Wherever in the world it is that you get married, a wedding is usually all about the bride. It's an occasion for her to look glamorous, beautiful - and this she often achieves through expert make-up, a gorgeous outfit and sparkling jewellery.
In many Asian countries - especially in the Indian subcontinent - ultra-lavish outfits and extravagant gold and jewellery on the bride are often considered to be markers of her family's wealth and social status.
Many families don't think twice about spending huge amounts of money - sometimes even taking loans - in order to have a fancy wedding for their daughter that they can ill-afford.
Recently though, one Bangladeshi woman - Tasnim Jara - challenged the stereotype that brides should be dripping with gold and plastered in makeup on their wedding day.
East or West, weddings are typically glamorous affairs with the bride being the centre of attention.
A different kind of wedding
Tasnim got married earlier this month and like many brides around the world do, posted a picture of herself and her husband on Facebook.
But this picture is not your usual wedding picture. In it, Tasnim - who runs a charity providing medical care for the poor - does not have a speck of makeup on her face and is wearing her grandmother's cotton sari. There is no gold glinting around her neck, on her ears, or around her wrists either.
She is dressed like this not because she cannot afford new jewellery, makeup or a sari, but because she wanted to prove a point and challenge a deep-rooted societal stereotype.
In her Facebook post that has since gone viral, she explains:
"I was troubled by the singular image of a bride that our society has – with tons of makeup, a weighty dress and mounds of jewellery weighing her down. Don’t be fooled, this lavish image of a bride does not represent the financial well-being or agency of a woman in the family.
"This sometimes rather happens against their will. As if the society has decided that if we really have to spend money on women, we spend it against their will and for a cause that won’t do them any good.
I have hardly attended any wedding where I didn’t overhear people gossiping: “Is the bride pretty enough?” “How much gold does she have on?” “How much did her dress cost?” Growing up listening to these questions, a bride feels pressured to look for the best makeup artist in town, pays a hefty amount in time, money and energy, and ends up looking nothing like herself; because the society constantly reminds her that her actual skin colour isn’t good enough for her own wedding.
She has learnt from her aunties, peers, and the corporates that a bride is “incomplete” without ornaments; that her and her families’ status depends on how much gold she puts on on the day. She can hardly afford to question if the amount of jewellery she puts on can indeed determine her and her families’ dignity. Because the society keeps pushing with, “You’re a girl. Why wouldn’t you wear gold on your wedding?”
Again, to look like a bride, she needs to wear a crazy expensive dress, which ironically makes walking difficult for her (due to its weight) and never comes of any use after the wedding. But the society won’t accept it any other way.
Don’t get me wrong, if a girl wants to use make-up, jewellery and expensive clothes for herself, I am all in for that. But it is a problem when she loses her agency in deciding what she would like to wear on her wedding day. When the society forces her to doll up and look like a different person, it gives a message that the authentic look of a girl isn’t good enough for her own wedding.
Personally, I feel that we need to change this mindset. A girl should not need a whitening lotion, a gold necklace or an expensive saree to be accepted as a bride or to make her feel confident. So I arrived at my wedding venue wearing my dadu’s saree, with zero makeup and no jewellery. People may call it simple, but it was very special to me, for what I believe in and what it means to me.
I faced a lot of resistance from many quarters after making this decision. Certain members of my family even said that they won’t take any photo with me because I didn’t dress like (they imagine) a bride. Shoutout to the few family members who have supported me in this, and special shoutout to this person beside me, Khaled, who has not only supported me unconditionally but also beamed at me with so much pride, for taking a stance against the stereotypes.
Tasnim has been praised by many in the Muslim-majority country for breaking many stereotypes, including those related to 'ideal' standards of beauty expected (usually by society) from women and brides.
"Thank you! We need more amazing, genuine people like you in this country and the world!", comments Naz Zina Mohsin, whose sentiments are echoed by many others.
However, Tasnim's post has also attracted a bunch of negative comments, showing just how deep-rooted and hard to break certain societal belief systems and stereotypes (especially related to women) are.
Yet, supporters such as Adeeba Nuraina Risha are quick to counter the haters. Adeeba says, "I simply cannot believe the number of people who are hating on this post. This woman made a choice for HERSELF that breaks social norms and it's remarkable."
We cannot agree more, and we also think Tasnim made a beautiful bride.
Here's more power to women such as Tasnim Jara and of course males such as her husband Khaled. Stereotypes related to females are dangerous for many reasons, and by breaking them down little by little, girls and women around the world are empowered with hope and courage to forge ahead.
To read Tasnim's post, click here.