I've been contemplating weddings a lot - how it seems like the more formal the event, the more gendered the roles must become. The examples are everywhere (caveat: this is the prevailing discourse; I am aware there's numerous dissenting people out there). Why do independent women suddenly fall into the role of being given away by (often) a father? Why must women's families still pay for most of the affair? Why do the majority of women still change their last names? Also, has anyone thought about that the old phrase "man and wife" means the man is still a man, but all of a sudden the woman is only a wife?
Some of this falls into practicality; if both partners don't share a last name, there could be discussion for what name to give the offspring, should they come to be. Some of it is tradition; the transfer of the bride from father to husband has roots in contracts, though now it can be seen as an emotional exchange. Most of it, probably, comes from consumerism; the more we can convince people weddings are special, the more they will spend on them, and we live in a capitalist society that needs new goods and markets to survive.
However, in these events when so many antiquated, gendered moments arise, how does one navigate expectations against a belief that they are in fact antiquated, gendered moments. For example, in my experience, when one marries, there is an influx of gifts addressed to "Mr. and Mrs. X." Is responding to this tacky because it's a gift? Is not responding betraying the strong feelings I have about language that historically reinforces my lack of identity in the world upon marriage? In essence, is there a feminist etiquette?
There is always the solution of the big ol' middle finger to those who stick to tradition in the marriage ceremony and go against your own sensibilities. If that's your way of going about it, you be you and maybe teach me your ways sometimes. Even more problematically, I know that etiquette in itself is a prominently classist institution that exists only to differentiate between those who know the rules and those who do not. Furthermore, etiquette surrounding women has historically been more rigorous and stringent, to the point that corsets, visiting hours, hairstyles, clothing, shoes, and speech limited and cornered women into social and physical immobility.
However, I was raised a Southern Catholic, and politeness in social situations is still paramount. It genuinely offends people when certain rules are not followed, and to a point it's just easier to learn where to step so you avoid the accidental (and can enact the purposeful). Our friends get married young, and the weddings are large and traditional. It's hard for me to explain this to someone who is from a culture where this does not matter, but here, knowing the rules just still seems to matter.
Yet, despite my upbringing, I am not this girl. But, as the "etiquette" title implies, I respect that others do not share my beliefs, and I wonder if there's a way to walk the line between tradition and respecting my own beliefs about gender and how certain language and traditions continue to reinforce unfair expectations on women.
What are your thoughts? Does a feminist etiquette exist?