Reinforcing Gender Inequality in Traditional Church Weddings
June is the month of the weddings. It was named after Juno,the wife of the Roman god Jupiter. Juno is the goddess of marriage and she takes care of protecting marital bonds from breakage. Widely, it is believed that people who tie the knot in June will enjoy wedded bliss "until death do them part." No wonder many women aspire to become June brides. Who does not want to remain in a perpetual state of marital happiness?
The sad truth is that there is absolutely no guarantee that people who get married in June are sterilized from the possibility of being "uncoupled." Furthermore, it is not correct to assume that those who get married during the other months are doomed to suffer from the breakdown and eventual dissolution of marital relations. I need not cite statistics. I can tell you though that one of my clients in a case for declaration of nullity of marriage got married in June. And I can also tell you that the parents of Dr. Thelma R. Leal (outgoing Head of the St. Louis Uiversity Political Science and Social Sciences Departments) celebrated their 66th wedding anniversary on April 27, 2007. That stretch of time the Leals remained faithful to each other is an entire lifetime for many of us! I have yet to hear of a couple who achieved their record.
Anyway, the traditional church wedding ceremony-whether held in June or the other months- reinforces patriarchy and the misconception that women are subordinate to men. I have attended several church weddings. I watched several foreign films with scenes of a church wedding. In all of these weddings, the bride's head was covered during the veil ceremony. The man's head was - shall I say, spared?
I wrote a poem more than ten years ago expressing how I feel about the veil ceremony. Here it is.
Half covered the groom’s shoulders
Half obscured the bride’s head
The groom’s crown stuck out proud
like the lone survivor in a test
The bride’s head was buried
Under a flimsy, white cloth
Flimsy or not, it shrouded her
As if her identity did not matter
For scenes like this, I have cried:
Why must they behead the bride?
I think there is no debate that gender inequality impedes development. How? It prevents the women who make up half of the population from realizing their full potentials. In the ultimate analysis, their contribution to nation-building is not maximized.
If gender inequality prevents our forward leap or slows it down, then the structures that immortalize it should be dismantled. We can start with our own consciousness.