21 May 2011

The Wedding Dress: A Feminst Analogy

Watching Kate Middleton wander down the isle in the much awaited dress, I was struck by how curvy she looked.

I found this quite odd, given that she is normally the 21st century ideological stick insect. However, the figure she presented was reinforced by a dress designed to accentuate curves.

That's when it struck me, just how derogatory and insulting the modern wedding dress has become, even when we call women equal. We still seek to perpetuate the madonna/whore dichotomy in fashion.

The dress is white because that is representative of the Virgin. Yet the irony in this representation is huge, where people who marry in the 21st century have generally lived together prior to marriage, and often have children as well. It used to be that such "fallen women" dressed in an alternative colour, but the infiltration of white dresses has returned.

To represent the dichotomy, the dress is usually fitted to exaggerate the breasts and hips (nothing like a flared skirt for that) and minimise the waist. There is psychological research into the hip to waist ratio, which, although it differs across ethnicities, the meaning is clear. A defined waist and wide hips show child bearing potential.

Therefore, as a woman chooses to exaggerate her mammary glands and accentuate her child bearing potential, her dress is in fact screaming: I am justifiable by my physicality! I am valued only for my ability to breed! This ability has not been tested yet because I am PURE!

We may as well surrender to walking behind men in public and obeying their every wish.

Haven't women come further than to simply resign themselves to being regarded as baby factories? Haven't we intellectually evolved beyond the representation of a patriarchal ideology?


  1. I'm naturally curvy - big hips, small (in comparison, though still a good 34") waist, big bust - but I don't connect my body with it's ability to pop a sprog really, to the point I still find myself somewhat surprised when people refer to my figure as "childbearing". I suspect a lot of others are the same and wear white because it has become tradition, not because it is clean and pure, and pick figure hugging dresses because yhy like their figure (one hopes) rather than because they want to show off their ability to carry a member of the next generation.

    I fully intend to wear either red or purple (depending on the colour of my hair at the time) should I ever marry, not least because they're nicer colours but also I'm rather proud of being distinctly unvirginal :)

  2. Child bearing potential and smarts, with there being a correlation between child intelligence, woman's intelligence and the ratio. apparently (commenters explaining it are scientist friends of Jennie).

    Also, the white dress thing is mostly a mth anyway, it was assigned that meaning by the Victorians but didn't really have it.

    I've never understood the walking behind thing--why would men want it? I'd much rather follow an attractive woman ;-)

  3. I can understand the lack of discrimination in a wedding ring, where it has become generic and traditional, because it is not offensive if both people in the marriage wear one eg it is not a symbol of ownership that reduces the woman alone.

    But the dress is crafted to shape the woman to imply the capability of child bearing and the colour is also indicative of the virtue of that woman.

    I would be inclined to say the dress it's self is representative of an archaic and patriachal approach to marriage. The existence of the dress it's self perpetuates a culture of submissive behaviour of the woman and her role in society, not as an individual, but as a childbearer and conjugal provider.

    Some traditions can become entrenched so they do not discriminate, but although the dress is entrenched, it has not (yet) lost it's ability to tarnish and repress the female gender.

    Were it to become tradition for a man to wear an exaggerated cod piece, the balance would be rectified.

  4. @MattGB I believe it can be seen as being protective of a woman or that the woman is lesser. But either way it is insulting.

  5. This is the first blog of yours that I have read. I doubt I'll be reading another, as not only is this one riddled with misconceptions, but it adopts a superior attitude that borders on the snide.
    Firstly BLUE wedding dresses represent chastity. White comes from the adoption and adaption of the Christening gown. The belief that it represents virginity is a common hobby horse.
    Every woman that I know of that has worn it, has chosen it either out of necessity (as cheaper wedding dresses are invariably white due to being more commonly available), or from a desire to show off their contrasting hair colour, or to appear in contrast to the traditionally dark suited groom.
    Secondly. Men ARE similarly bound by a clothing convention that accentuates their male physique, that of a dark suit, with many layers on their top half to increase their shoulders and chest, with brightly coloured tie, cravatte, flower, cumberbund, like that of a strutting male bird.
    Your statement that a wedding dress 'tarnishes' a gender firstly falls prey to the same ideological use of white-clean equals good that you are accusing the wedding dress of representing, and secondly does that gender a disservice - it implies that they are not more than the dress they wear at a ceremony they have chosen to partake of.
    Injecting an historical, non native tradition of walking behind a man, into a discussion on modern, native fashion strikes me as purely an attempt to push emotive buttons.
    Lastly, if the return of the white wedding dress is occuring more (and I fail to see any statistics in here, where my experience is to the contrary, that women are wearing whatever they wish), I personally prefer to interpret it as those women having the intelligence and awareness and even cultural humour to wear something in a manner that they are aware that their active sexual life contrasts with something people falsely assume represents virginity and are proud to undercut, negate, and make fun of said supposed ideology. In other words I assume they Are being the strong, intelligent and subversive women that you feel they are somehow incapable of being due to a fashion choice.


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