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Feminspire | April 23, 2014

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Bridal Showers: A Celebration of the Bride or the Patriarchy?

Bridal Showers: A Celebration of the Bride or the Patriarchy?

Considering I’m 25 and single with only one married friend, I’ve never really put much thought into traditional pre-wedding activities. However, my best friend recently attended her cousin’s bridal shower, and spent the majority of her train ride back to our apartment texting me and relaying the totally bizarre activities she was required to witness and participate in. I had no idea that “bridal shower games” are a thing, let alone how totally sexist and outdated they are.

In case you’re unaware of what the “purse game” entails, here’s a short summary: All of the guests empty their purses after being given a list of items and their corresponding point values, and at the end, whoever has the most points/items, wins. I didn’t really understand the point of this as my roommate was trying to explain it, so I did a quick Google search, and saw that the points get higher with, in most cases, how feminine or protective the items are. For example, having a driver’s license or cell phone might be worth 1 point, but having tampons or mascara would be worth more, and having pepper spray or a handgun would be worth the most. Seriously. Other things on these strange lists might include diapers, condoms, vaginal wipes and perfume.

So in essence, the winner of the action-packed purse game is the woman who carries the most (and girliest) stuff in her purse –– the woman who’s prepared to fight off a potential rapist while smelling like roses after changing a diaper! Not that I see anything wrong with wanting to protect yourself with pepper spray, but being rewarded for carrying a weapon that’s almost directly tied to instances of gender-based violence is just disturbing, and an extension of the terrible idea that women should have to carry weapons to keep themselves safe from attackers. Feeling the need to arm yourself with something to ward off a rapist or mugger is sad, and probably not something that groups of women should joke about over mimosas and pastries. And as for the handgun (which fortunately, wasn’t on the list at my friend’s cousin’s shower, but came up on several other lists on the internet), I can’t even begin to wrap my head around that, and am choosing to believe that was added as a (totally non-funny) joke.

And apparently, these games are both commonplace and accepted. Although, I suppose consenting to sexist games at a sexist event isn’t all that surprising. Like I said, I had never really considered aspects of bridal showers previously, but how twisted is it that in this day and age, groups of women gather to celebrate the bride-to-be as she receives lingerie and crock-pots?! I’m all for parties and fun, but can’t modern bridal showers find a way of congratulating the bride without confirming her role as a stereotypical housewife?

Because that’s exactly what bridal showers do; they celebrate the transformation of a woman into a “domestic goddess.” There’s certainly nothing wrong with wanting to bestow gifts to your friends and loved ones as they approach their days of married life, but why on earth do bridal showers have to revolve around monogrammed towels and kitchen supplies? It’s insulting! This isn’t 1950! And to be honest, is anyone actually that excited about receiving griddle? (Disclaimer: I had no idea as to what a griddle was until my roommate mentioned that was one of the gifts.) Or an electric mixer? Gifts are cool and it’s always helpful to receive things –– especially when you’re young and don’t have tons of money to dish out on items like kitchen supplies –– but why is it only the women that receive the “domestic” stuff?

Again, I don’t want to sound like a killjoy. I love parties and I’ll usually look for any excuse to drink champagne with my girlfriends, but celebrating a tradition that seems so terribly outdated and offensive just doesn’t seem like a lot of fun.

What’s your take on wedding showers? Would you have a traditional bridal party? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Written by Nicole Woszczyna

  • Rachael Kay Albers

    Great timing! My partner and I recently decided to get married (no proposal, no ring, just a mutual decision and a celebratory trip to the beach). I live in Mexico and my family in the USA so I have a convenient “excuse” not to disappoint my family by not having a traditional bridal shower because bringing gifts back to Mexico would be ridiculous and expensive. What troubles me, more than just the celebration of a bride becoming a “domestic goddess,” is the narcissitic and consumeristic focus all these wedding customs have on “her” special day. “It’s YOUR day!!!” Bridebridebridebridebridebride. Buybuybubybubybuybuybuy. “It’s the BEST day of your life!” I certainly hope not! No traditional bridal showers for us! We want our day to be a celebration of love that EVERYONE enjoys and remembers, not just me, the bride.

  • Maria

    The point system you mentioned is off as you said but I feel like the game is just playing off the fact women tend to carry a lot of things in their purse and some times those things are really random. I’ve never seen pepper spray or a hand gun on a list though that seems odd.

  • Niamh

    Strange, this must be an America thing. In the UK as far as I’m aware, bridal showers aren’t really a thing. And the gifts are usually brought to the actual wedding and presented to the couple, not just the bride.

  • Ashleigh

    I have been running into this sort of thing left right and centre since I got engaged 2 months ago. From all the cake decorations involving bicycles making the woman a passive participant standing next to the man on the bike or riding on the handlebars. To my mother’s “The wedding is your day. Its about what YOU want” regardless of the fact the day is about the both of us and the fact that he actually WANTS to be involved in making decisions and having input takes a bunch of pressure off of me. I like the idea of a bridal shower but I don’t want presents and I really just want a tea party with cards against humanity. I think its nice from the concept of having married and unmarried friends talk about what changed for them or what they perceive will change when they get married. Talking about the joys and pains of planning a wedding. As for games maybe its time we made up some new games. A more diverse set of games for women with more diverse hobbies and interests. I think a lot of the present thing is that it is the ‘default’ gifts to give. Maybe a new idea could be to set themes for a bridal shower and gifts should fit the theme. I think the solution is better communication if the bride doesn’t want domestic things maybe it needs to just be said.

  • Lauren

    Honestly I think it depends on the context in which the shower takes place. My partner is a woman of color, and we were recently talking about how black women have never been given the opportunity to be domestic in their own homes; historically they have served white people. Now they have the ability to celebrate and live a domestic life, if they want to. The point of feminism is to be able to choose how to live your life as a woman. In general, I think acknowledging problematic aspects of something and having conversations about it is a good way to enjoy certain things in life.

  • Mu

    My sister is getting married and had a very conventional bridal shower of this sort. Thankfully we did not play this purse game (my family would’ve been so disappointed at my lack of purse-femininity) but there was an intense focus on it being about HER rather than about them as a couple. And of course she did get a number of domestic gifts, and when she opened each one, people continually commented that SHE would make the food for her husband, using the just-opened gift. My boyfriend and I joke about how our respective parties of this sort (bridal shower/bachelorette/bachelor party) will simply consist of us with a few close friends playing board games and drinking beer. Though I don’t think either of us is actually joking about it.

  • amanda

    The reason that bridal shower gifts are usually house oriented, is because the “tradition” is that the couple is moving into a new house or apartment together for the first time; therefore, they need these essential household items. I’m a die hard feminist, but I think you’re reading way into these things. These kind of posts are why everyone hates us, feminists. They assume that we all get offended over every little thing.