Date of Submission

Fall 2012

Academic Program


Project Advisor 1

Allison McKim

Abstract/Artist's Statement

Many lesbian couples now have legal recognition of their relationships through marriage, and yet on a social level, heteronormativity and gender normativity still prevent their relationships from garnering full legitimacy. I interviewed eight lesbian couples in order to investigate how they navigate these cultural biases through the performances of their weddings, and I found that they simultaneously claim membership in the society which produces these constraints and seek to overturn them. I examine three strategies of legitimacy that emerged throughout these interviews: (1) the use of elements from what they call the traditional wedding, (2) an emphasis on individual authenticity, and (3) feminist reworkings of the patriarchal and gender normative elements of the traditional wedding. Through these strategies, they both fit themselves into dominant understandings of marriage and reinterpreted them so that they would fit; in so doing, they participate in a broader transformation of marriage itself. Since these lesbian couples selectively used normative tropes while simultaneously expressing subversive desires, I argue that the use of an accommodation-resistance dichotomy is an insufficient framework with which to view these strategies of legitimacy. Rather, I suggest taking seriously the claims of these women that they are a part of the broader society, while also recognizing their attempts to creatively shape the conditions of that society.

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