I dislike using the word “feminist” to describe myself for all its negative connotations. I have enormous respect for feminists and for the trailblazing role many self-described feminists have played, but i hesitate before labelling myself a feminist.
I think it has a lot to do with having attended an all-girls school where we were taught that women are as capable of completing any (at least intellectual or philosphical) task as a man: that there is no need to compete on any level other than as an individual with other persons – be they of another gender or not (thank-you mother feminists!). The term “feminist” therefore seems a tad contrived in the role I perceive myself to play. I am a woman, and many of my personal traits are influenced by my femininity and my experiences as a woman, but I do not need to define myself as such.
Similarly, Rooster and I view our partnership as the coming together of two strong persons to form a unit that will (hopefully) produce a loving legacy. Although we are *man* and *woman*, our sex does not define our relationship and our coming nuptials. For this reason I cannot but support the right of every willing adult to marry – regardless of their gender or sexuality.
But weddings (and marriage) are full of all manner of traditions which have their roots in hectically sexist practices. As much as Rooster and I disagree with the premise on which they were once based, we don’t always wish to reject those customs out of hand: traditions (wedding traditions) are often fun or can have meaning other than the sexist past. For our marriage we wish to incorporate these.
Some of these not-so-feminist traditions include:
- Being walked down the aisle. Except I will be walked by both my parents. Both Rooster’s parent’s will wait with him at the top of the aisle. The symbolism for us is that our union is also a union between our families and that both families bless and affirm that union.
- The bouquet/garter toss: because it’s silly and fun. We will ask whoever jolly well wants to participate, but encourage anyone who isn’t married (be they engaged to tie the knot the following week, 78 and widowed or 6 years old). No symbolism, just fun.
- Surname change: I’m slowly going to take Rooster’s surname. At first I will just add it to the end of my name and I will use my current last name professionally, but when i change professions, so will the surname. The symbolism is a coming together of two to form one unit and we believe in the importance and power of naming. I don’t feel too sentimental about this as our surnames are fairly similar in that they both have an anglo-saxon heritage. But it’s not that easy! As an exchange, we will adopt my “family crest” (ironically, given that Rooster’s nickname came about completely separately to this deal): the cockerel. As a result, the cockerel will be a very present symbol at our nuptials!
- Honeymoon: Rooster is organising to take me away as a surprise. This is unusual for our relationship as I am usually a bit of a planning freak and Rooster is not always very well organised. I was, however, more than to give up the control of one aspect of the wedding…
What is unusual, perhaps, about my position (as I have come to realise after reading this post at accordions and lace and the comments thereto), is that at times I feel a tad embarrassed about the traditions we are hanging onto. Rather than be criticised for bucking the system (as it seems most brides are), my colleagues and some women-friends seem to think i am a tad backward for, for example, taking Rooster’s surname: that I am not feminist enough! Of course, I can only approach these attitudes with the same countenance that all brides/grooms feeling criticised must adopt: it is our union and we must find the steps that are right for us.
Traditions are a fine line for a strong woman to walk (especially given the root of many wedding traditions): symbolism is important as it sends off many messages. But I believe that each couple can and must debate and adopt each tradition they believe will add to their marriage celebration.