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Confession: I am a huge fan of the Centers for Disease Control’s1Public Health Matters blog. Because, well, I have this weird thing about obscure diseases and I adore reading about public health, and every now and then, they throw in a practical joke.
Here’s the thing about scientists: They may be geeky, but they also have senses of humour, and public health specialists like to get their yayas out just like the rest of us. Which means that if you read patiently for long enough, eventually a post is going to pop up that will make you crack up. Like the zombie preparedness post that came around last year, which managed to be both funny and informative about preparation for actual disasters -- it turns out that many of the measures you can take to protect yourself from zombies are also useful for things like hurricane preparation. Who knew?!
However, sometimes they miss the mark, as Katie Baker pointed out on Jezebel yesterday.
“Wedding Day Survival Guide”? Really, CDC? Like the zombie survival post, the main goal of the wedding survival guide is to provide a quick overview on basic emergency preparedness and things that people should keep at hand to be ready for emergencies, presented in a format that people might actually read. It’s also more specifically about weddings and other events, where having large groups of people in a single venue can add complications to disaster planning.
This couple is too damn cute. I can't handle it. They're a natural disaster waiting to happen. (Photo from Flickr user Sean Choe, Creative Commons license.)
What’s annoying about this post is that about 50% of it is actually common sense and good advice. Like, yeah, you should totally have a first aid kit at a wedding in case of accidents, and you should absolutely have a runner to carry messages, along with emergency plans in case of a situation like really bad weather. In the course of wedding planning, people may be focused on making the day special, but it’s not a bad idea to think about what they’ll do if the worst happens.
The worst, in my eyes, being something like a natural disaster. Having a plan in place for quickly getting in touch with guests and members of the wedding party, making sure everyone is accounted for, and evacuating if necessary should be part of the wedding plan. Planning ahead to ask about sheltering in place and evacuation routes in the event of bad weather or a situation like an earthquake? Also a good idea.
But then, there’s the part of the post that is sexist and totally unnecessary. Like the comment that the bridal kit should include sedatives, because of course all brides are out of control, ready to spin off into the stratosphere at the slightest provocation, and you might need to take them down with a few ketamine darts if things get hairy. One mention of stereotypical out-of-control brides wasn’t enough; the author had to add a mention of bridezillas. And remember to have a box of chocolate on hand, because WIMMINZ, AMIRITE?
Oh, the hilarity.
I am well aware that weddings can be stressful for many of those involved, and tempers can run short when you’re planning for a major event, dealing with families who may not totally like each other, and handling the inevitable unexpected issues that crop up. But I’m really tired of hearing that brides are the only ones who behave badly at weddings, and that everyone should fear them because something about a white dress and an engagement ring turns people into looming monsters incapable of regulating their emotions or treating other people with basic courtesy.
Instead of taking the stereotype angle, the CDC could have made this a lot more useful and informative (but still funny) if she had talked about managing crowds in general, or what to do when, say, a skunk wanders into the wedding venue2. Or she could have talked about talking both parties down if they develop cold feet right before the big moment. Or, heck, she could have addressed the pressing question of what to do when the officiant keels over in the middle of the ceremony.
She's totally ready to eat your face off. (Photo from Flickr user churchy, Creative Commons license)
But no. Always with the cheap shot, and if you want to make jokes about weddings, the bride is the first target. Universally funny, right? Everyone knows that women enter some sort of fugue state during their weddings, unable to control themselves because they’ve been taken over by the dreaded Wedding Virus, characterised by sudden personality changes and extreme behaviour.
It's suspected to be a progressive prion disease, but researchers are currently unsure.
I get that a key goal of the Public Health Matters blog is to reach audiences who might not otherwise read. A lot of disaster survival guides are really boring, and your eyes start to glaze over as soon as you start reading about go bags and what to do in the event of an incident, so part of the point here is to liven things up, get people reading and thinking, and get people distributing the guide to friends and family because they think it's funny.
But I think I'd prefer it if they stuck to things that are actually funny in the future. Why not cover alien invasions or what to do if a kraken attacks while you're at sea instead, and skip the sexist stereotypes?
1. Ever wondered why it’s the “Centers for Disease Control,” which just looks...wrong? It’s because the institution’s full name is the Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention. BAM. Knowledge. Return
2. Yes, this happened to friends of mine, and the answer is: hold very, very still. Return