Why knot?: an exploration of weddings for women in contemporary New Zealand
Mines, Katie Letitia
This investigation explores the relationship between women, marriage and weddings in contemporary New Zealand society. The persistence of these institutions is paradoxical in light of their social and material redundancy as well as their submission to a vicious critique by the women's movement. Using a poststructuralist framework to guide my inquiry, I address discourses that sustain women's desire for weddings as a means of clarifying the continued reverence for matrimony. A holistic approach is taken, addressing social, political, economic, symbolic and material elements of wedding ideology. I argue for a move into a poststructuralist feminist perspective, which brings into question existing institutions and practices. I recognise the historical importance of secular and religious influences in women's relationship to matrimony and explore briefly their role in this relationship in contemporary society. Within this framework, I look at the persistence of wedding ritual that has previously been assessed by feminists as discriminatory to women, using participant testimony to clarify meanings behind these practices in contemporary society. The infrastructure of the contemporary New Zealand wedding industry has undergone a process of feminisation. Inherent in the production of the wedding and the feminisation of the experience, not only is the bride targeted as the central wedding consumer, but she is also a dominant signifier for the selling of wedding related commodities. Examples from popular culture show how bridal imagery is employed to encode products with meaning: bridal legitimacy is an economic strategy that sustains consumption practices. Integral in this process is the construction of the 'princess bride' trope. I explore the consequences of the production of this trope for women, utilising a Foucauldian analysis of power to demonstrate how ideologies of romance and tradition effectively conceal any commercial motivations involved in the signifying process.
Advisor: Leckie, Jacqui
Degree Name: Master of Arts
Degree Discipline: Anthropology
Publisher: University of Otago
Research Type: Thesis