My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding – Behind The Bling Lies An Underbelly Of Sexism Disguised As Gypsy Cultural
When My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding first aired in the UK as one off documentary in the UK it was to “throw an overdue light on a secretive, marginalised and little-understood segment of our society”. What it did reveal apart ostentatious weddings, was the underbelly of a sexism that existed in the gypsy community.
I had been expecting the show to be a bit of fluff and giggle, but all I felt was disturbed about the lives of the young girls I was seeing on screen.
What was shocking was this sexism and control of women was done under the guise of culture when really it is a gender issue.
Each episode showcases a gypsy family who is having a big event, mainly a wedding which normally ends up being a big blinged up affair.
However behind the diamantes, glitz and mega meringue dresses a spotlight is shined on the way women are viewed and how they should behave in that world. It is extremely rigid and controlled with not a lot of choice for the female.
This is reality TV and there is an element of sensationalism which hooks the viewer in week after week, but sadly there appears to be elements of truth in this for some segments of the community.
The snippets of gypsy life we are shown is where women treated as chattels of their husbands whose main role in life is to be a wife, to cook, clean, have children and be submissive to their man.
The girls rarely question this way of life, however most are barely literate as the majority on the show, are taken out of school at 12 or 13 to help at home. Education is not valued by either sex. Many females never work outside the home so they are economically tied to their family and husbands. If they leave they risk being shunned by their community and family.
Girls are not allowed out much, but do obtain more freedom when they are married.
They girls tend to marry early, some as young as 16 years of age. These are no shotgun weddings as the girls must be virgins otherwise a man won’t marry them. If you do end up divorcing, which is rare in the gypsy community, you can’t get married again as you are considered defiled.
Of course this is not the same for the men.
This purity issue is interesting in relation to the outfits the gypsy women wear. Lots of lycra, short skirts, bling and boobs hanging out even when they are in church. They are very religious. Now I don’t think women should be defined by what they wear, however I am not sure the gypsy men have signed up to the feminist agenda just yet and in a sense probably reinforces to them what women are good for.
This is seen in the show when they indulge in the controversial practice of grabbing. This is where a male grabs a girl and drags her off to try and kiss her. At times on the show you can hear the girl begging to get away. However it should be noted this is allegedly a courtship ritual which some gypsy’s deny exists.
The gypsy men also have expectations on them. To be providers, fight (literally) for their family and of course it is looked down upon to be homosexual. They are taught from a young age that helping in the house is a female thing and they are not to do it.
Obviously it is a reality TV show and it is designed to shock both with the over the top affluence of the weddings, and to be appalled at some of the customs. Like The Shire, which the viewer should not see this is a accurate portrayal of the whole community.
However to view this divide in gender roles as cultural is wrong and is something other women have fought against in other cultures for many decades.
The girl on the show might feel like a princess on her wedding day but you suspect no too many obtain the happy ever after.
My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding Season One screens Wednesday on NINE at 8.30pm, and Series two has just concluded on Lifestyle You however there are repeats.