Dear Dr. Hook: Brainwashed about Weddings

Question: Recently, writer Rosy Edwards pondered this dilemma. “I am a feminist. Basic common sense dictates that a woman should be paid the same as a man for doing the same job, and not be sexually assaulted on the tube. Yet I want a traditional wedding it all its antiquated, misogynistic glory.

I am an independent, adult woman, yet I want my dad to give me away. I am self-employed and career-driven, yet I want to take my partner’s name. I want to wear white, though lord knows my purity is long gone. Why are these things so important to me? Why can’t I picture my wedding without them, despite knowing, knowing, that I can wear what I want, make my own speech and change my last name to PyjamaFace-Llama should I be so inclined. Why do I want things so at odds with my feminist principles? Am I brainwashed?

Answer: Well Rosy, you didn’t really ask my opinion (except as a reader of your column) but I decided to answer you anyway. Yes, you’re brainwashed. We all are. Our culture has very definite ideas on what’s appropriate for each gender and these ideas are hammered into us at every occasion. Since you were quite young, the notion that women should want a “traditional” wedding (weddings as large, expensive galas aren’t as traditional as we’d like to think) has been reinforced in every medium from toys and television shows to magazines and music videos.

Brainwashing involves repetition and we get that in spades. Remember all the times you heard about or were shown the fabled white wedding. The runway models on TV and in magazines displaying elaborate wedding gowns, all of them white. The numerous wedding plotlines in movies and TV shows in which the bride is walked down the aisle by her father (or father substitute) wearing – you guessed it – a white wedding dress. The much watched Royal Weddings. There’s even a Wedding Barbie who looks just like you’d imagine. That’s because this is the way weddings are Supposed To Be: an exchange of women as property based on their sexual purity.

Other cultures have diverse wedding traditions and there are myriad styles of alternative ceremonies yet you hear very little about those. If you do, it’s likely presented as an oddity, something that only weird people do. That’s because brainwashing doesn’t involve offering different points of view. Cognitive flexibility is vital to critical thinking skills, so brainwashers don’t take the chance. They provide you with only one brief piece of information (complexity is a no-no, so the shorter the better) and drum it into your head.

Fear is another way they drive the message home. This is used all the time against feminists, especially in concert with peer pressure. You want to keep your own name or make up a new one? Well, you don’t want to be one of those women. They aren’t well-regarded. Aren’t you worried that your husband will get upset or feel emasculated if you don’t take his name? You certainly don’t want that to lead to a divorce. And what in the world will you do about the children’s name? What if you don’t have a traditional wedding and you regret it? You’ll hurt your dad’s feelings if you don’t ask him to walk you down the aisle. You can fill in your own script because we’ve all heard it. Fear is such a powerful emotion that it tends to push out rationality. Brainwashers really and truly don’t want you thinking too much.

So, the question isn’t if you’re brainwashed. You are. No, the real question is what are you going to do about it? If you want to give into the impulse of a traditional wedding, then have at it. Few people will judge. But if you want to remain true to your ideals, then get busy. Start researching different wedding ceremonies and talk them over with your partner. Think about what you want your last name to be and frequently say it out loud. In short, provide your brain with alternative sources of information and then get creative. Not only will it be fun but you’ll also be modeling a new kind of wedding, maybe preventing others from being easily indoctrinated. That sounds like a worthy goal for such a strong and independent feminist.

Share Your Thoughts