If you call yourself a “feminist“—which basically means you believe women deserve the dignity, rights and respect afforded to men—then you can relate to how peeps come out of the woodwork to tell you you’re either being “too feminist” or “not feminist” enough. Some people think feminism should be a spartan existence where there’s no frivolity allowed, on principle: no makeup, no “Sex & The City, and definitely no getting married!
The dumbest criticism of feminists we’ve ever seen happened when some people freaked out over the engagement of Jessica Valenti, co-founder of Feministing (and one-time Frisky blog!) to her boyfriend, Andrew Golis, deputy publisher of the politics blog, Talking Points Memo. Gettin’ hitched, apparently, is “antithetical” to feminism.Peeps had issues with their non-traditional proposal (no kneeling, no rose petals) and Valenti’s choice to keep her last name—not just professionally, but keep her name everywhere. While most Feministing commenters congratulated Valenti and Golis on their engagement, some hardliners gave her a hard time, like one who wrote Valenti “seem[ed] to find flaws with patriarchy, but fail[ed] to find a way to bring it down.” Oh, please! You can still be a feminist and get married—I mean, even ’70s feminist icon Gloria Steinem tied the knot eventually. Non-feminists brought out the sharp knives, too: a blogger for the conservative magazine National Review even penned a post about Valenti called “You’ve Never Met A Bridezilla Like A Feminist Bridezilla.”
All the criticism spurred Valenti to pen an article for the UK’s Guardian newspaper last April in which she said she’d discovered the hard way how “there is no such thing as perfect when you are a feminist getting married…The fact that Andrew and I had had conversations about the misogynist traditions that accompany marriage made us a bit of an oddity, it seemed,” she wrote. “Then there were the fellow feminists who felt that getting married was a sop to the patriarchy.” Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
But Valenti and Golis, who both are feminists, chose to do their wedding their way, screw the naysayers. This cute couple nixed a white dress (a traditional symbol of a woman’s supposed virginity) and opted for both parents to walk them down the aisle. They divvied up the labor of planning the wedding, contrary to those heinous “Bridezilla” shows where the guy just shows up to a pre-planned event arranged by his bride. And Valenti tossed her bouquet to all the single male guests, just to be cheeky. As a recent write-up in The New York Times‘s “Vows” section attests, the entire wedding was lovely, thank you very much.
Some may criticize Valenti and her new husband even more for landing in the traditional marriage-revering of places, the freakin’ Times “Vows” section. But I, for one, am thrilled to have a feminist bride template. I’ll be tying the knot with my dude sometime within the next two years and I’ll be eschewing a lot of the traditions of marriage, too. I know anything that will happen to me—from telling Dad I don’t want him to walk me down the aisle, to shopping for a gown that isn’t pure, virginal white—Jessica will have gone through before. If she can marry like a feminist, so can the rest of us.
“You come to a point where you give up on holding yourself to a perfect feminist ideal. It just feels stifling,” Valenti told the “Vows” section. So Valenti stopped listening to what others were saying and did what’s right for her—and that’s the most feminist choice she could have made of all. [New York Times “Vows,” Feministing]