Growing up Southern: Reconciling Marriage & Feminism

Perhaps I'm getting sappy at the ripe old age of 28, but I'm starting to enjoy the sound of wedding bells. Like most little girls, I always dreamed of a wedding complete with a gigantic poofy dress and my Prince Charming. Thanks for the unrealistic expectations, Disney (and Jane Austen). Fortunately, I started to grow out of these fantasies as I grew older. My mother probably helped with this since she’s a strong, independent woman who helped show me how to be one, too.

Around the age of 13 in the midst of struggling through adolescent woes, I started to realize that not only did I not want a Disney dream wedding; I didn’t really want a wedding at all. Growing up in the South, this was quite the dissenting opinion. My parents were born and bred Yankees from Pittsburgh, so perhaps their northern sensibilities played a role, but I was mostly raised in the South. I considered myself a Southern girl, if not quite a Southern belle. Southern girls were meant to have one future plan: find the perfect gentleman, get married, and start having kids. I didn’t want any of those things.

I was already a bit of an outcast being a smart girl in advanced placement classes who wasn’t particularly interested in makeup, boys, or pearls. This became even more obvious as my feminism and independence grew throughout high school. I ended up attending college in northern New York, which only pushed me even farther away from my Southern upbringing. I came back to Georgia for graduate school as a progressive woman who identified as a feminist and eventually a vegan. I was not the typical Southern girl to say the least.

My distaste for marriage, and weddings in particular, had also grown. I wasn’t interested in participating in something I saw as an affront to my values. After all, I didn’t need to be “given away” by anyone to a man, and I certainly wasn’t going to promise to obey my husband in front of family and friends. I had big plans and marriage was an obstacle that would delay if not destroy them. Plus, I didn’t want kids, so what was the point really?

I didn’t think about marriage too much outside the odd date and wondering if he was “the one” until I finished graduate school and got a job in the real world. I saw more and more feminists I respected getting married, and I started to think maybe marriage can be something other than a patriarchal tradition. Maybe marriage could be more than just an obligatory next step in my life. 

After all, I was already past the prime marriage age in the South. I decided to see marriage as a celebration instead of a religious ritual that could be molded to fit my personal beliefs. In fact, it was an opportunity to share these beliefs in a way that would have meaning and represent who I am. Not only did it not have to be the Disney princess wedding dream of my childhood, it didn't have to be anything I didn’t want it to be. 

Instead, I realized a wedding could be an empowering event — an event that truly was about love, values, and ethics, not money and ego. I realized I didn’t have to include any traditions that didn’t speak to me. I allowed myself to want an event to celebrate my joy if I ever met someone I wanted to marry, but I also knew it wasn’t something I needed to make my life complete. 

If I get married there will be no giving away, at least not in the traditional way, there will not be a religious leader presiding over my vows, there will be no mountains of tulle, and I will not be in a church wearing virginal white. There will be vegan food and cake so good no one will complain about the lack of bacon, there will be love, and there will be dancing to awesome music. I will end the day feeling as complete as the day before, but happier because I will have been part of a celebration that reflects my values and those of my partner. I will be able to have a wedding that makes me feel empowered.


sara farr

SARA FARR

Sara Farr is a writer and a feminist doing her best to survive in the South. She currently lives in Savannah, GA where she spends her time writing, eating delicious vegan food, and cuddling with her cat. Visit her blog at rogueredridinghood.com or follow her on twitter @rogueredhood.