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Patriarchy, Weddings And The Importance Of Our Maiden Names

To celebrate Jendella Benson's captivating debut novel, Hope & Glory, she has selected four writers to explore the core themes that run through her book. First up is Niki Igbaroola who explores the theme of family and patriarchy in this stunning personal essay...

“What is going to happen when it is time for you to get married?”

This is the question that many adults ask me when they discover that I have a strained relationship with my father that has led to me choosing distance. To them, it does not matter the reasons for this breakdown, there is no care for what has come to cause this, but instead a perverse concern for what might come in the future at an event that will center a cultural, not personal need for his presence.

So, I wonder, what is it about this fictional wedding that allows people to ignore my choice and push for reconciliation that I know will not serve me, at least not currently, simply for the sake of a thing that might never be, at least not in the way that they picture? What is it about a wedding - one that is supposed to be mine, that in their eyes, belongs to my father?

Every culture has different relationships to the significance of a patriarch at weddings, but the commonality of many, one that at least drives the Yoruba one to which I belong is, ownership - the idea of a woman belonging to the man/men of the house and needing to be appropriately handed over to a new patriarchal lineage in order to continue existing within the status quo. So when the above question is posed to me, what I hear is people wondering, how ever do I hope to get a new owner, if my current owner is not present to approve the merger. Because marriage is a business and women are commodities.