I just started watching the second season of Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta. This is a guilty pleasure and I make no apologies. I admit that I have a love for trashy reality television, but considering that I don't have cable, my viewing choices are limited to what I can get on Netflix. Also, I live in the Atlanta area and despite eccentricities that I like to think fly in the face of this fact, I am southern, born and raised. So, I like this show. I cringe when I wonder what non-southerners must think of us based on the stereotypes they see on reality T.V. Anyway, this is the headspace I was in when I chose my next book and I bought this one when I was planning my wedding. It was a new release and the timing was such that I felt compelled to buy it. Now, seven years later I am finally getting around to reading it.
Look at the cover. Provocative, right?
Wifelust vs. Wifelash
The very first thing I took issue with was her argument about what she calls "wifelust." She said that women seek to be traditional stay-at-home moms because society tells us that is what we should want and that the ability to do this is considered the ultimate status symbol in current society. Maybe if this were Stepford, Connecticut. I currently work and my husband is a stay-at-home dad. This is how things worked out best for us when we discovered we were unexpectedly pregnant. I am the breadwinner in our household and one of our entire paychecks would have gone to childcare, so it just made the most fiscal sense for my husband to stay home. This is a role he cherishes dearly and he rues the day our son starts school and he doesn't get to spend all day with him. I think we are incredibly lucky that our son gets to stay at home with one of us, but in no way does it feel like a symbol of status. Is that because my husband is the one staying home? At any rate, we had to make quite a few financial sacrifices to make this work. We don't have new cars, we don't have cable television, we live in a tiny house in a depressed neighborhood, we rarely go out the eat, we rarely buy things we don't really need. BUT these sacrifices are well worth the ability to care for our child in the way that we feel is best.
Next, let me just say thank goodness the idea of coverture has been essentially dismantled in modern times. Coverture is a legal construct that dictates that a woman's identity is legally subsumed by her husband's:
"By marriage, the husband and wife are one person in law: this is, the very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband; under whose wing, protection, and cover, she performs everything..."
Kingston does an excellent job of explaining this load of horseshit and its eventual undoing. I will say, though, that I have been to two weddings in recent years where this idea was romanticized during the vows and both times I was appalled. Are they exhibiting wifelust by embracing these outdated ideals? Am I exhibiting wifelash by being disgusted by it? These wives promised to obey their husbands in the vow swapping of these very religious ceremonies. I even voiced my shock at the antiquity of the sentiments in these modern weddings, but my family could not relate to my opinion. I remember my step mom saying that of course the wife obeys the husband. In return, he promises to protect and take care of her. And what's worse is this idea was viewed as holy, romantic, and ideal. In 2012, some women are still treated like children in the name of matrimony. I guess I begrudgingly support their right to choose this type of relationship for themselves and I thank the brave and outspoken ladies that came before me that I don't have to.
|This is one of my favorite photos from our wedding. So arty.|
|Spy Magazine cover (1995) ridiculing Hillary for daring to have figuartive balls via Fading Ad. We'll save the discussion for how offensively transphobic this cover is for another day.|
"everyone wonders how the First Lady—or for that matter any intelligent woman who doesn't need a man for financial security—can tolerate indignity so complete that she has been caricatured in a Claymation bout with Monica Lewinsky on MTV's Celebrity Death Match."
I even remember thinking at the time that she should leave him for embarrassing and disrespecting her like that and thinking that was the progressive, feminist, and correct mindset to have. Wifelash. My older self is more able to discern nuance and gray-area and I realize that it was politically expedient for her to stay. It seems evident now that the choice was calculated and ultimately in the best interest of herself and her family. Kingston's book was written in 2005 and here we are in 2013 where Hillary Clinton was the Secretary of State and Bill was the democratic darling of President Barack Obama's 2012 bid for re-election.
Edited 03/20/2013: I have decided not to write anymore on this book. Once I said I would it seemed really daunting and I don't want to write a treatise on modern marriage. I just want to put this book behind me.