My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding

I watched TLC’s My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding tonight and wished I hadn’t. I would have preferred to keep what little (see: nothing) I know about the Gypsy culture unspoiled. While I can’t take this one show as the final stamp on all things Gypsy, I do wish I had had an opportunity to learn about this lifestyle in another manner. ‘Why am I so disheartened by this show?’ you ask. Um… can you pipe down and let me tell my story at my own pace, please? Thank you. Now where was I? *Scratching head and tapping finger on bottom lip* Oh, of course. This introduction to the Gypsy culture left me feeling as if they are a people who oppress women by keeping them tied to the traditional, archaic role of servants. Their belief seems to be that a woman’s genetic makeup is that of serving men.

“Gypsy wives are obliged to follow their husbands” so says the show. The women are subservient and do not have an identity independent of their husbands. They exist to be at their men’s beck and call – cooking, cleaning and raising the children. What nearly did me in was hearing one of the women (a young woman) talk about how in their world there is no such thing as ambition for education and career. The only thing young women aspire to is to be a wife.

For those who know me, this pretty much shakes my reality to the core. In my mind, education is inextricably tied to providing children (especially girls) with a healthy sense of self that will help them become productive members of society. I come from a Haitian household where my mother (though modern in certain ways) held very traditional beliefs about what it means to be female. She, like the Gypsies, shared the thought that a woman’s greatest accomplishment is that of wife and mother. Growing up, I was so against everything she stood for that I outright refused to learn how to cook and did not want to do any housework so I wouldn’t turn out like her. A bit extreme now when I think of it, but it seemed perfectly sensible at the time. It was this suffocating notion of what it means to be female that for years conditioned me to steer clear of marriage and motherhood. Although I did manage to work through the marriage aspect, I’m still battling the potential motherhood bit.

Anyway, back to the Gypsies. The one story that struck a chord with me was of the 22-year-old who was giving up her independence (working outside the home, her own car, money, home, etc…) to get married even though she clearly did not seem like she wanted to. As a spinster (yep, that is what you are as a 22-year-old unmarried Gypsy), she seemed motivated more by removing the stigma than an actual desire to be married. She, with good reason, was not looking forward to conforming to her new role as her husband’s property (in his I’m-joking-but-not-really words: “I own you now.”).

It was all I could do not to snatch her from the television screen and lock her in the basement (crap! I don’t own a basement. Note to self: Find a friend with a basement) until she came to her senses. Like my mother, her mother’s sense of pride came from seeing her daughter become a wife.

If it feels like I’m bashing marriage and devaluing housewives, I’m not. This is simply a view of someone who doesn’t “get” the picture on the other side of the lens. It’s the same way that I think my mother felt (and still feels on some level) about me. Based on her emotional and mental makeup, it was simply unfathomable that any female (especially her daughter) would reject marriage and  motherhood. I imagine that it would be the same for me if I had a daughter whose sole purpose in life was to get married, be a mother and keep a home. It would go against everything that’s wired in me.

This topic is one that has generated and continue to generate endless debates. Although I stand strongly on one side of the fence, I am always open to conversations that broaden my mind about the other side. Would love to hear your thoughts either way.

P.S. I don’t at all believe that to be a housewife raising children means forfeiting your education, or that you cater to your husband’s desires at his whim. The Gypsy lifestyle is the more extreme case. I understand that.

P.P.S. (ridiculous. Why isn’t it just P.S. 2, or even just P.S.?) I’m tempted to watch this show again to look at those dresses (bride, bridesmaids and guests) and scratch my head at why they would wear such hideous things, and wear them with such pride. No one on that show would escape the makeover mirrors of Clinton and Stacy.


About mmichellederosier

As a freelancer, I have written for online and print publications with a focus on the shared and distinct American experience of Black immigrants and Black Americans. As a member of the Haitian diaspora (made in Haiti and bred in Brooklyn), I'm committed to snatching back the Haitian narrative. I want to present an assortment of unique Haitian experiences that are overlooked in mainstream conversations. It's important to show that our life stories can be painful, yes, but also brilliant, interesting, quirky and fun. I'm starting with the Happy Harper children's series. The first book forthcoming 2020. Professionally and personally, I am driven to ensure that youth and women of color with limited resources have access to opportunities for success and the support system to leverage them. I love partnering with others to do the same. I have 15 years demonstrated experience successfully engaging diverse communities of individual volunteers and teachers, schools, districts, non-profits and community partners, as well as corporate donors.
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4 Responses to My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding

  1. Hi Rebekka, thank you so much for taking the time to respond. I by no means think that this is the Gypsy culture. This post is an assessment of the Gypsy culture as portrayed by TLC. This is the only thing I’m basing it on…the reason I said I would have preferred to be introduced to the Gypsy culture by another source. Generally I prefer to learn about other cultures from those who are of said cultures. However, if I don’t know anyone from that group, I depend on well-researched books. Even with commonalities in a group, not all members of that cultural will be the same…and not one specific person can speak for that population. Just like the people on reality shows tend to represent the most extreme. It’s a show. They want good ratings. I don’t expect much.

    If you have a few minutes, I would appreciate if you can expand on some of the general differences between Gypsies and Irish Travelers.

  2. Rebekka says:

    put that *boy* in the hospital..sorry..

  3. Rebekka says:

    I am Gypsy. No one on that show was Gypsy. They were all Irish Travellers. As much as the Brits are desperate to group us together, we are not even the same race, much less the same ethnicity. Secondly, there are things in that show that are complete utter lies. “Grabbing”? I don’t know a single Traveller who had ever heard of this prior to this show. And I know a good many Travellers. There are a lot of folks calling foul saying it was completely made up for the show. All the Gypsies and Traveller’s I know would have put that bot in the hospital had he tried such a thing on one of ours. As for the rest, I’m sorry, but if any Gypsy or Traveller girl I know were to dress, dance, or behaive like those girls, their reputation would be forever tarnished. I wear shorts and dresses that go to my knees. THAT is controversial. Forget it if I were to try and get away wearing slutty clothes like those girls. To be honest. I question if even they were truely Travellers. I think the only real Traveller’s they showed were in the bit about Dale Farm and the other camp. And none of them were indecent. This show is comparable to Jersey Shore. If they are truely Travellers in that show, then they sold out their people and their culture to portray false stereotypes that would never fly in real Gypsy and Traveller families. And finally, our weddings are nothing like that trash on this show. My cousin just got married. Aside from traditionally wearing a red dress, it was no different from your average gorger’s wedding. This is typical of our weddings. They are normal. Not trashy. Don’t judge us on a stupid faked TLC “reality” show. To do so would really show your ignorance. Do you also judge all Italian American’s based on Jersey Shore?

    • Marguerite says:

      Rebekka, thanks for giving your side. I came across this blog entry after watching the show and thinking “they can’t all be like this!” and hunting for more info. I’ve watched a couple episodes hoping to see something more balanced, but I guess that doesn’t make for good TV. It’s a shame because they are missing a chance to show a group who are very often misunderstood and who have a long history. I figure that they only show the most outrageous people.

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