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:
Doing so excludes GLBT teens who can’t get married.
Kids who live with single parents, gay parents, relatives or foster care get the message that there is something wrong with their families.
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.
When marriage and children are held up as the ultimate ideal, people are often disappointed if things don’t have fairy tale endings.
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?