Romanticizing Marriage and Heteronormalizing Society

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Molly McGrath
SC024: Gender and Society
Final Paper, Option #3
December 10, 2010

Romanticizing Marriage and Heteronormalizing Society

Over the years, weddings have developed from a sacred ritual to a moneymaking industry. Bridal magazines cover the shelves of grocery stores and doctor’s offices. Television shows and movies show scenes of women dressed in white and associate these images with happiness and wholeness. The divorce rate in America may be high, but the social fascination with and desire for the fairytale wedding is even higher. Chrys Ingraham, Jyl Josephson, and the marginalized LGBT community all address the issues created by the romanticism of marriage and compare the pressure to have the perfect wedding with the social demand to have the perfect heteronormative marriage.

The wedding planning website “The Knot” has everything that your average bride would need in one place. It boasts the names and reviews of wedding vendors in your area, dictates proper wedding etiquette, and lets women shop the most popular contemporary wedding styles. It serves as a concrete example of society reinforcing heteronormativity on a daily basis. Chrys Ingraham states that heteronormativity is the institutionalization of heterosexuality, which dictates the standards for legitimate and acceptable social and sexual relations. “The Knot” reinforces acceptable sexual relations under its tab “Real Weddings,” which features pictures of real couples at their weddings. Every single “real” couple that is depicted is the same; white male and female glowing with happiness. However this depiction of a “real” couple is prejudiced racially and further dictates heteronormativity.

Ingraham believes that weddings reinforce this standard for “normal” heterosexual relationships through the notion of a “white wedding.” The “white wedding,” as Ingraham finds, is the traditional Christian ceremony between a white woman and white man that not only reaffirms their love for each other, but also reaffirms their dedication to the institution of marriage and the certain behaviors that it dictates. In this same way, “The Knot” dictates that the “white wedding,” or “real wedding,” meets the standards for a legitimate and socially acceptable wedding. On the left side of the browser under “real weddings” are sub-categories of these weddings, which include: African-American Weddings, Jewish Weddings, and Gay Weddings. Although these diverse weddings and relationships are recognized, they are literally marginalized into an “other” category because they do not fit the romanticized model of the “white wedding” that calls for a white, Christian, heterosexual man and woman.

“The Knot” shows racial prejudice because of its lack of multi-raced models featured on the site and the exclusion of African-American weddings from the “Real Weddings” category. Why must black brides be separate from white brides? Isn’t a bride a bride? Although the African-American section of the website has specialized tips for African-themed weddings and make-up tips “for your skin tone,” the distinction between the white wedding and the black wedding proves that most people view them separately and see whiteness as the standard. Acker speaks of whiteness as a standard and found that white men make more money than men or women of any other race because they are deemed the standard in our society. This statistic is not only proven in the workplace, but is also proven in the world of weddings. Ingraham finds that blacks and Hispanics spend less on weddings than white people do, which can probably be attributed to inequality in pay between white and colored people. The fact that people of color will spend less on a wedding also reinforces the notion that weddings “belong” to white couples because of the lavish, fairy-tale ceremonies that they are able to pay for.

“The Knot” also shows prejudice against homosexual couples by marginalizing them into a...
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