a different meaning and usage for men. There is a significant proportion of the wedded male world who do not wear their wedding rings because of ‘tradition’. Well, let’s unpack that ‘tradition’ which is used by men to claim their territory and their possession, all the while without having to compromise their freedom to do as they please.
So no, I’m not dazzled by a man who follows tradition without thinking about its bitter roots. Nor am I empowered by women who dotingly long for the traditional white wedding. I am calling on men and women to really think about these traditions and sayings, that we pass on to our children. And in doing so, to reject those that are stained with a history that we have fought hard to escape — however cunningly they have managed to seep into the twenty-first century; quietly and sneakily transporting sexism amongst new generations.