Alright, after watching My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, I truly believe that TLC needs to stop calling itself the learning channel. I knew next to nothing about Gypsies, Travelers or Roma, before watching the marathon that TLC aired on Sunday afternoon; however, a firm understanding of how the media and how shows like this work, allowed me to understand that we were far from seeing the true picture of this insular community.
With the exception a few young women who had jobs, the show largely fixated on the idea that Gypsy/Traveler women exist as drudges to serve the men in their lives. They made a point of repeatedly letting the viewer know that they were expected to leave school around the age of 11 to do nurturing work. Shot after shot was aired of traveler women scrubbing floors and cooked meals. This was juxtaposed to them in loud highly revealing clothing thus suggesting a sort of contradiction of moral values. Supposedly if one dresses in revealing clothing and have chosen to abstinent until marriage, it is a weird twist on values.
Throughout the show, the moderator constantly asked the young women if they felt their lives were unfair. For instance, leaving school, doing housework, etc., while the boys had the freedom to do whatever they desired, as long as they financially supported their families when they got married. It felt as though the documentary was trying to present Traveler women as uniquely oppressed, i.e. people who were caught in a time warp. This dissonance is best described by Thelma Madine who says:
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