Jessica Valenti, Feministing editor and Full Frontal Feminism author, is getting married! Congratulations are in order! Wait, are they? Apparently not, if you believe feminism and marriage can never, ever go hand in hand. Certainly, marriage has its traditions that are problematic from a feminist perspective, which Valenti has addressed many times on the blog — and perhaps that’s why she seemed hesitant to announce her good news. But does the personal really always have to be political? Can’t she get married without every Gloria, Betty, and Camille judging if her wedding is “feminist” enough?
“I don’t want to feel that I must blog about getting married because it relates to the work that I do. I want to be able to have things that are just for me and not be judged poorly because of that…. I realized that I don’t feel like I had to blog about getting married — I wanted to…. I’m positive you’ll be hearing more from me on the marriage front: Like how to do it while shirking patriarchal tradition? Or why I decided to participate in an institution that still (for the most part) excludes same-sex couples.”
This initial post made me feel all kinds of warm and fuzzy inside — when you strip away all the traditions, laws, religion, and the cost of having a wedding, marriage is really about love. And Valenti and her fiance love each other! Hooray! But the litany of responses she got (which she must have anticipated), led Valenti to post a followup this week, addressing some of the “issues” Feministing’s readers had brought up — changing her last name (she’s not), gay marriage (“we’re trying use our impending marriage as a pro-active way to talk about same sex marriage among our friends and family”), and THE DRESS (she bought a not-quite white dress, the money going to charity).
All of this attention to politically correct, feminist details and ideals has led National Review Online‘s Kathryn Jean Lopez to call Valenti a “feminist bridezilla.” It should be noted that the National Review is a conservative media outlet, so Lopez’s perception of what a feminist is might not jive with your own. But isn’t Valenti kind of, sort of feeding into that stereotype by being so…I dunno…apologetic about her plans to get married? I think it’s cool that she wants to get married her way, that she has no plan to adhere to any traditions that she isn’t comfortable with, that she’s so mindful of the travesty that gays can’t get married, and that she’s asking her guests to contribute to charity rather than buy gifts. But I can’t help but want to tell her to CHILL OUT, enjoy herself, and quit the nail biting when she writes things like, “I’m sure things will continue to come up and that I’ll continue to try and find ways to subvert them or add a little dash of feminism.”
Jessica, this is your wedding, not the feminist movement’s wedding. You’re getting married. You have nothing to be sorry for. Your wedding is about you, and him, and your family and friends, and you’re fighting an uphill battle by trying to make an “-ism” comfortable with your decision to get married. It’s cool you bought a dress from a store that donates the money to charity — but it also would have been totally fine if you’d gone to Vera Wang. Not changing your name? Awesome. But if you decide not to hyphenate your kids names, tell the windbags who jump all over you for it to f**k off. Having a hyphenate is a bigger pain in the ass than the patriarchy sometimes, take it from me. And gay marriage? Anyone with half a brain and a full heart knows it should be legalized, but you have absolutely no obligation to make every (or any) moment in your personal life a political one.
Can women — conservative, liberal, feminist, whatever — please stop judging each others choices? Why is it anyone’s business where Jessica buys her dress and if it’s white? Or whether she’s spent enough time thinking about the issue of gay marriage? Or whether she’s changing her last name or creating some sort of goofy hybrid? As Clark-Flory writes, “By attempting to make it personal, albeit in a public way, she’s making a political statement: There is no one, feminist-approved way to tie the knot.” So, seriously, can we quit trying to define one?