Here comes the feminist
February 22, 2008
Modern feminism has, in general, two stated goals: To throw off patriarchal oppression of women, and to help women “self-actualize.” What this means in specific terms is hard to say, simply because most feminist organization’s websites read like a daily current events blog. Apparently, in order for a woman to be truly liberated, she has to be able to make a coherent case for abortion on demand, same-sex marriage, and the illegality of the Iraq war. What this has to do with a woman’s right for opportunity in the workforce (the mission of the original feminists of the fifties) is beyond me, but hey, I’m not a feminist (at least not in American sense), so I don’t count.
What might concern me, at least one day, is my wedding. Actually, that does concern me, seeing as how I will presumably be making up half the marriage, and consequently, half the ceremony. And so I am becoming interested in a new trend visible among the feminist movement involving disparaging attitudes towards marriage and weddings.
Yes, you heard me correctly. Tis a bit shocking, considering how often little girls dream and plan their waltz down the aisle, with an awe-inspiring dress, and towards Prince Charming. Marriage is clearly not far from the mind of any single female I know.
So you have to wonder at what appears to be decidedly uncouth innovations in modern thinking about marriage. Take, for example, a story in the New York Times about some recent demand for sexier wedding dresses.
THE gown was almost wanton — fluid but curvy with a neckline that plummeted dangerously. “It makes me feel sexy and beautiful,” said Natasha DaSilva, who slipped it on for a fitting last week.
Cut away at the rear to reveal a tattoo at the small of her back, the dress suggested a languorous night in the honeymoon suite.
Except that Ms. DaSilva, who will be married on Long Island in September, plans to wear it at the altar.
“Why not?” she asked. “I want to look back in 20 years and feel like I looked hot on my wedding day.”
Ms. DaSilva, 26, thinks of herself as adventurous, but not so brash that she is about to cross a line. Dressing for a wedding as if it were an after-party is accepted among her family and friends. “For my generation, looking like a virgin when you marry is completely unappealing, boring even,” she said. “Who cares about that part anymore?”
At this point I would need to inform M(r)s. DaSilva that she appears to be engaging in a division fallacy; just because she is not concerned with virginity does not mean many other people are not. This is a common mistake in modern feminist ideology, which seeks to project the desires of the few, “cutting-edge” cosmopolitans onto the more grounded grassroots women. Feminists have ceased seeking to “liberate” women and are now more concerned with converting them, a tell-tale sign of any movement that it has changed from being about principle to power.
(Of course, you may be thinking I am being inconsiderate in assuming M(r)s. DaSilva to be a feminist. I am not making the assumption, and whether or not she is is irrelevant. Feminist ideology crops up in many places that may not claim it).
The piece goes on:
“Brides today absolutely want to look sexy and glamorous,” said Mara Urshel, an owner and the president of Kleinfeld, the venerable Manhattan bridal salon. In recent months, the store has seen a spike in demand for plunging necklines and negligee looks, one that has only intensified since the spring bridal collections began arriving in stores. For brides shopping now for gowns to wear at summer or early fall weddings, “there is a lot of freedom of choice, and these girls exercise every bit of it,” Ms. Urshel said.
Determined to look torrid on their wedding day, they are picking dresses modeled, say, on the one worn by Christina Aguilera, who was married in 2005 in a gown with a plummeting neckline and ruffled fishtail hem. Or maybe the hope is to emulate Sarah Jessica Parker, who, in the forthcoming film version of “Sex and the City,” spills out of the front of her wedding dress.
“Young women increasingly look to the red carpet for style ideas,” said Millie Martini Bratten, the editor in chief of Brides magazine. “They are very aware of how they look,” she added. “They diet, they work out. And when they marry, they want to be the celebrity of their own event.”
This is less exclusive to the feminist movement, but more representative of general social liberalism. The social left has always held Hollywood and similar upper-class societies up as the standard by which all significant lifestyles are to be judged. Call it what you will–fad, celebrity worship, “culturedness”–it’s essentially class-based egotism. If you have the power and pelf to strut the red carpet, your model of life (economically, sexually, whatever) is inherently one to be viewed with admiring aspiration.
But you know you’ve gotten to the point of absurdity when the marriages and wedding styles of celebrities you’re starting to imitate. After all, what they’re doing hasn’t really worked out for them, now has it?
But still, this isn’t the real thrust of the article, as you might be suspecting. No, we only get to that at the end:
When she marries in Long Island City next fall, Ms. DaSilva, too, will dress as she sees fit — and with her mother’s blessing. “My mom loves my gown,” she said delightedly. “She thinks it’s very figure-flattering.”
Would her male relatives object?
“Oh, no, no, no,” Ms. DaSilva said. “Besides, in my family, we’re mostly women. It’s pretty much — we’re in control.”
Ahh, now we have it. What we’ve read to this point has been little else but a means to an end. Bucking social tradition and decorum, and dressing down for your wedding day, is not so much about bodies or bedazzlement, but control. This ties together with what critical evaluations of modern feminism have held for years: That feminism has graduated from an emphasis on equal feminine opportunity to superior femin(ist) aggression and dominance. There is nothing wrong with dressing trashy on your wedding day, because, all in all, it’s about confidence in your own sexuality (note the implication that women who don’t do this aren’t confident), not what is appropriate and solemn for such a seriously joyful day.
Dressing like a tramp on the most holistically romantic day of your life is not just offensive, it is absurd. Why would you offer the males present at your nuptials a small teaser sample of what was supposed to be the prize you gave to the man standing at the altar? What self-respecting woman (supposedly a product of enlightening feminist ideology) would ever think to turn her wedding into a Hooters? There’s no pride in this. Bucking social norms is not inherently a pure thing, and this is one case in point. And don’t think this just a normal by-product of an unchaste society: non-virginal weddings are hardly a phenomenon worth a two page treatment in the New York Times. This is altogether novel, post-modern, and odious.
But trends like this are being too specific too really drive home my point. To see exactly the turn feminism has taken against its own gender, consider this piece by Bonnie Eslinger, recently published in Newsweek. Eslinger doesn’t need to worry herself with questions of wedding dresses or schedules; she doesn’t need a wedding!
I am a 42-year-old woman who has lived life mostly on my own terms. I have never sought a husband and have still experienced intense, affirming love…
Meeting Jeff—an intelligent, creative, thoughtful man—became the icing on the rich cake of a life not wasted cruising singles bars and pining over lost loves.
Last year Jeff asked me to marry him, and I willingly gave my heart to the intent of his question. We are committed to spending our future together, pursuing our dreams and facing life’s challenges in partnership.
Yet I do not need a piece of paper from the state to strengthen my commitment to Jeff. I do not believe in a religion that says romantic, committed love is moral only if couples pledge joint allegiance to God.
Getting more to the point:
Our married friends say you can make a wedding—and a marriage—what you want, but that is not true. It’s a specific institution with defining principles and values. If it weren’t, there wouldn’t be so-called marriage-protection laws in the majority of this country’s states.
And for me, that’s the bottom line when I consider cashing in on all the benefits our heterosexual relationship is entitled to. My gay friends can’t do that. I don’t want to send a message to anyone, including my daughter—who may someday choose a same-sex life partner—that the value of her relationships can be determined by law and the affirmation of others.
Do you see what has happened? The modern feminist mind has gone from seeking equality in marriage to the elimination of it. The idea of covenant love, no matter how equal or female-friendly, is an allergen to Ms. Eslinger’s sensibilities. She cannot compose a piece on her own lifestyle without commenting on gay marriage (something feminists are ironically obsessed with).
That’s what people like Ms. Eslinger have been trained, and successfully, to see when they look at anything traditional, no matter how throughly lovely or historically female. They see repression and the need for social revolution. This is the modern feminist mind towards marriage: An inconvenient social nicety that blocks true self-actualization. Actualization to what, I wonder? Pro-women worldviews? No, because most women treasure and dream of marriage. Hardcore social leftism? Perhaps.
Marriage is an instituion which has always enjoyed the daydreams and aspirations of girls all over planet earth. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, in marriage that is inherently harmful or detrimental to women. Why then is the feminist movement so averse to it? Why do they seek to sexually aggravate the ceremony? Why do they demonize the idea of a covenant bond between a committed man and wife? What is there to not love about marriage?
I surely do not know, and have a suspicion only certain people do. And they might not want to divulge that information very widely.