Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bitchy Bride and the Bridal Veto

I was having a discussion yesterday with an unfortunate bride who is having serious mother-in-law issues. Her MIL issues make me feel like my MIL is a little cherub angel sprinkling dust and fancy on us and playing the harp. I was trying to think of helpful advice but was coming up pretty short. Its a shitty situation and shitty to deal with and there is only so much that we can do to make it better. (Keep with it, dear! Sending good karma your way!)

But one thing did stick out in my mind. She mentioned feeling "bitchy" when dealing with her tough MIL.

First, I want to talk a tiny, little bit about that word: bitch.

What a word, huh? Lots of history, lots of cultural meaning, lots of changes and attempts to reclaim it recently. But to being with, I'm going to borrow from an article that Andi Zeisler, co-founder of Bitch magazine, wrote for the Washington Post. She wrote:

Bitch is a word we use culturally to describe any woman who is strong, angry, uncompromising and, often, uninterested in pleasing men. We use the term for a woman on the street who doesn't respond to men's catcalls or smile when they say, "Cheer up, baby, it can't be that bad." We use it for the woman who has a better job than a man and doesn't apologize for it. We use it for the woman who doesn't back down from a confrontation.

So let's not be disingenuous. Is it a bad word? Of course it is. As a culture, we've done everything possible to make sure of that, starting with a constantly perpetuated mindset that deems powerful women to be scary, angry and, of course, unfeminine -- and sees uncompromising speech by women as anathema to a tidy, well-run world.

Whenever I hear that word, I have the feeling of silencing. Its one of the many ways our culture tells women to quiet down. To not be so strong. Not be seen or heard so much. Not to make so many waves.

Sure, sometimes people are actually being bitchy (aka jerks), but I'd say most of the time when I hear that word, it is simply being used on a female who is not playing along with prescribed gender roles that say women should be quiet, soft, gentle, forgiving, please others, passive, or whatever other bullcrap. Women are bitches when they act like men and that is dangerous territory that makes patriarchy very uncomfortable. So how handy to have a nice little word to shut down those types of unruly women!

And how well it has stuck. I know for myself personally that I often feel wary of being bitchy. At work when I need to get something from someone and they aren't getting it done... or while planning a wedding and dealing with demanding family members. I'm always aware that I may be stepping out of the "soft, gentle, passive, feminine" realm and into the "bitchy" realm and I tread lightly. No one wants to be labeled a bitch, but I definitely do not want to live my life in a passive manner either.

I'm still learning how to navigate this issue for all the variety of situations*, but I wanted to share a nice little method I've come up with to avoid feeling bitchy (and hopefully to avoid being labeled bitchy) while wedding planning.

I call it my Bridal Veto. Unsolicited advice that just won't quit? Bridal veto! Way too many varying and stubborn opinions? Bridal veto!

On almost every wedding decision, we've had differing opinions from both our parents. I always try to be gentle first and let them down easy, but often that just isn't enough. They start debating and arguing - and I start trying to debate back, giving them all our justifications, reasoning, or whatever defense I can throw at em. At a certain point, though, debate has to stop and decisions have to be made, and sometimes things just aren't up for debate at all.

That's when we need to be able to say no and stop worrying about being bitchy.** Saying "Bridal veto!" is one way I've found to remind others that hey! I'm the bride! This is our wedding! and we get the final say! Thanks for your ideas, input and suggestions, but you have all been denied by the Bridal Veto.

And so far everyone has responded to Bridal Vetos way better than just me laying down the law. ... What am I going to do after the wedding when my Bridal Veto has run out!? Actually deal with people!? WHA!?


Peace out, holmes.


*It doesn't help that Minnesotans are notoriously passive anyway. We are always saying kinda, sorta, maybe, I think and never giving full, firm statements that may get us in trouble later. Some call it Minnesota Nice, but its I kinda think its maybe, sorta Minnesota Passive.

**Its silly that we should feel bitchy for taking control of our own weddings. That is not fair to put on ourselves.

Image via superbomba


  1. OMG - that picture reminds me so much of childhood. My dad had that apron and wore it all the time - hysterical!

  2. Ah, yes... the word bitch. It's a word that I am both scared of, want to own, use, encompass and avoid.

    I joked with Josh one day and told him that when we get married, he needs to make me a HBIC shirt. (Head Bitch In Charge.) I meant it as a joke, but I caught him off guard. I even call myself a "bad bitch" everyone once in a while when I'm feeling (like Andi Zeisler said) strong and uncompromising. But when I'm feeling nervous about my anger or intimidated and want to stand up for myself so bad, I'm scared of being bitchy. It's so complicated and weird and shitty. But I have been called a bitch. And not in the way I like to use it. And it hurts... so much. As much as I trot around thinking I'm a "bad bitch" or the HBIC... it sucks to hear someone else use it with the intention of making it sting. I want to own the word, I really do, but how can I (we) when we only want to embrace it some of the time.

    I think we walk really tough ground with our MIL- we're not taking away their babies or replacing them in any way... but they just need to make a leetle bit of room for the new spouse of their child. Still discovering how to tread those waters...

    I think the Bride Veto is an awesome idea. Maybe we can replace it with the Wife Veto in the future? :) Haha

    Awesome post, Jen. Thanks!

  3. I could go on and on, but I'll just say this: Right on.

  4. I often put my bitch hat on. Especially at work. It can be necessary.

    With the wedding, I just take what people say on board, say "well, we have time to decide", and do what the Groomie and I want to do.

  5. the bridal veto is fantastic! after i'm sure you can come up with another (fill in the blank) veto. Also, I'm lovin the image and the post about the word bitch. No we are not bitches in the negative sense for getting our wedding the way we want we are super awesome biatches for getting that shit done!

  6. I generally avoid 'bitch'. Its too tricky for me to navigate trying to reclaim it, so I just skip it! Instead I've been acting 'bitchy' (aka, strong, doing what I want, uncompromising) and calling it 'normal'. Hopefully that'll catch on!

    And Lisa, I love it "We are super awesome biatches for getting that shit done!" hoorah!

  7. here here for bridal vetoes. this is a great post. it's a tricky word, because you want to be strong but you don't want to a bitch. but you know what? sometimes it's unavoidable. be strong and hold onto your guns, and tell your friend to do the same.