Category Archives: Privilege

Not Cool, Marty Stew

Martha Stewart Weddings’ email of the day promises “our favorite wedding dresses.”  Clicking through to the link, this is what pops up:

REALLY? Really, Martha Stewart Weddings, you’re leading off your wedding dress feature with THIS? During THIS?

I’m… just. I just—Gah. I am so embarrassed for Martha Stewart Weddings I can’t even really be properly outraged.

Ok, I gave it a minute, and yes I can:

It’s creepy enough to digest a city of 8 million people into FASHION INSPIRATION for American brides.  But showing a white lady in a flowy gown in front of a freakin’ tourism painting and blathering about Cleopatra while the Cairo that human beings actually live in is in crisis is disgusting.

The Egyptian government choked off its people’s access to the Internet, but the people were still able to organize a protest of two million.  Meanwhile, Martha Stewart Weddings is sending out casual e-blasts about thousand dollar dresses that will make American brides look fashionably Cairene.

Photo from BBC News



Movie Review: Father of the Bride (1991)

Father of the Bride tells the most important wedding story of all: the story of masculinity in peril.

It’s a remake of a 1950 movie starring Spencer Tracy. Never having seen it, I don’t really know what the original movie is like.  But I do know some of the things that happened in the United States between 1950 and 1991.  A sampling: Hormonal birth control! The Feminine Mystique! Title VII! Legal abortion! Title IX! A woman on the Supreme Court! Three seasons of Murphy Brown!

But you’d never guess from this movie.  There are two major themes:

1. Steve Martin freaking out over losing control over his daughter to her husband-to-be.

2. Steve Martin freaking out over how expensive the wedding is.

Because losing control over a woman and losing thousands of dollars mean that Steve Martin is losing his manhood, and therefore losing what makes life worth living.

Perhaps surprisingly, I have less to say about the first theme.  It’s played so arch that I think it successfully crosses over into successful parody.  I certainly laughed out loud when Steve Martin envisions his 22-year-old daughter as an adorable 7-year-old as she describes how wonderful and brilliant her fiancé is.  It’s a little less funny when you contrast his “you’re still my baby” treatment of his grown woman daughter with his interaction with his ten-year-old Culkin son, whom he regards as a peer.  He does not trust his adult daughter to decide whether she needs to wear a jacket, but he trusts his small boy son to re-park dozens of guests’ cars during the reception.

Disturbing, but still I found myself much more rankled about the “dear lord the cost of weddings!” plotline.  Now, I understand from personal experience that even people with privilege can/should/do worry about their wedding budget.  But I still think it is kind of offensively off-putting that the masses are asked to relate to the wedding budget panic of the driver of that Aston Martin and owner of that house:

The first ten minutes of the movie outline how comfortable Steve Martin’s lifestyle is: He’s got a laughably improbably successful sneaker manufacturing business, with the whitest, least-sweatshop-esque factory in the history of athletic footwear.  He’s got the aforepictured Aston Martin and big house with a white picket fence in picturesque San Marino, California (Southern Californian cities named after European microstates: definitely dead center middle class, right?).  He’s sent his daughter to Rome to study for her Masters in architecture, but she still lives at home when she isn’t abroad.

However will this family afford a wedding?!?!

Perhaps they could ask the groom’s family for assistance? They do live in Bel Air after all.  They are, by Steve Martin’s estimation, rich people.  But he also thinks that it is truly offensive for them to offer to help pay for the wedding.  He’s the father of the bride, after all!  How dare they take away his problems like that?

Or maybe they shouldn’t hire Martin Short’s wedding planner, Franck, of ambiguous European origin and not-so-ambiguous sexuality.  Gay wedding planners = instant comedy!  They can recognize fabrics!  They wear turtlenecks! They pronounce “cake” like “cock!”   And they incorporate new expenses into weddings, like tulip beds, live swans, and Chiavari chairs.

What really happens is that Steve Martin is told by Diane Keaton, his better half, that all his money panic is taking little pieces of his daughter’s happiness away.  So he shuts his mouth and lets the money fly, returning to his core obsession of losing his little girl.  And then the wedding reception is so busy he doesn’t even see his daughter off.  But she calls from the airport to tell her dad she still loves him.

Moral of the story? You can buy your daughter’s love.  Even after she has a husband.  Rich white men of the world, relax! It’s all good.

It Begins: Dress Shopping

Yesterday marked the start of my wedding dress shopping, you know, sort of in the way Memorial Day marks the start of summer.  Like, technically summer doesn’t happen for almost another month, but nevertheless you’ve been acting like its summer since the first day the thermometer hit 80, BUT I DIGRESS.  I mean to say that I tried on white gowns, thinking about my wedding dress, but I was not REALLY wedding dress shopping.

Here is what I learned:

I am probably not going to be one of those awesome, breezy, no-nonsense, budget-savvy chicks who buys a white dress that isn’t marketed as a bridal gown.  At least I’m definitely not going to be buying a non-bridal wedding dress from BCBG/Maxazria, even though they have a wide selection of floor-length white dresses.

I tried on this dress first:

I am crazy for one-shoulder dresses right now.  But I realize it is a passing fad.  I don’t want to buy a dress for my wedding that will be an avocado fridge in a year.  Anyway, this dress was lovely, but about two inches too short.  Even when I took off the heels the salesperson provided, you could see my entire foot, not just a delicate hint of toe.  I’m not crazy tall (between 5’8″ and 5’9″, closer to one or the other depending on my posture), so I suspected it was an innate design flaw with that particular dress.  I was wrong.  I had the problem with each dress I tried in the store.

[Beyond the jump, more too-short dresses and a possibly-offensive RANT on body size and inept advertising]

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The Wedding Budget Stork

After reading this wonderful post on Another Damn Wedding, and re-reading the posts linked to within, I started to think about where wedding budgets come from.

Some couples must choose their budget because it is what they have to spend.  Some couples  choose their budget because it is necessary to accommodate certain necessities, like inviting everyone in a large family, or adhering to parents’ standards for decorum.  And some couples are fortunate enough to set their budget as what they feel like spending.

Collin and I are, more or less, in the last category.   This makes us privileged, and I don’t mean to whine about our enviable position. But I do think having a flexible budget makes what Lyn says about the attached meanings we give to money resonate even more deeply:

Money, to each and every one of us, is not just straight numbers. Money is class. Money is opportunity. Money is worth. And so we involuntarily assign an ethical value to our budgets. Whether we like it or not, we assign an emotional value to what we’re spending for our weddings.

I feel even more mixed-up about the relatively unconstrained choice I am making about how much to spend on our wedding because I am not spending money I have earned.  The money I have set aside for our wedding is from my parents’ estate.  We also have support from Collin’s very generous and wonderful family.

If my parents were alive today, I wouldn’t feel comfortable asking them for this money.  We would probably wait to have a wedding until after I’ve worked for a few years.  It feels completely insane to be spending big bucks on a wedding when I don’t have a job lined up for after graduation.  But I do have the money to spend.  I am making the choice to spend it, and I need to own that choice.

I could spend every cent in my bank account on my wedding and it wouldn’t buy me something as valuable as dancing with my dad at the reception.  I hope I don’t attempt to find a replacement for my dead parents’ love in the perfect centerpieces or a designer gown. 

But having lost my parents is part of the reason I want a wedding.  I want all the family and friends that are still with us to be there when Collin and I become a new family.  I want to “celebrate life,” as they say at funerals, but this time before it is over.  That experience is worth a huge amount of money to me, and I have the privilege to spend it.

So, yeah.  The values we assign to the money we spend?  Loaded, loaded, loaded.

Rights and Privileges

The night I got engaged, while celebrating with friends I started to mouth off about how it seems that a lot of straight people who marry have never recognized their straight privilege before they started wedding planning.1 And then they’re all “what charitable donation/ceremony reading/blog post will help alleviate me of the guilt of my privilege!?!?!” Hint: there isn’t one.

The more I think about it, the more I remember a blog post (which I now cannot find, to my dismay) arguing that “privilege” is an over-used word in conversations about social justice, because there are some things that are denied certain people which are fundamental rights, not privileges.

Marriage is a fundamental right.

Current caselaw has tortured out some sort of way to escape the pesky precedent of sentences like “Marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man,’ fundamental to our very existence and survival.”2 by arguing that while marriage is a fundamental right, but choosing your marriage partner is not. Which is obviously a load of crap.

Straight privilege still comes into play a lot with weddings: with family’s acceptance, with vendors’ cooperation, with friends and acquaintances considering it a ‘real’ wedding. But the actual legal union of marriage being limited to opposite-sex couples is just too egregious a denial to talk about in terms of “privilege.” It’s an injustice. It’s a cruelty. It’s a shame.

And I know a blog post can’t fix it. But for what it is worth, I support marriage equality.

1I don’t mean to sound obnoxious or mean. I realize not everybody took a bunch of women’s studies classes in college (that’s one of my class privileges!) Also, I think anything that gets people in the headspace where they start to recognize privilege is good. Even if it doesn’t start until you plan a wedding, it will probably persist afterward.
2Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1, 12 (1967) (quoting Skinner v. Oklahoma ex. rel. Williamson, 316 U.S. 535, 541 (1942)). [Yes, Kiely, I did just put a law review footnote in my blog.]


I totally agree this post on A Los Angeles Love that wedding photographers shouldn’t whitewash/thinwash/prettywash their portfolios to include only the most attractive couples they’ve worked with. Aside from being obnoxious, it makes sense as a business practice!

But I’m glad some photographers are sticking to the old ways, because my fiancé’s white, thin, gorgeous sister and her husband are featured in a full-page ad for their wedding photographer, and it’s pretty fun to see people I know in a magazine.