Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Til Death Parts Us

The other day, as my parents were getting ready to go to a wedding, my mom was writing a check as a gift. She made it out the the bride with the husband's last name and my dad asked if she was certain she was changing her name. My mom responded that it was almost definite because the bride's parents were traditional.

Wedding traditions drive me crazy.

So much of weddings and marriage is about what people are supposed to do, regardless of the origin of the tradition, and regardless of what it means. The father gives the bride away and nobody stops to think about the historical link in which a woman passed from being the property of her father to the property of her new husband; nobody stops to think about the implications for a woman's autonomy of this step in the ceremony. The bride is expected to take on her husband's last name - because that's what people do - without giving a second thought to the name and identity she is giving up. That is not to say I have a problem with a bride taking the groom's last name if there is a reason for it, but it is stupid to do so just to conform.

At this point in the conversation I mentioned that I didn't think I wanted to give up my name, and that perhaps my husband could take my name, or we could make up a new name together. My dad laughed. To make up a new name, to create a new identity for the new couple one becomes after a legal marriage, was ludicrous to him. "I've never heard of such a thing!" Yes well, it is not such a strange idea in the circles I run in. Circles that question tradition and never act simply to conform. Circles that think critically about the why behind their actions. Circles that do nothing blindly. These are my circles that I wish I could extend to include everybody because everybody deserves autonomy and choice, and the right to choose how their relationship should run its course.

My attention was recently brought to a zine about women who are not married and who do not want to be. I think this highlights an important point: people get married for many different reasons and they do not get married for just as many reasons. Too often marriage is simply seen as the final goal of a relationship, and any relationship that does not end in marriage is in some way a failure. Furthermore, any marriage which ends is seen as a failure on both parties because they were not able to stay together until "death do us part." People change constantly, and it is ridiculous to think two people can remain good for each other for their entire lives. If they happen to change compatibly and remain happy, good for them - but it is unlikely and society's view on marriage needs to change to recognize this fact. I could write longer, because my ideas tend to want to write for much longer than a blog post, but instead I'll leave you with that miniature snippet on my views on marriage.

Marriage is not unnecessary because there are multiple financial, social, political, and legal benefits to marriage. That being said, aspects of marriage have to change because the institution is flawed, as is society's viewpoint.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Return to Reality

Oh how long it has been since I have written... I blame my hiatus on finals, graduation, a two-week trip to France, and a rest period to rejuvenate myself after all that craziness. I have moved back home and am returning to a life of compromises and a full house and a lack of the independence and scholarship I have grown to love. I already miss the intellectual discussions of my beloved alma mater, and will have to uphold my feminist education on my own time. This blog may become my only outlet for dialogue and sorting out my ideas, or it may just fizzle out.

First, I would like to make a few comments on my trip to France. This was my first trip to Europe and I will remember it forever as the fabulous period wherein I discovered all the places and monuments I have dreamed of are real. I saw the extensive sculptures of Notre Dame, the fantastic arched ceiling of Sacre Coeur, and the majestic, metallic height of the Eiffel Tour as it sparkled at midnight. It was all real. Despite the magic and the wonder all around me, I was struck by the twinges of annoyance that accompany offensive actions.

French men were much more forward than Americans and cat calls were frequent. By the end of the trip I never wanted to be called beautiful again; there is just something seedy about some random man selling paintings telling you you're beautiful after you ask him a question. There was also a man who talked to me about rap and how I should rock the hip-hop style to look even better while I waited for the metro. Then the man who spoke to my mom about marrying me, but who I let get away with it because he gave me free food - twice! (it is hard to say no to free wine and crepes) He actually would have been a very nice memory until a certain friend had to ruin it by setting up a date, ignoring the existence of my American boyfriend. She created an awkward situation at his restaurant, and my later guilt when I did not show up for the date. Too bad my French near-romance had to be ruined by an aggressive attempt to make it an illicit real romance, now he is just another sour memory (who still came with free food).

On my flight to Nice, a city along the French Riviera, I sat next to a teenage couple and was initially excited to whip out my French and make a few international friends my own age. Instead, I was forced to sit by a couple as they kissed, cuddled, and fondled each other for the entire time the seatbelt sign was unlit. While I realized early on in the trip that European couples are more fond of PDA than myself, this trip crossed even that boundary as I vigorously tried to read my book instead of seeing this young man's hand slide into his companion's pants. Is it more rude to ignore this assault on my eyes and let it go on in this public place, or to ask them to cut it out? Despite my current attempt to quit slut-shaming the way I learned as a teenager, it was hard to resist a very quickly spoken English "You are a dirty hoe-bag." I have no problem with people doing whatever they want to at home, but I do not want to see it. I should have the choice on whether I see sex or not, and I do not want to see it on an airplane. Luckily Ken Follett writes wonderful books and he held my attention the best he could. Notwithstanding, my family quickly commented on the hellfire and brimstone burning in my eyes as I exited the plane.

So Nice revealed my conservative line I did not know I had; thanks for that. Oddly enough, that line did not extend to the topless sun-bathing I encountered on the beach once we arrived on the Riviera. While I found it odd through my lens as an American, it was not disturbing the way some would expect.

As a traveler I was constantly analyzing the viewpoint I was bringing to my experiences and trying to recognize the background and lens I held, while also trying not to be too much of a disgusting tourist. I have a particular distaste for tourists who travel around without knowing anything about the history or culture they are "experiencing," who do not recognize the difference between the tourist part of a country/city/state/etc and the reality -the people who run off to all the tourist icons and never bother to see anything true.

This trip was the realization of everything I have studied since 7th grade when I started taking French, and it was amazing, with only a couple bumps that could barely mar the experience.