My dream [equitable] wedding

Date: November 17, 2009
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The path to our joining would start with a multi-dimensional conversation about how to structure our union, pre-wedding and post-wedding, into a fulfilling lifestyle for both parties. These conversations take enormous courage when your ideals of marriage defy your parents’ values, especially cultural norms.
There would be no one on bended knee, expensive diamond ring and swooping me away to romantic getaways. The film, Blood Diamonds, starring Leonardo Dicaprio, as well as the slave “competitiveÀ salaries miners get in comparison to their bosses made me aware of the socio-economic costs of having an expensive diamond ring on my finger.
The process of lobola would have to be redefined. Having men and women would bring different dimensions to the negotiation table, imperative to the complexity of uniting two full human beings and their families. I would be more comfortable with my mom and aunts present and fully participating in the actual negotiations as they know me far better than the uncles and would negotiate a better deal on my behalf.
Knowing my feminist ideals, my mother would take the lead in negotiating the sharing of chores in the household. Can you cook? What is your definition of the word “wife?À How does your image of wife translate practically? What if she earns more than you do? Will you support her goals and her ambitions in words and in actions? She would ask these questions the future husband directly. Personally, I would prefer to be present, along with the groom to be.
My dad would concentrate on the man’s character, rather than his purse. Is he a man of truth? What are his religious beliefs? What are his views on women? As for the uncles, they can only negotiate on the financial amount of ikhazi (the bride price) as most of them do not know me emotionally, intellectually or otherwise.
My ideal would be to dispose of the financial aspect of lobola À“ maybe both parents can bring presents as a token of friendship to both sides. The current state of the financial transaction between males turns women into a commodity exchanged between males of the clan.
“Who raised this girl who is lost about the ways of being black?À most of you are already shouting. As a black African child growing in Transkei, I believed my ultimate goal was to be married. I bought into the dream of a man pursuing me, choosing me as his wife, having his children and that I was less than if it didn’t happen.
As far as I could see, making a man choose me was not going to be a problem. Though I am not Cleopatra beautiful, men seemed to bow down at the altar of my “girl next door beautyÀ like a dry desert thirsty for a storm. “What went wrong?À you traditionalists might ask? I have always questioned the politics between men and women. Despite my parent’s progressive marriage, my mother still carried the bulk of domesticity À“ something that I’ve always found unfair.
When I reached puberty, I also could not understand why I had to be in doors before dark. I could jump fences and beat the boys at it fair and square, play marbles, cook, do gardening, climb trees, and was certainly far smarter than them academically. Yet, being a girl comes with so many restrictions. As my feminist consciousness grew in my young adulthood, I started to question gender roles more intensely. Mostly, I questioned marriage and the nuclear family.
Why does the father give away the bride when the mother mostly raised the bride or groom? And, why does a woman take the husband’s last name when they have created an identity, with their own surname, for at least two decades? Similarly, why do children take the paternal surname when the women’s body has been menstruating monthly since age twelve or thirteen and carried the baby for nine months?
In light of my objections to the traditional ways of wedding days, marriage and the nuclear family, my ideal marital bliss would transgress various practices considered the norm. If I had to get married, there would be a scrapping of the traditional vows on my wedding day. “You shall submit and obey your husbandÀ is first century wisdom that opposes the boldness of contemporary women, who lead banks, countries and businesses.
Keeping my last names (I use both parents’ surnames) would be imperative for my identity as an autonomous woman choosing to be in the union of marriage and have our children with both our surnames, thereby preserving both partners’ immortality.
As for the traditional marriage, many modern women complain behind closed doors. “Who was cooking and ironing before I became his wife?À is the usual complaint made in the absence of husbands and boyfriends.
The image of makoti (the new bride) wearing heavy unattractive blankets around her waist, sitting on ukhukhu (the grass mat) on the cold cement floor, waking up in the morning to cook and clean for the in-laws and distant relatives does not invoke any confidence of culture as women empowering.
I cannot be blamed for choosing a honeymoon at the Bahamas over domestic chores in the name of culture. Who would? Trying to subvert traditional wedding and marriage norms will be an open invitation to mockery. I can imagine the label of the ultimate “bridezilla,À whose agenda is to cut male testicles, a black child who got lost in the education of the west, and an example of the lost youth of today. Whatever the accusation, the fact remains that the patriarchal institution of marriage still needs to evolve to become a union that benefits women’s perception of an equitable marriage.
The thought of negotiating all of these patriarchal obstacles to arrive at the destination of an equitable union makes one feel tired before they have even begun. No wonder I am not marriage inclined.
In the same vein, elders are right when they say, “never say neverÀ for the power of love can never be underestimated. However, looking at South African collective consciousness, I am afraid to say that my ideal equitable wedding day is still a distant dream but bravo to the women that have the courage to change the institution of marriage from within.
Kazeka Mashologu Kuse is a freelance writer based in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.   This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service.

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