I have recently seen for myself that gender binarism and stereotyping are in fine form at bridal expositions. I have never given much thought to wedding expos in general, until I realized that some are described as ‘bridal’ expos, versus ‘bride and groom’ or ‘wedding’ expos. Simply by the title discrepancies holds the first problem for me. Why people still pander to the idea that it is the woman’s responsibility to plan the details of the wedding, and that they are the only ones interested in attending an expo, I’ll never know. This atmosphere appears most frequently within the ‘bridal’ expos, but can also be found within the ‘wedding’ events, which in theory, should be inclusive of everyone. The aim of these expos is to book clients and for vendors to, you know, sell things, so it seems like poor business management to be alienating fifty percent of your potential clients.
The assumption that men are not interested in any kind of wedding expo is prevalent within these events, but is addressed in a paradoxical manner within the wedding industry itself. Some companies, such as the Love Story Wedding Expo, are attempting to increase the amount of Y chromosomes in attendance by advertising that grooms can attend expos for free, but only with their brides. To me, this is one of the many oddities within the land of the wedding expo. As far as I can tell, the events themselves attempt to separate the men and women as soon as they are through the door. I recently had a conversation with a friend, and he attended an expo with his fiancée. He is excited about planning his wedding with his partner, and was surprised that he, as the groom, was not allowed to enter any of the contests by himself. If companies running these events are trying to encourage men to attend, why are they quickly alienating any potential groom, (as well as same-sex couples) by sending them the message that they don’t really belong?
As part of the paradoxical element I mentioned, many events that are advertised online have a designated ‘Groom’s Area.’ In my idealized world, this area would simply be an area for tuxedos, shoes, and any other products that men predominately buy. Sadly, this area, also known as a ‘Men’s Area,’ ‘Groom’s Lounge,’ and the horribly condescending ‘Groom-Sitting Area’ are areas that pander to the narrow, stereotypical idea of masculinity from the 1950s. Firstly, assuming that a man is not interested in planning the wedding, and likewise, that women are is a testament to the idea that women are only interested in, or only have the ability for frivolous things like parties and clothing. In my mind, gender binarism is at work here, and there is a subtle message that if men are not frivolous party-planners, they therefore must be talented in logical things and/or rough-and-tough things, that are the opposite of ladylike behaviour (whatever the hell that is).
Speaking of rough-and-tough, what’s more tough and manly than football and beer? Nothing, that’s what. So, of course when a man is dragged past aisles of tulle and lace for any length of time, they eventually will need a testosterone boost to still be able to call themselves men. Insert the ‘Men’s Area’ that will save the any man’s reputation, where GroomsAdvice describes their service as:
“We mix a little wedding talk with Nintendo Wii, ping pong and man-food. Doesn’t sound that bad, eh?”
So there, you go. Men can all give one another hot beef injections of ‘man-food’ in each other’s mouths (beef is the manliest meat, right?) when they all grow weary of pantyhose and stuff.
GroomsAdvice also offers men a free football pass (because every man everywhere is a football fan) for simply attending their event. I’m pretty sure that any man that refused the free pass, and wanted to attend the event simply to help plan his wedding would be asked to leave.
So why are men attending? The wedding industry makes their money by selling a fantasy to women, and marrying a partner that is enlightened enough to attend an expo with you is the icing on the proverbial cake that you could probably buy with enough money. All this dude has to do to show his support is to drive there with you, buy his ticket (or not), and retreat to the glorified sports bar until you are ready for him to sign the cheque once you have found your perfect dress and shoes. The Wonderful Wedding Show discusses their own Groom’s Lounge, and make a special note, telling grooms to drop by when they’ve inhaled too much of the estrogen-laced atmosphere, because they will surely need a “much deserved break while their brides-to-be are exploring the rest of the show.”
There are so many examples of ‘socially acceptable’ forms of sexism that we all come across daily that drives me crazy. I’m not even surprised at the varying degrees of stupidity anymore. It’s more of a frustration that the majority of my peers can’t see any issues with this crap, and I always get flak from everyone saying that I’m too sensitive over casual gender stereotyping. Stereotyping is damaging for all people; if the expectation is that men must be one thing, and women must therefore be another, it is troublesome for every person, especially those that do not fit into the typical ‘male’ and ‘female’ roles. I wish that the wedding industry (and everyone in general) could be progressive enough to be inclusive for all people, and all types of couples that are planning their big day.