Of course weddings are based on patriarchal values, but having one doesn't make Meghan Markle less of a feminist

She wore her wedding dress in the same way I might wear a slutty vampire costume to a Halloween party, with a tone of 'hey, this isn’t the most feminist thing in the world, but I’m having a good time'

Biba Kang
Saturday 19 May 2018 16:53 BST
Royal Wedding: Meghan Markle walks down the aisle in Givenchy dress to marry Prince Harry

Is there any such thing as a feminist wedding? The short answer would probably be “no”. In the traditional, Christian ceremony that we saw Meghan and Harry take part in today, there was an abundance of patriarchal rubbish that we had to wade through.

Admittedly, an effort was clearly made to do away with some of the most regressive wedding traditions. The “vow of obedience”, so blatant in its sexism, was left out of the ceremony. I was pleased to hear that the couple were pronounced “husband and wife” rather than “man and wife”, a phrase that implies the bride is merely an addition to her groom.

It was also encouraging to see that Meghan’s bridesmaids were not unmarried women of marriageable age. Instead, she was followed into the chapel by a bunch of disappointingly well-behaved kids, wearing uncomfortable looking outfits and Instagram flower crowns.

Scratchy bridesmaids dresses aside, you could definitely say that this wedding was, in some ways, actively progressive. Michael Curry’s rousing address, Rose Hudson-Wilkin’s prayer, the stunning musical performances from Sheku Kanneh-Mason and The Kingdom Choir – this certainly wasn’t a whitewashed event. I reckon we have Meghan Markle to thank for that, because I seriously doubt that Prince Phillip has a favourite gospel group.

But, unsurprisingly, today was marked by some of the most unpalatable and un-feminist wedding traditions that still go largely unquestioned. The white dress, the veil, Prince Charles walking Meghan Markle at least part of the way down the aisle, even if he didn’t technically “give her away”, in lieu of her own father – these well known customs will make any modern feminist roll their eyes.

Such dated conventions generally revolve around the idea of the virtue of virginity. Many think that the veil is a reference to the bride’s hymen – it’s lifted by the groom to represent the imminent loss of her virginity. A sexist, religious practice, based on a sexist, disproven myth: this is what we call a patriarchal double whammy.

As England waxed lyrical about how beautiful Meghan looked in her wedding ensemble, many people seemed to forget how ferociously opposed they are to veiling in religions other than Christianity.

But hey, today isn’t about double standards, it’s about love! And, in all honesty, I’m not being entirely sarcastic.

Meghan Markle, a divorced feminist activist, is the last person to support such a reverence for virginity, or the assumptions of male ownership that seem to be inextricable from all that wedding paraphernalia.

But, like so many women, she’s chosen to embrace tradition with a pinch of salt. She smiled throughout the ceremony, occasionally apparently giggling at the pomp of it all.

She wore her wedding dress in the same way I might wear a slutty vampire costume to a Halloween party, with a tone of “hey, this isn’t the most feminist thing in the world, but I’m having a good time”.

As women in a patriarchal world, sometimes you can’t fight on every front. You are allowed to redefine tradition, to reclaim some of the institutions that were designed to keep you in your place, and to put your own spin on a convention that might be innately misogynistic.

Don’t get me wrong – where possible, we should always look to weed out rituals or standards that have sexist roots. I think a lot of good could come from doing away with marriage entirely, given how, historically, the institution has gone hand in hand with so many forms of oppression.

But we shouldn’t “demote” feminists like Meghan Markle for taking time off from fighting the patriarchy, and for trying to find happiness in a world designed by men.

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