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Today’s personal account of trying to engender equality comes from Chloë.

I never cared much for fantasizing about my future wedding, nor do I believe the (Western?) myth that all little girls do it. It was not until I had to plan my own wedding (with help from my now-husband) that I fully realized what madness is going on.

I observed—with apprehension—that weddings are becoming increasingly lavish. They cost incredible amounts of money that could otherwise be used to establish a somewhat secure life for a couple. They involve great and greater amounts of complexity in terms of clothing, food, gifts, decoration, and entertainment. They invite many and more members of extended families and circles of friends and acquaintances. And it’s not only in North America (where I live); I’ve heard tales of enormous, bank-breaking weddings from friends in India, China, and other places—tales that would strike fear into humble hearts.

Now, somehow, our permissive culture has turned wedding-related materialism and selfishness into “entertainment”. Sarah Haskins sums it up with insight and humor in one of her “Target Women” videos (which satirize advertising that employs gender stereotypes):

These “reality” shows paint brides as manipulative, controlling, shallow, and self-obsessed. Grooms are painted either as impotent slobs or indifferent chumps. Where is the equality in that? These shows highlight inequality as well as the widening gap between the rich and the poor.

The most beautiful and touching weddings I’ve been to have upheld both bride and groom as contributors to a new family, a new social institution (however small in scale), and have asserted that both members accept responsibility for the well-being of their relationship.

I suppose I can only speak from my experience when it comes to equality on the ground, so I will:

As I began to plan my own wedding, I made efforts to strike a balance between humility and hospitality. We wanted to host and be generous to our dear family and friends, yet we wanted to emphasize that the marriage was to be more important than the event of getting married, no matter how joyful and reverent it was. We took to heart certain examples set by the humble and greater-purpose-driven figures of religious history—in particular, those from the Baha’i Faith, since my husband and I are Baha’is: we read about the modest weddings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi (in The Priceless Pearl). We found it valuable to seek inspiration about principles and attitudes, even in the matter of wedding planning.

Yet we also had to contend with the extravagant climate. For example: I walked into a bridal shop last summer and was immediately bombarded by an overbearing busy bee who aggressively insisted that I fill out a form with all my personal information and details about my wedding (date, theme, etc.) before I peruse the store merchandise—which I was afterward sharply instructed to do (quickly, and with no shoes on, presumably so as not to sully anything). The gowns began at $1000 and ranged in color from “white” to “eggshell” to “ivory”.

I left the store. I won’t bore you with the details of my wedding, but I wore a reasonably priced blue dress. A select group of immediate family and dear friends gathered for a weekend, went tobogganing together, ate vegetarian food, and played board games. We wanted not only a just, moderate, joyful wedding, but a just, moderate, joyful marriage. We had a brief but lovely ceremony, and then it was over. On with the business of being married—and it is going very well; we both work to be equal participants in a balanced relationship. Now the only thing left to do is keep at it for the rest of our lives….

Interested in sharing your experience promoting the equality of women and men? write a post and send it to engenderingequality@gmail.com

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