I always bristle when I hear about how a woman's wedding day is 'the most important day of her life.' In the context of the more vexing topics of this blog, this often is code for: her father can finally get her chastity out of storage and hand over to her husband, she can now have sex without going crazy or to hell, and/or she has managed to keep her reputation modest and unsullied enough to earn her the ultimate reward: her man's going to put a ring on it.
So amidst all the chatter about Chelsea Clinton's upcoming wedding, I loved this very astute observation from Broadsheet's Rebecca Traister:
[Bill Clinton] started in on how he hoped he'd make it down the aisle in one piece to "do the hand-off," and on how he agreed with something that [George Bush] had told him about watching his daughter [Jenna] marry: "You know it proves you've done what you were supposed to do, but it doesn't make it entirely easy."
What about "handing off" your daughter to another man proves that you've done your work as a father? How does it demonstrate that you've done what you're supposed to do more vividly than watching your daughter graduate from college, make friends, live independently, land big jobs, develop and follow through on ambitions, help her mother run for president?
When Bill later told People magazine that Chelsea's wedding would be "the biggest day in her life, probably," I'm sure he meant well, but I kind of wanted to throttle him. What about the days on which she might pick up her master's degree, run a company, have a child, win the presidency? What about the day, already past, on which she fell in love with her betrothed, surely as life-changing as the one on which they will make it legal? [...]
The fevered fetishization of the marital day is not just irritating, it's destructive. It reproduces attitudes about personal–and especially female–achievement that are far past their sell date: that marrying is the goal toward which all of us strive, that our weddings are somehow the most exalted expressions of our accomplishments and of ourselves. That they are proof, validation, some sure sign that we turned out OK.