Bride it Like Beckham: Modern vs. Traditional Bride Expectations {Social Justice Sunday}

August 24, 2014 - by Nadya

This SJS has been brought to you by every single Bend it Like Beckham gif and picture I could find.  If anything points to the divide between traditional and modern expectations for brides, it's this movie.

It wasn't too long ago when the good Desi bride was expected to remain in the kitchen, serving her children and her husband meekly and dutifully.

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I'm not bashing on these women, who were pillars of their households and of which many of the women in my family were and are.  But this template for the good Desi wife is outdated and is getting chucked by many women and their families.

The traditional bride pretty much never saw her groom until the wedding day, and possibly not until the wedding was over.  She had no idea what she was getting herself in to.  Dating was an unheard of concept.  Even today, though, good Desi girls don't "date around." It seems that most of the weddings I've been to feature a couple who are each other's "firsts" in every way (or at least it's published as such).

That being said, most modern brides have a say (and the deciding vote) in who they marry and when.  Families may pressure them to get married by a certain time (my family's cutoff seems to be 28, but only if you go to grad school), but the bride seems to hold the power in this decision.  It wasn't so a generation ago - my mom was married by my age and already planning her family while I'm still finishing up my Master's Degree with no wedding immediately on my horizon.

Education become a more complicated affair in new marriages.  Before, any further education a woman pursued was an embellishment to her data bio.  She went to college to unlock a higher quality man and to demonstrate her family's wealth (+5 marriage material).  That's not to say there weren't women who went to school for their own benefit, but largely a woman's intentions with school came second to how marriageable it made her.

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I think now, as more and more young women attain Masters degrees, PhDs, MDs, MBAs, and JDs, education is considered important because it makes her self-sufficient.  Girls are held up to the Desi trifecta (doctor, laywer, engineer) by their parents almost as often as boys, though often in the Subcontinent at the macro level they are ultimately overlooked in favor of the boys.  It's not a clear-cut relationship between education and marriage anymore.  There are still many families and communities who consider the bride's degrees to be embellishments and improvements to her marriage prospects, but I think this may going out of trend.

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Once married, modern brides are held to many of the same expectations as traditional brides.  They are expected to put the household and their families first, above themselves and their careers.  A woman who deviates from this path often faces the disapproval of her community.  There is still a healthy sense of shame for families in the Motherland when a woman goes against the grain.  This may be changing in diaspora where communities aren't so close-knit (read: have less opportunity to gossip).

Despite all the changing norms, there is so far to go in improving the situation for Desi women.  There is one thing, at least, that Desis have gotten better about and that's accepting same-sex couples.  Obviously many families retain their homophobia even in light of the changing political environment, but there are still many that are changing their minds and protecting their children's right to choose who they love.

Even in today's modern high-tech age of internet feminism the condition of the Desi woman still needs improving.  Yes, expectations and traditions are progressing but they may not be progressing  fast enough as girls are still aborted on a genocidal level in South Asia and as women and girls face violence every day.  Parents pass down to their children, sons and daughters alike, what is expected of girls.

Marriage may, in itself, seem like a small component of changing the overwhelming tide of the patriarchal standards that hold us all back but a lot of how women are treated is a direct result of how useful they're considered in our society.  And, unfortunately, as simply home-makers without any capacity outside the home, they are dismissed and diminished. Therefore real change may only come with the next generation placing less importance on how a woman marries and more on what she brings to the marriage and how she is treated within it.

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