26 Aug 2008

The Industry

I'm not referring to the porn industry, nor prostitution, nor any of the other lucrative offshoots that capitalise upon commodifying the female form. No, today my consciousness has been invaded by that much more respectable of phenomenons that profits from treating anyone with a vagina like a moron - the wedding industry. I knew it was coming; the invite. Not to the wedding itself - I haven't even begun to process quite how I'm going to watch a smart, beautiful girlfriend of mine buy in to every woman-hating cliche as she proceeds with a traditional church wedding ceremony - engagement ring to purchase her, father to hand her over as property, husband's surname name to mark her as just that, and the big white dress to pretend that her claim to possess an intact hymen is a) not untrue and b) the business of her friends and family. What I have begun to dread is being roped into the pre-wedding traditional gender-role filling, i.e. 'the hen party'. We all know weddings have become an industry, with cakes, flowers, dresses, venues, present lists and the like each occupying huge niches in the market for any smart business owner who wants a ready supply of money-haemorraghing lemmings who'll just keep queueing up to throw themselves and their wallets off the nuptial cliff.

But the pre-wedding rituals? I thought anyone dreading a hen or a stag ‘do’ could console themselves with the notion that the most they'd have to put up with was a drunken night out, a toe-curlingly embarrassing encounter with a stripper, and antics involving traffic cones and park railings on the stagger home. But holy goddess, you're not just allowed a NIGHT any more - it's got to be a WEEKEND. And lo and behold, I open my inbox to find that - via Facebook, clearly to spare expense because by christ this is going to hurt the ol' Visa - my opinion is being canvassed on a Hen Weekend for Nameless Friend Lost To Matrimony costing £190 a head. My initial response is, predictably, expletive-ridden, and it takes all my sense of friendly solidarity not to send back a rant of epic proportions on the wasteful, obnoxious and indulgent nature of the whole Hen and Stag Weekend trend. However, the friend who, as Maid of Honour, has the dubious honour of organising this homage to gendered ridiculousness, is a valued and loved bosom pal who I don't want to hurt. Furthermore, she’s the type of female who, when met with any kind of feminist objection to an activity, will smile gently and ask me if I'm 'being all intense again'. Fear not, I've burnt her ears to a crisp over the years making my feelings known on the vast sexism and misogyny contained within popular cultures, but I've always known deep down that she doesn't really see What The Problem Is, and thinks that fixating on such issues makes one a bit of a dubious, unbalanced character (which I'm always cheerful to admit I am). So, to respond to my invite with a searing missive of vitriol would not just be mean and dismissive of the Maid of Honour’s hard work, it would also further serve to tie me to my stereotype.

However, aside from my objections to the way hen and stag parties seem to deliberately divide and antagonise the sexes against each other, and portray marriage as an inevitable, but unenviable, chore, what pisses me off the most is by far the expense. If I had nearly 200 quid to spare, the list of what I'd spend it on would be long, but nowhere on that list would you find one drunken, petrol- and money- guzzling weekend celebrating a marriage I barely approve of and don't really care about in the most tiresome and predictable ways possible. No, I don't live on the breadline, but money is tight for me as it is for a great swathe of the population at the moment, and I value every hard earned penny. To even suggest that I consider dedicating such a chunk of my wages on 48 hours of mediocrity feels like such a presumption, and quite a bloody insult too. As if I have nothing better to spend it on? As if one person's egotistical desire to have everyone pay attention to her for one day somehow equates me parting with cash to prop up an industry that I want to subscribe to about as much as I want to make regular donations to Ron L Hubbard?

Perhaps what underlies this is that I don't understand or sympathise with my friend's decision to get married - I think she is far too young, the couple don't know each other well enough, and like a tragically high number of women, she still believes in fairytales just a little too depressingly much. And yes, I am dismayed at how happily she buys into every traditional woman-hating aspect of the wedding ceremony. Gah, show me a 'tradition' and I'll show you an act of hatred dressed up as a respectable ritual by nothing more than constant mindless unquestioning repetition by enough people, and the passage of time. From Ms X, she'll become Mrs Y. And I'll remain Ms Y O Y O Y are even my academically clever friends such morons when it comes to buying in to a system that treats women like possessions?


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