the marriage pushers

Unlike some people I know who dread weddings, I love a good to-do. I also love the idea of a long happy marriage. But what I don’t love is the cultural expectation of marriage that is foisted on girls from day one. 

Partly because I have a few issues with an institution that has about a 40% chance of ending in divorce, is still denied to gay Americans and yet can be won as a prize by straight folks on reality TV. And partly because lavish weddings seem to get a lot more hype than having real discussions of how to build healthy, lasting relationships.

I’m sure the wedding industry would disagree with me. I have a sneaky feeling the American government would too, seeing as they provide marriage incentive grantsto women on welfare, and also fund abstinence-until-marriage school programs.

One abstinence program trying to get into schools is called Wonderful Days. Wonderful Days promotes marriage and abstinence-only education. It also produces educational materials like a booklet called, A Sneak Preview of the Two Most Wonderful Days of Your Life.

I bet you can guess what one of those days is.

This booklet is aimed at teen girls, and it is literally a wedding and baby planner. The wedding section offers everything from a wedding to-do list (e.g.: make sure to line up a caterer and don’t forget a florist) to rationale for the importance of virginity before marriage.

Wonderful Days encourages schools to distribute A Sneak Preview as part of their abstinence-only programs.

In addition to some of my general concerns with our marriage culture, there are also some reasons I think promoting marriage to teen girls in an abstinence-only program is a particular problem. Here are my top five:

  1. Doing so excludes GLBT teens who can’t get married.

  2. Kids who live with single parents, gay parents, relatives or foster care get the message that there is something wrong with their families.

  3. Marriage doesn’t offer protection from STDs. But because of the assumption that people will be virgins before marriage, and stay monogamous after, safer sex is never discussed.

  4. When marriage and children are held up as the ultimate ideal, people are often disappointed if things don’t have fairy tale endings.

  5. There’s something unsettling about telling teen girls to play wedding. What about encouraging them to get into areas where women are underrepresented, like politics, business school or behind the camera in Hollywood?

If two people want to share their lives and get married, more power to them. But selling marriage in schools is more likely to reinforce dated gender roles and expectations than it is to cure society’s ills.

What do you think about marriage being promoted at school?

This entry was posted in Health, Sex & Relationships, The State of Sex Ed, Virginity.
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  • Shon

    and it's not like marriage is for everyone, anyways.

  • Free

    It's so incredibly the wrong message to be sending to girls, but just think of what it does to the guys.
    Their website supports the notion that all guys are hormonal sex-addicts, and it's our duty as wives and girlfriends to train them. TRAIN them. Most guys I know have absolutely no desire to be trained like dogs.
    This system is ultimately dehumanizing. Males become beasts, and females become saintly martyr lion-tamers.
    In this system young men grow up to be islands of sin and young girls grow into nuclear family bombs, unwaveringly strong and pure, our "nation's last line of defense."
    Color me radical but I'd rather grow up to be a woman.

  • Elinor

    I think it's rather frightening that such out dated gender roles are being imposed upon young people today. I'm engaged, and very much looking forward to my wedding and having kids, but I certainly dont think either should define me as a person. I wouldnt be any less succesful if I skipped them. Having a marriage and kids can be a wonderful experience. It can also be the most destructive one of your life. Pushing it on young peoplee with the idea that everything will be perfect is irresponsible.
    Joining with someone you love can be wonderful. But simply thinking everything will be 'happily ever after' is going to lead to trouble. All mariages take work, no matter how compatable and in love a couple is. Going in thinking everything will be perfect will just mean you think there is something wrong with you because you can't have things just right.
    As a Pagan I can tell you that GLBT people can have weddings, but it depends on the laws of the land as to whether they are legaly binding. But we have been preforming Handfastings (Pagan weddings) for the GLBT community for years. At least they can get an oportunity to declare to their gods, friends and family that they love eachother and want to be together. Even if the government doesn't recognise it.

  • Katie

    Well, I took a human relations class first semester this year, but it was all about how to deal with your emotions and build strong relationships. First we all got 'jobs' and salaries, and then we were assigned spouses and told to plan a wedding (however, you could choose to be single). It was really about how to compromise and resolve differences. Before we were 'married' we had to find an apartment to buy and furnish, and do 'taxes' based on our 'income.' I thought it was really interesting actually; it showed me a lot about how to compromise and work things out sensibly because well, I really didn't care for my partner much. 🙂

  • Evil wonderful days site…the wording hurt my head… @.@
    Don't shred me for this…I'm an independant woman, a happy person who has her own career, has strong spirituallity, and is quite happy with my state of being…but honestly, since I was little, I always thought those WOULD be the best two days of my life.
    That being said…I don't think the whole grinding of abstinence into one's brain is right, and I think GLBT youth should be included as well (gay marriage and adoption should be just as valid) ^^

  • Anna

    What the heck? Did I wake up in the 50s? Females aren't just walking uteruses…

  • I am married and enjoy being married… But it is not my only priority in life.
    Additionally, I do not think "marriage and children" will be the two most important things I will ever do. They will certainly be some of the top ones… But I also intend to go on and do many other great things in life. And I think young women should be taught that life consists of so much more than just marriage and kids.
    I mean, my wedding day was great and all… But I have had other WONDERFUL days in my life.

  • marie-helene

    While I would not mind getting information in school about what the laws about marriage and living together are, I do not think it would be correct or just to "teach" anybody in high school how to prepare a wedding so it is okay after that to have sex… Getting information and education yes, being given some publicity for caterers, huh, no thanks?!

  • Ariana

    What they said. Because it's SUCH a problem with women spending too muvh time on CAREERS and personal growth, instead of devoting your life to someone and reproducing.

  • ashley

    I highly dislike the idea of marriage being taight in schools not just because of GBLT teens, but because some people don't believe in marriage.

  • Elizabeth

    I think promoting marriage in school is totally ridiculous. Schools really should be promoting students achieving their career goals.
    I would have been so angry if my high school was pushing me to get married, and I think my mom would have thrown a fit. In high school, I knew I wanted to go to college and knew that I probably wouldn't get married until I was at least in my mid-twenties.
    I also have an issue with that "Sneak Preview" pamphlet, because I hate the idea of a huge, expensive, totally commercialized wedding. And if that thing says the second best day of your life is when you give birth to your first baby, what does that say to girls who find out they can't have kids?