5 Things Women Deal With When Getting Married That Men Just Don't Have To
As a proud feminist as far back as I can remember, there were many things I needed to make peace with about marriage before I entered into it — no matter what your views on the matter are, the reality is there are certain things women deal with when getting married that men just don't have to. Sure, marriage has evolved over time and Millennials are basically redefining the whole system, but that doesn't change the fact that it is an institution deeply rooted in some seriously patriarchal traditions and built upon old-fashioned gender norms.
Just think about it: Historically, marriage was little more than a barter of goods, by which a bride was property exchanged for strategic purposes or financial gain. While marriage today is considerable more balanced (and inclusive, thanks to the 2015 SCOTUS ruling in favor of same-sex marriage), there are still many habits and customs that favor the groom over the bride. None of this, of course, means that marriage is inherently un-feminist. They call it your big day for a reason — you get to make the rules. I walked down the aisle to a Smashing Pumpkins song, read my own vows, and asked my husband to join me for our first dance. And at the same time, my dad walked me down the aisle and I took my husband's name. What made my wedding and now my marriage feminist is the fact that I am a feminist. And my husband is a feminist. Ergo... well, you do the math.
Still, we'll both readily tell you that the following things weighed heavily on me when we were getting married but barely registered as a blip on the radar for him. It's worth noting that most of these are applicable primarily in heterosexual weddings marriages, largely because traditional gender roles tend to be heavily enforced in these types of situations. But honestly? It's all pretty weird when you think about it, no matter where you're coming from.
1. Figuring Out Whether You're Changing Your Name
This is a tough one. Because paternal name dominance is still very much the prevalent culture, it can seem like there is no other option but to take your husband's name when you get hitched. I mean, it's tradition, right? Well, yes, but the traditions it is based on are pretty damn sexist. First and foremost, it was born of the idea that when a woman married a man she became his property — they were one entity, with the bride unable to vote, do business, or any other thing a human being should reasonably be able to do if they want to. Then there is the matter of legitimizing children. Back in the days before paternity tests (or Maury Povich), the way to tell if a child was illegitimate was whether or not the child had its mother's name or a father's name. So, yeah, this is kind of a loaded decision. Personally, I went with my husband's last name because my maiden name was hella long and hard for people to pronounce.
It's also worth noting that men can and do change their names after getting married, no matter what gender their partner is; however, the cultural expectation isn't nearly as weighted in favor of a name change for men as it is for women. And that's kind of messed up.
2. Actually Changing Your Name, Should You Decide To
It doesn't end there, unfortunately. Once you make the difficult decision to abandon your patrilineage, you have to do the legal legwork. Your husband cannot do this for you, nor will he care to. Why? Because it means getting copies of your marriage license, and then standing in line at the Social Security Administration office to get a new Social Security card, and at the DMV to get a new license. Not to mention calling all of your financial institutions and credit card companies to update the info there as well. Should you decide to take your partner's name you're looking at a solid day or two (at the minimum) to officially become Mrs. Whatever.
3. Wedding Superstitions
To my knowledge, my husband did not take part in any wedding superstitions. He did not have to duck and dodge the morning of the wedding to make sure I didn't catch a glimpse of him in his tux for fear it would bring bad luck upon our marriage. And, speaking of bad luck, he didn't listen to a million people wish it would rain on our big day because a light shower before your nuptials is apparently a good omen. Likewise, I don't remember him having to hunt down something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue to ensure we would in fact live happily ever after. Weird, right?
4. The Circus That Is Hair, Makeup, And Fittings
I know what the naysayers will chime in with here — "But it's your decision to get your hair and makeup done" and all of that other stuff that transforms you into the classic blushing bride. Only, is it? Is it really, you guys? If it is, awesome. It should be your choice. But the reality of it is that women are expected to look a certain when they make their way down that aisle according to our culture, and anyone who says otherwise is fooling themselves. Men might have a tux fitting and hit the barber shop once before the big day, but women put in serious time getting practice 'dos, visiting the salon, testing out makeup styles, and more. Even if it can often be fun, it's also exhausting — and all the more so if you're doing it because of outside pressure that you're "supposed" to do it, rather than for your own enjoyment.
5. Who Will "Give You Away"
If ever there was a sexist wedding tradition that has been perpetuated, 'tis this. There's simply no denying that it dates back to the days when the father of the bride paid a dowry and handed over his daughter to a suitor who would help advance the family name or position in society. Yet, most of us still do it. I did it, which surprises even me, but I didn't want to hurt the old man's feelings. For men, this is a moot point, but for women it could make or break the day. Do you walk yourself down the aisle? Or do you have your dad do it? What if you have a step-dad? The implications of the decision could tinge the whole vibe of your day.