Question: What’s funnier than a radical feminist getting married?
Of course, I am not talking about a woman who calls herself a feminist because she believes in equal rights or free contraception. I am referring to the feminist zealots, women like Jessica Wakeman and Tracy Clark-Flory, women who feel that wearing cosmetics is a sellout and a betrayal of everything that Naomi Wolf holds dear.
Wakeman has just gotten married. Clark-Flory is about to get married.
Both of them have used the occasion to torment themselves for capitulating to the Wedding Industrial Complex and for abandoning just about every tenet of their feminist faith.
For a true-believing feminist ideology can magically transform a joyous day into an endless bout of self-torture. These women remind me of medieval flagellants, people who walked around whipping themselves—literally—to do penance for their sins.
Obviously, modern flagellants prefer the moral to the physical dimension, but, then again, you never know.
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Wakeman describes her experiences:
Getting married is a series of capitulations. I got married three weeks ago (and I swear to God I will write about other topics soon, really), so I know this for a fact. Thinking that you can have wedding that is 100 percent a reflection of all of your values all of the time — to say nothing of your partner’s values — is naive. Weddings involve capitulations to your family and his/hers. Weddings involve capitulations to your bridal party and/or friends. Weddings involve capitulations to societal tradition, family tradition or religious tradition. For plenty of people, weddings are a capitulation to our consumer-driven, “keeping up with the Joneses” (or in this case, “the David Tuteras”) society. Like anything else in life, you will negotiate some of your values that previously were very strongly held. The difference is that with a wedding, your values take an outsized importance because it feels like you’re supposed to take a stand — possibly the biggest stand you’ll ever take in your life, even.
The thought comes to mind: if it feels like that much of a capitulation, why do it? Is it irrational to think that if your ideology makes a joyous occasion feel like a cowardly surrender in a war, perhaps there is something wrong with your ideology.
Wakeman does have a glimmer of insight here:
Being engaged, planning a wedding, your wedding day, and basking in your newlywed glow are supposed to be a happy time in your life. Celebrating your commitment to another person should fill you with more joy than strife. The reality is that people that love Tracy Clark-Flory will still love her no matter how she performs femininity or performs “being a bride.” The bigger question that perhaps she should ask — as she nurses the elastic indentations her Spanx leave in her skin and enjoys a foot rub from her new husband after hobbling around in heels all day*** — is how, when all this is said and done and she looks back on her decisions, whether she will love herself knowing she isn’t as courageous about living her values as she pretended to be.
You start to think that when the officiant asks whether anyone believes that this couple should not be getting married,the feminist bride feels sorely tempted to pipe up.
As for the theoretical support structure that has helped turn a joyous occasion into self-torment, note that Wakeman talks about how a woman “performs femininity” or “performs ‘being a bride.’”
Apparently, Wakeman has gleaned these thoughts from the empty-headed musings of philosopher Judith Butler.
Here’s the deal: performing is something you do when you play a role. There’s a difference between being feminine and performing femininity.
When a woman gets married she is a bride. When she plays the role of bride in the theatre or the movies she is performing.
Of course, in the philosophy of J. L. Austin, when the officiant pronounces the couple man and wife-- assuming that the wording is allowed-- his words are doing something real. His words are what Austin called a performative utterance. This use of the term has nothing to do with theatrical performance.
Besides, the phrases “performing femininity” and performing “being a bride” are gibberish in the English language. That should have been a sufficient clue.