It seems I have come to a new stage in my life. No, it’s not my big impending move, or the new job, or my fast-approaching 25th birthday. It’s my friends’ Facebook posts. Over the past six or so months, they’ve all seemed to have one thing in common: marriage.
Whether it’s being bridesmaid or bride, groomsman or groom, everyone these days seems to be in weddings. One weekend in August, I counted seven individual weddings in my Facebook feed. In the last two days, two different couples got engaged (congrats, guys!) and everybody seems to be pinning to wedding boards. And when I wasn’t watching the mass matrimony on Facebook, I was working at an inn that seemed to have a different magical ceremony every weekend.
I confess, I’m getting swept up. Like when I was a kid, I’m daydreaming about a big party, a big, sparkly white dress, cake… I’ve even caught myself planning a reception mixtape, and I’m not even engaged.
And yet, I have to wonder at how much societal influence (especially Facebook) has to do with my interest in marriage. I am in a happy, loving, committed relationship. I don’t need to put on his last name to prove it to anyone, but I fantasize about it.
Even as I get swept up in the romance, weddings still remind me of all the women-as-property traditions that we cling to in this society.
Many women still believe their boyfriends should ask their fathers for permission before proposing, for instance. Men have told me its “respectful,” but respectfully, Dad, it’s not your decision to make; it’s mine. And the father “giving his daughter away” is a leftover of the transfer of goods that marriage once was. (Mental Floss has a great roundup of the origins of traditions, ranging from superstition to patriarchal rite.)
As I watch many of my friends take their vows, I long for that for myself, and also question why we hold on to so many patriarchal traditions. Why should I take a husband’s name? Do I even need to marry him? Isn’t pledging devotion between two people enough?
I’m not the only feminist who struggles with this. In fact, feminists are torn on the question of whether marriage can be redeemed from its origins. Some believe a feminist getting married is a betrayal, while others argue the very personal decision can change marriage for the better, as married feminist Lisa Miya-Jervis explains.
I guess all I’m saying, Dad, is I don’t have all the answers. As I’m moving forward and entering a new stage in my life, I’m still struggling to figure out what decision is right for me. And whether I marry or not, my decision is framed by patriarchy and a long history of marriage, so I’m thinking carefully before I make it.