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Womanless Wedding, South Carolina, 1980s


Percy

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blog-0151495001340603059.jpgWomanless Wedding, South Carolina, 1980s

 

I came across this page in my high school yearbook this weekend. I was working on a post for my tumblr blog dedicated to a friend of mine from high school. I broke open the yearbook to find the note he’d left for me and in the process came across this wedding affair memorialized forever in its pages.

 

I have no recollection of this event whatsoever. (Though I do remember my father competing in a Womanless Beauty Pageant when I was 7, but that's a whole other story.) Reviewing the yearbook article now, I can’t help being curious. Curious as in, “What the hell is this all about?”

 

Of course I see from the caption that it was a fundraiser for a new football field. But why this particular event? Why this and not a bake sale or a car wash? What is the thinking behind a Womanless Wedding in South Carolina? Why would people in the socially conservative Bible Belt hold a Womanless Wedding as a fundraiser? What is the charm? What allure does it hold for the participants, for those buying a ticket to the event?

 

I ran the alliteration through yahoo thinking I may find some history to this specific event or others like it. I was surprised to find that these things are still going on. All of the links I found featured Womenless Weddings as fundraisers, often church fundraisers, in the southern United States. Quite simply, I don’t get it. I have spent so much of my life thinking about gender, struggling to understand it, and yet I despair of ever grasping its nuances.

 

A Womanless Wedding with RuPaul’s drag queens…that I could understand.

 

A Womanless Wedding with the Tri-Ess crossdressers…that I could understand.

 

A Womanless Wedding in which the participants and guests are largely and fundamentally soical conservatives flummoxes me.

 

I realize I was not born with the innate understanding of gender that most people seem to apply to life. I learned gender by rote, repetition, careful observation, and yet my understanding is still only elementary. Thus I struggle to identify the proper context for this pasttime.

 

It seems these began as camp performances by military men in the 1800s. Entertainment back in the day. So is this just carrying tradition forward? Is it no more than good fun, a jolly time? Or is it a mocking, scurrilous performance in the same vein as a blackface minstrel show? Evidently the Womanless Wedding skits were quite popular in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Given that timeframe, it seems unlikely that the purpose is to mock homosexuality. We simply weren’t in the social consciousness the way we are today. Is it a jab at women, creating these caricatures of femininity? As they are largely performed today as church fundraisers, it seems unlikely they are poking fun at marriage or even weddings.

 

Maybe I’m searching for meaning where there’s none to be found. Maybe the men are simply having fun at their own expense, lampooning the rigid masculinity of their daily lives and temporarily freeing themselves of it. Far be it for me to declare gender play the exclusive realm of the queer community. Maybe it's not the cross gendering that confuses me so much as it is the communities where these are found. Conservative enclaves, not known for their liberalism, exceedingly rigid in their expectations of men and women, sponser most of these Womenless Weddings.

 

Maybe I just need to attend one of these to understand.

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I remember attending at least one Womanless Wedding in the 1950s. It was a comedy skit that was part of my elementary school's annual fund raising event. I can't remember any of the lines, but it was very funny. I don't know of anyone being offended by it. If there were any gays in the audience, no one knew who they were of course. They probably would have laughed as heartily as everyone else. Since there were no same sex marriages in that day, the event wasn't poking fun at anyone (other than men perhaps). Today a Womanless Wedding might not be politically correct.

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Wow first time i've ever heard of such a thing. Strange that a church would do it, or am I just reading too much into that?

I'm not even really sure I get how it'd appeal to anyone as something that you'd pay to go and watch as a method of fundraising!

Erm....

Strange one Percy. Very strange indeed, and you pose some really interesting questions in your blog too. Not sure I see any answers to them tho!

I guess it needs a laid back approach to having fun! :P

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Thanks Mike. I like getting the different perspectives. Interesting that these don't seem to have changed over the years, at least from what I can gather off the Internet. I'll have to ask my dad about that beauty pageant he was in. I know it was at my elementary school in TN...it was probably a fundraiser! Would have been early '70s.

 

I remember attending at least one Womanless Wedding in the 1950s. It was a comedy skit that was part of my elementary school's annual fund raising event. I can't remember any of the lines, but it was very funny. I don't know of anyone being offended by it. If there were any gays in the audience, no one knew who they were of course. They probably would have laughed as heartily as everyone else. Since there were no same sex marriages in that day, the event wasn't poking fun at anyone (other than men perhaps). Today a Womanless Wedding might not be politically correct.

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