Sunday, November 23, 2014

Pinterest-based pseudoscience

When I was a little girl, I don't recall having ever given any thought to my future wedding. Now, this wasn't because I was preoccupied with saving the world or science fairs or anything useful. Nor was I defying gender norms. I was plenty interested in boys and moderately interested in clothes, but weddings? No. I don't think that interest ever set in, even though the desire to get married eventually did.

But this is, allegedly, a thing - this having dreamt of one's wedding since girlhood. So I was curious to read Abby Ellin's Styles piece about the phenomenon. That, and the article's premise was an interesting one. That is, it might have gone in an interesting direction. It is strange that despite a great deal of female economic independence, despite a culture where premarital sex is far from taboo, despite a whole host of developments, the dynamics around marriage remain so gendered. Not the trappings, because that's just... trappings. The actual decision-making parts. The male proposal remains precisely because the default assumption is that a woman always wants to get married. Which is, indeed, curious.

Alas, because Styles, there's no such investigation. The evidence that women dream of princess weddings seems limited to the existence of women who take an interest in weddings prior to having found a groom. But... isn't that just kind of an aesthetic thing? So some women make Pinterest boards for as-yet-to-be-scheduled weddings. I have Pinterest boards full of clothing I can't necessarily afford, but think looks cool - does that point to something fraught? To some kind of delusion or agony? More to the point: I can't figure out how all this virtual flower-arranging lead to the following conclusion:

Dr. Markey also believes the wedding is the “biological imperative” made manifest. “Women tend to be more selective when picking a mate and have a greater desire for monogamy and a stable relationship than men,” he said. “Thus, they are more likely to dream of a wedding, which symbolizes this desire.”
Never mind that the latest science on this is apparently that women are less suited to monogamy than men, and that women's alleged lack of interest in sex in middle age is due to their being bored with their partners. Which would, if anything, suggest that women's greater interest in weddings is precisely due to their being symbols of a new relationship.

I did, however, get a kick out of this:
Sue Johnson, a clinical psychologist and author of “Love Sense,” finds this mentality worrisome. Women are planning the show before the script is written and “before the leading man shows up,” she said. She understands the desire for companionship. Marriage, she said, “speaks to our longing for connection and our fear of aloneness.” But, she added, the emphasis on weddings and marriage is also somewhat dangerous. “In North America, we’ve made progress,” she said. “Hillary Clinton might be the first female president, but a woman still wants this badge of legitimacy that she is wanted and desired by a man.”
Hillary Clinton. A woman who's accomplished plenty, yes, but whose name we know because she was married to a president. At first I thought that this was Johnson's point, but then I reread the paragraph and I'm maybe 95% sure it's not.


Flavia said...

Yeah, I never dreamed of a wedding as a girl or played bride or anything. Once I started actually GOING to weddings (in my mid-20s) I started to develop some opinions, and I did buy my eventual wedding dress a number of years before my actual wedding (but in my defense, I was in a five-year-long relationship, so the idea I might get married rather soon was not totally improbable--though in fact I did not marry that person--and it was a cool vintage cocktail dress that just happened to fit perfectly so OBVIOUSLY I had to buy it as soon as I saw it).

Anyway. Counter-anecdata FTW!

Phoebe said...


Yes! Sample of two is plenty - Styles, have at it!