Category Archives: feminism

all i really need to know i learned from the hair lady

Ever since I met him, the beau didn’t like the way his hair was cut. They always hacked it too short, forcing his flowing curls into an unnatural box shape. For nearly five years, it went on like this. Finally I told him, look. Maybe you should try somewhere other than Supercuts. Maybe you should try my lady.

My lady. If there’s one lady we all need, it’s a hair lady. Preferably one who can do spot-on impersonations and dishes dirt like a champion. So I took the plunge and called to make appointments for each of us, the beau and I, back to back.

If there’s one thing I may never get used to in my upcoming marriage, it’s booking appointments for another person. The fact that here I was a woman scheduling a grooming appointment for a man added a whole new dimension of insecurity, for in such instances I tend to assume the person on the other end of the line assumes that I am a shrewish busybody who has taken full control of maintaining my partner’s appearance. Thank heavens for gender stereotypes, or else I might be naturally confident and balanced!

I didn’t have a plan when I dialed the phone number for the salon, which is never a good sign.

“HELLO!” I began briskly when the receptionist picked up. So far, so good. “I WOULD LIKE TO MAKE AN APPOINTMENT FOR A HAIRCUT FOR ME…” — at this point I suddenly realized I didn’t know what to call us, so I made a serious attempt to cover my tracks with aimless mumbling — “…and uh, me and my, uhhh, fiance.”

“What?” the receptionist asked.

Whywhywhy did you call him that? my brain shrieked silently.

“My fiance?” I inquired, timidly, like I wasn’t really sure and looking for some positive reinforcement.

“OK?” she ventured.

“For haircuts?” I volleyed back.

“Let me look at the schedule,” she said.

Yes. Please do that. Before I make this conversation even more awkward than it already is.

SUDDEN SHAMELESS WEDDING SIDEBAR: One of the very first wedding decisions I ever made, in fact the first wedding decision I made, was to hire my hair lady to fix my wedding hair, and to also fix the hair of my mother, the beau’s mother, and the brigadiers. This was way back in the wedding planning dark ages when we thought we were getting married in Monterey, even. After we settled on Santa Barbara, the fabled hair lady was the one who suggested we check out her caterer friend, who coincidentally lives a block down the street from us — and who also ended up actually being on our venue’s approved vendor list. Our caterer then, in turn, suggested we use his boyfriend as our DJ. So basically, hair lady is the genesis of our entire fucking wedding.

Anyway! For the record, the beau liked his new cut, and has accepted hair lady as his own. Since then, I have devised a plan. Now, when I call up the salon, I will ask to make hair appointments for “two people.” Because that’s who we are, right? Just two people. Plain folks, hangin’ out. No one person in control of the other. Except for, you know. The fact that I forced him to start coming to my hair lady.*

So I will keep on braving awkward phone conversations to schedule our haircuts together, especially because of our new routine. Now, after our appointments are done, we walk down the street to that one bar where the bartender has missing teeth and the back patio always smells like french fry grease and regret. We get a couple of drinks and toast our new looks. Because nothing says awesome like a fresh new ‘do.

I know this because the hair lady told me so.

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* Most likely by withholding sex.

in which i get all crazy-bride on you

Yesterday, Becca of A Los Angeles Love posted about wedding articles and the people who comment on them, specifically in reference to this wedding budget article on Jezebel.* Later on, my friend sent me a link to yet another subpar wedding budget article on Jez. If you haven’t read it (please do), what basically happens is that two women get together and make fun of stereotypically insane brides and their massively inflated budgets.

I read that article last night. And I got mad.

The ugly caricature of a bride is so utterly pervasive in our society. Television has a special way of exploiting the worst of the wedding industry for the purpose of our entertainment. And I understand why that is — who’s going to tune into a show about a normal couple balancing their budget and making rational decisions? But there’s something more at work here than just media.

What is up with the woman-bashing?

Yeah, you heard me. I said woman-bashing, because men are never implicated in this role. Oh, right, that’s because we’ve cajoled, manipulated, or deceived them into their reluctant walk down the aisle – or at least that’s what every beer commercial and sitcom implies. Ah, but that’s an argument for another time. Right now I’m focusing on common discourse about brides, and moreover, about women.

We’ve established guidelines for discussing what a woman chooses as her career, whether she chooses to have children, whether she chooses to stay at home. No, they are not always followed, but they are there, to remind people to respect the choices of others. But weddings? No. Weddings are the last frontier. Weddings are one place where lambasting women is the norm — is actively encouraged, even. Mention a wedding around the average person and their eyes reflexively start to roll. Their heads shake solemnly. “Those brides,” they smirk. “They are so crazy.”

Confession time: I used to do this, after I first got engaged. Many of my first posts made fun of the “typical bride,” caught up in a frenzied flurry of tradition and unnecessary consumption. But now, I’m just so, so over it. Maybe I’ve submerged myself so deeply in the blogs of actively awesome, actively sane people that the — I’m not going to say the B-word — MonsterBride image has become but a blip on my radar. In fact, I don’t feel like I’ve ever actually even met a MonsterBride in person, even though our mass media insinuates that I should be tripping over them at every turn.** I know they do exist, but it’s my understanding that they thrive only in their natural habitats; popular cultural evidence seems to suggest these are Kleinfeld’s, bridal expos, and Orange County, CA. Point being, MonsterBride feels like a tired myth gone completely awry. Why are we actively participating in perpetuating it?

This image is so entrenched in our culture that normal women — women whose values don’t align with MonsterBride’s — go through this process of initiation after getting engaged where they feel like they actively have to prove that they aren’t, themselves, a monster. I was all over this. There was a period of several months after our engagement when I overreached. I actively cornered people and tried to show them, hey! I’m OK! I’m getting flowers from the market! I don’t care about bouquets! I don’t want a white dress! Then I absolutely flipped out when my mother decided to email all the pictures from my dress-shop visits over Christmas to my entire extended family, because — OMG — there were pictures of me trying on ridiculously poufy, traditional dresses, and what if my family now thought that’s what I wanted? What if they thought I was one of those?

Is this perhaps what the women at Jezebel are going through? Are they simply trying to sever themselves from the myth of the insane bride? I don’t know, for I am not them. But this is what I do want to know: HOW is promoting the MonsterBride stereotype helpful in advancing the station of women? HOW have budgets become a ruler for evaluating a bride’s individual worth? Instead of wasting their time doing a self-congratulatory dance, these ladies should be at work examining why the stereotype exists, why the discrepancy in budgetary criticism exists, and how we should go about breaking these things down. For shame, Jez. For shame.

Let’s flip the fucking script. End this fucking nonsense. WE are the typical bride. Moreover, we are not just brides, we’re people. We are people planning a wedding. More or less with our partners.*** We have various goals, various budgets, and various options. We have our heads on straight and our eyes wide open. We are millions strong, and we count, too.

And we are awesome.

This is the only I will type this wretched word here, but: You know what happened to Bridezilla? We killed her. We murdered her and then we went to a bar, and we drank booze. Sweet, sweet booze.

Now, let’s stop talking about her.

Word.

***UPDATE*** Annnnnd Becca has just posted an email she sent to Jezebel (we are not the same person, I swear), in which she spells out her troubles with how Jez and the rest of mainstream media aren’t giving women and weddings a fair shake — and so much more eloquently than I have here.

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* For those unfamiliar: Jezebel is an online publication based out of New York that focuses on pop culture topics from a feminist standpoint.

** And that, because I have a vagina and all, I should be one.

*** Individual mileage may vary.

in which the wedding industry can bite it

So this sample pack of save the date and invitation products that I ordered arrived today, and the very first thing I noticed was this message printed on the outside: “Marry the look you’ve been dreaming of with the look you can achieve!”

Really? There’s a look I’ve been dreaming of? This is news to me.

It’s fine to have a look, of course. A look is a great idea. The problem I have is with all this breezy wedding marketing copy that assumes engaged women are one and the same, and so we obviously spend all of our spare hours futzing with inspiration boards and lying awake each night debating the relative merits of choosing eggplant or aubergine for our accent color.

Every time I read copy like this, I feel like all of a sudden I’m in one of those 1950s ads in which a woman is smiling thoughtfully at a palette of coordinating fabrics for her new furniture, or at patterns for her new set of china, or at a bright range of color choices for her shiny new matching kitchen appliances. Except instead of 1950 it’s 2010, and instead of domestic products I’m staring at paper samples, or at centerpiece options, or at a variety of bouquets, but the sentiment remains the same — THIS IS THE STUFF OF YOUR DREAMS.

OMFG, towels. Via www.vintageadbrowser.com

This is what marketing does, of course. We all know this. Its talent lies in making us believe what they’re selling is important. And since weddings are one of the last outposts of truly woman-centric marketing — one of the last realms in which men have yet to make an influence, or even an appearance — the selling is confined to what is commonly held that women are interested in. And so we get beaten over the head with wedding marketing that hews to pretty colors and fabrics and baubles, oh my!

Dude, I know what you’re saying. “Wait a minute, I’m a chick, and I kind of like thinking about fabrics, and come to think of it, I sort of like baubles too.” Well, I hear you, man. I have gazed longingly at many a sharp color combination, and don’t tell anybody, but I have also been known to be easily distracted by shiny objects. But that’s not the entire scope of my being. I’m a woman, and I don’t get my rocks off on towels and carpet samples or even tablecloths and candle votives — and in the end I’ve grown to resent being represented in marketing as such. I’m being talked down to, and I don’t like it.

You know what marketing is great at? Pouncing on niches and exploiting them. I have yet to see real evidence of that in the wedding industry. Sure, you look around the internet and think, gosh, there are so many people out here who think differently about things, but I have yet to come across a widely marketed wedding product or service that doesn’t follow the same breathless you-have-been-dreaming-of-this-your-entire-fucking-life song and dance.

For once I’d love to stumble across a piece of marketing that speaks to the way I’m going about wedding planning. “For the bride who doesn’t give a shit!” I’d probably be blown out of the water. I’d probably turn into a gullible, mindless marketing puppet, all a-quiver just like jello. Because this other stuff just isn’t working for me. As far as I can tell, my general wedding approach is “Have the Most Amount of Fun in the Least Amount of Work Possible.” How do I put that into a “look?”

Wait, you know what? I take it back. There is a look I’ve been dreaming of. It’s the long look I’ll take around the room towards the end of the night, and the guys will be getting their “I love you man” lean on, and the girls will be smacking each other on the ass, and my grandmother will be grinning from ear to ear, and we’ll all be riding this crest of unadulterated joy that will carry us through the rest of the festivities and — hopefully — straight through the rest of our lives.

That’s the stuff that my dreams are made of.

it’s a whole nother world out there

Source: discovery.com

Last Friday I came across Say Yes To The Dress on television. I laughed, I cried, I was horrified, etc. You know the drill. The hands-down freakiest moment was this episode-capping voiceover by the narrator:

“There’s a special bond between a bride and her father. It’s a bond built on years of trust, which begins just after she’s born. He’ll always be the one who protects his little girl — and makes all of her dreams come true.”

OK. WEIRD. Not to mention CREEPY. Not to mention that this ties right back into the aforementioned hero pathos, in which the marriage ceremony symbolizes the bride’s transfer of adulation from her father to her new prince. Presumably.

You know, if my father is supposed to make all of my dreams come true,* then why am I not living an independently wealthy life replete with a charming old urban rustic home and a travel itinerary that would elicit envy from even the most globetrotting trust funder?

Sigh. Sometimes I feel like I get insulated out here in “alternative” weddingland. I troll around the blogs and websites I like and that’s it, that’s my whole universe. Then I see something like Say Yes and it’s like a revelation: Oh my god, there are belief systems out there which are entirely different from my own. It boggles the mind.

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* Am I not supposed to be the one who makes my dreams come true? Is that not my responsibility and mine alone?

in which you can almost see my brain explode

And so I return to rant some more about the princess thing, because I’m pretty sure you did not get your fill the first time.

Timely coincidence! My brigadier passed along to me today a link to this post on Jezebel regarding God’s Little Princess Devotional Bible, which was originally posted on Shakesville.

OK. I am putting down the religious subtext and backing away slowly, because dissing religious beliefs is not my deal and surely not the intent of this post (and I’m not even going to touch the companion book for boys, God’s Mighty Warrior Devotional Bible, which involves a wholly separate nutty grab-bag of gendered stereotypes, starting with how a boy is presented as a mighty warrior and a girl as a little princess, and oh my god please stop me now before I have to writhe on the floor in a fit of righteous fury).

Ahem.

Barbie's Princess Bride game (source: Amazon)

What it comes down to is the deliberate use of the word “princess.” It’s no random coincidence that this long-running princess fetish so closely parallels the ideals of the wedding industry. The bride is, after all, the grown-up manifestation of our collective little-girl princess dreams. Right down to the gown, the jewels, and the prince. Right?

My core issue is with the cultural assumption, reflected so strongly in the language of this book, that little girls want (need) to be showered with adulation and attention, to perform, to be pretty. “Girls long to be loved and adored, and give their heart to their hero,” the description triumphantly proclaims — and that pretty much sums up the emotion of the wedding day, doesn’t it? It’s the bride’s ultimate fantasy to be revered, admired, longed for, lavished. And why shouldn’t she? It’s her special day, after all.

The Perfect Bride Reality Show (airing in parts of Europe). From the website: "Every little girl dreams of getting married..."

Add to this sentiment a hearty spoonful of consumerism and what you’ve got on your hands, my friends, is a meaningful event wrapped in the auspices of a materialistic melee. A $15,000 dress? Of course! Everyone will be looking at you.

Let me be perfectly clear: I don’t disrespect a woman who truly wants and can afford a $15,000 dress. What I’m railing against is an industry, a culture, that has told us that these kinds of things are vital to the overall experience of getting married, and the overall experience of being a bride. I’m railing against the co-opting of an unattainable feminine ideal (the princess) in order to perpetuate an ethos of indulgence — a day, a week, a month, a year of you deserve all of this.

And I’m railing against the fact that this indoctrination started when we were so young.

A commenter on the Shakesville post named Quixotess drove it home for me: “I also really loathe the idea of ‘every girl is a princess,’ too. Of course everyone is worthy of respect and safety and pleasure, but, like…it seems to me that this sort of ‘you are like royalty’ idea can only result in narcissism.”

The wedding industry? Narcissistic?

Naaaaaaah.