Monday, May 21, 2012

My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding: Rebelling Against The Culture

On My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding this week, we met Mellie, a young woman who wanted to rebel against her Gypsy heritage.

Mellie, a divorced Romanichal Gypsy woman still in her early twenties, has set her mind on rebelling against her Gypsy heritage. While this is looked down upon by her peers, I think Mellie has very good reasoning behind her actions.

During the episode, we learned that Mellie married while still in her teens and lived through an abusive marriage. Her husband beat her and the memories haunt her to this day. Because of it, she's turned off to the idea of remarrying, especially if she'd be marrying a Gypsy man.

On the show, Mellie acted out in inappropriate ways, like getting trashed beyond belief in Atlantic City, but I do have to give her credit for standing up for her beliefs: living for herself, having fun, and being open to dating non-Gypsy men. In Gypsy culture, it's important to marry other Gypsies to keep the bloodlines strong. This is understandable, given the limited number of Gypsies and the fact that the culture is seen as dying out, but there is a negative side to Gypsy culture, and that's spousal abuse. Per my research, it's relatively common in Gypsy relationships, and many women endure it as part of their cultural responsibility. Also, a Gypsy woman may not find her match within the Gypsy community, but it's still frowned upon to look for a husband elsewhere.

I also give Mellie credit for not wanting to live as a housewife, the destiny of most Gypsy and Traveler women. There's nothing wrong with being a housewife, but it is frustrating from an outside perspective that Gypsy women are always expected to do that as their primary job, rather than working outside the home. I understand that it's important for a mother to raise her children and maintain a home, but there's so much that Romanichal Gypsy women could offer the world if they were allowed to do so. We've seen some working Gypsies on the original installment of My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, and they seemed to be happy, well adjusted people who are excellent in their respective lines of work.

The reason I'm so focused on this situation with Mellie is because while her family is supportive of her, they repeatedly said things like 'she just needs to meet the right Romany man and she'll settle down' and things of the sort. But why? Why can't Mellie date anyone she wants? Why can't she have fun as a single woman? I realize it's taboo in Gyspy culture to do these things, but Mellie is a strong woman and I give her credit for doing what she thinks - and knows - is right for her.

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