Academic journal article Ethnologies

"I-Do" Feminism Courtesy of Martha Stewart Weddings and HBC's Vow to Wow Club: Inventing Modern Matrimonial Tradition with Glue Sticks and Cuisinart

Academic journal article Ethnologies

"I-Do" Feminism Courtesy of Martha Stewart Weddings and HBC's Vow to Wow Club: Inventing Modern Matrimonial Tradition with Glue Sticks and Cuisinart

Article excerpt

Cet article examine la liste de mariage en tant que tradition nouvellement inventee et comme faisant partie de la mercantilisation croissante de la vie quotidienne et de ses rites de passage. La recherche implique a la fois une analyse deconstructiviste du discours et une critique de la rhetorique visuelle des publicites faisant la promotion des listes de mariage pour les nouveaux fiances. Afin de considerer le contexte a l'interieur duquel prolilerent ces mises en marche des listes de mariage, l'auteure commence par les histoires de deux representations connectees, tirees toutes deux d'emissions nationales. Elle soutient ensuite que la tendance a l'escalade que l'on constate dans les listes de mariage gagne en vigueur parce qu'elles se situent entre ces deux images conjointes que sont : le spectre de la scandaleuse et hysterique << mariee en fuite >> et sa soeur branchee et paradoxale, la feministe << Oui, je le veux >>.

This article examines the wedding gift registry as a newly invented tradition and part of the increasing commodification of everyday life and its rites of passage. The research involves both a deconstructive discursive analysis and a critique of the visual rhetoric in advertisements promoting registries for the newly engaged. To consider the cultural context within which marketing for wedding gift registries is proliferating, the author begins with the stories of two connected figures, both lifted from national newswires. Then she argues that the escalating trend of the wedding registry gains momentum because of its placement between these two conjoined images, namely: the spectre of the scandalous and hysterical "runaway bride" and her sister, the hip and paradoxical "I-Do Feminist."


Part 1: The Runaway Bride, A Cautionary Tale

"The list of things I needed to get done and no time to do it made me feel overwhelmed." Jennifer Wilbanks to Police Investigators (Hart 2005)

Once upon a time, in 2005, there was a bride named Jennifer whose lavish wedding for 600 guests required such an enormous mountain of weddingwork that it engulfed her. After buying a bus ticket, Jennifer disguised herself by cutting off her hair, and tan away under cover of darkness. For three days, she dashed across the United States to Las Vegas and New Mexico, while anxious relatives and friends searched fruitlessly, pleading on national television for her sale return. Eventually Jennifer turned herself in by calling 911 to falsely report she had been abducted and assaulted by "Mexicans." The media reported that Wilbanks had suffered a nervous breakdown and her elaborate ruse resulted in criminal charges ("Bride wanted to be perfect"). More importantly, the blanket news coverage of her cautionary tale was a catalyst for scores of women to speak up in the media, sharing their experiences of extreme anxiety and depression surrounding planning the ideal wedding (Tolin 2006). Social expectations for nuptial celebrations have raised the bar impossibly high and responsibility is largely placed on the bride's shoulders, these women testified. The hysterical runaway bride was a tragic figure with whom many women identified.

Jennifer's story was newsworthy because it was an exception to the dominant view of weddingwork as a natural, normal, delightful activity for women. Stressed-out brides sympathetic to Jennifer Wilbanks' experience repeatedly identified the media as the culprit in establishing unattainable and unreasonable standards of perfection in matrimonial minutiae. In the wake of the runaway bride came a wave of public protest concerning the pressures of wedding planning. But those dissident voices were drowned out by the deluge of popular wedding publications that are in the business of manufacturing and normalizing DIY (Do-It. Yourself) perfect wedding rituals as pleasurable and fun. Therefore, despite the protests of her supporters, Wilbanks was vilified, pathologized, and criminalized in the media as an exceptional bridal failure. …

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