Just when you thought it was safe to come out of the marble-clad McMansions on Real Housewives Of New Jersey, there’s a new feud in town. (Just kidding. There’s always a feud in town.) New cast member Jennifer Aydin has focused a lot on the fact that she is Assyrian, although she says Turkish to simplify for American viewers, and in her family, being Turkish comes with a large degree of tradition that must be followed. But now that Jennifer’s brother on RHONJ is getting married, it's inadvertently causing a big rift between the women.
Jennifer has spoken numerous times, in numerous episodes, that the way they do marriage in her Turkish community is a little different than in the United States. The marriages in her culture, Jennifer says, are put together on a different level. “We don’t arrange marriage blindly — we don’t force someone to marry someone that they don’t want,” Jennifer told Bustle early in the season.
“In my community now, we set you up for marriage. You’re going out with this person, you already know how they are on paper, you know the families, you know they have a good name, you know this is gonna be a good match.” After a potential match is made, it’s then that the couple sees if they have a “connection,” she says, and then it goes from there. “We don’t force people to do anything they don’t want to do. We encourage them to find a path of harmony,” Jennifer said.
But the women of Real Housewives Of New Jersey don’t understand the practice, because Margaret, among others, seems to be steadfastly focused on the “arranged” part of Jennifer’s brother’s nuptials. For Jennifer, it is the blending of two families. For the rest of the women, it’s a barbaric medieval tradition. To each their own, of course, but I smell a little hypocrisy.
The women on Real Housewives Of New Jersey (at least the original cast) make a big deal of being "traditional" Italian-American women. In their view, this means that the women are meant to be wives and mothers, and the men go off and make the money. In fact, Joe Gorga, still on the show as Melissa’s husband, speaks openly, in 2019, about how his daughter should aspire to be a housewife and a mother. He mocks his wife’s new business as a hobby and not a career. There were countless fights when Melissa first opened her boutique because Joe didn’t believe that his wife, a woman, needed to be out of the home.
In addition, Teresa has said that she couldn't control or confront her husband, Joe, even leading up to his arrest and conviction for fraud. Danielle's introductory scenes in the series were about looking good, namely to attract the gaze of men and be taken care of. Former castmate Siggy Flicker (who is not Italian, by the way) was told point-blank by her husband that she needed to stop working in order to take care of the home and that he could make enough money on his own. To that, she called him a "real man."
If setting someone up for marriage is supposedly sexist, as some of the cast members have said to Jennifer, how is it then any different than the everyday sexism that occurs on Real Housewives Of New Jersey and has since day one? Any woman who grew up in an Italian-American family in the tri-state area (this writer included) can attest that Joe Gorga's attitudes are not uncommon in that community. Yes, there are stereotypes, and not all Italian-Americans feel or act the same the way, obviously, but it is a stereotype for a reason: It is sometimes true. Much like sometimes an arranged marriage might be oppressive, and sometimes, it's vastly misunderstood.
If Jennifer’s family’s practice of finding suitable matches for marriage is as patriarchal and outdated as Margaret suggests, surely the “old-school” sexist attitudes found commonly on Real Housewives Of New Jersey are, too. The women who are so offended by Jennifer’s brother’s marriage can’t have it both ways — those who claim to be “traditional” subservient Italian-American women should be understanding of other old-school ideas, like Jennifer’s family being heavily involved in choosing her and her brothers' life partners.
If we're calling each other out for being complicit in maintaining patriarchal traditions, the ladies of Paramus aren't going to win this feud.