The wedding performance : gender inequality and system justification in the white wedding.
Froschauer, Ursula Monica
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The white wedding has become a traditional ritual, which transmits with its preparations and celebrations stereotypical and patriarchal gender norms. Ten white, middle-class, heterosexual, newlywed couples formed the participants for the research study. The predominantly South African participants were interviewed about their weddings and the interviews transcribed verbatim. The resultant texts were analysed using Parker’s (2005) framework for discourse analytic reading. Throughout the analysis specific wedding discourses emerged, which served the purposes and intentions of the couples. Discourses, such as the fairy-tale discourse and the bride’s day discourse, allowed couples to justify certain gender inequalities and to experience the comforting effects of palliation. System Justification Theory (Jost & Banaji, 1994) functioned as a theoretical tool to understand and make sense of these justifications and accounts. The findings suggest that wedding discourses encourage the objectification of women and their treatment in a benevolently sexist manner, the unequal distribution of wedding labour between the bride and groom and ultimately the perpetuation of women’s subordination in heterosexual relationships. Participating in the rituals of the white wedding enhances women’s depressed sense of entitlement and out-group contact with men, which has a negative effect on gender equality and women’s emancipation.