Marriage

| 9 Comments

I gotta get something off my chest.

Everyone I know is getting married. Again. This keeps happening--you'd think they'd all be hitched by now and we'd be done with it. I guess some folks are on their second round, though, so maybe it will just be a perpetual cycle. At any rate, I have at least three weddings of close friends and/or family on my agenda in the next year, and counting. So I am thinking, once again, about the "M" word.

Here is the part where I put in the disclaimer: If you are my friend or family member and you are married or planning to be, you may want to stop reading here. If you don't, you may end up feeling hurt or insulted. I am, completely and honestly, sorry about that. I will, as I've likely already told you, do all I can to support your decision to get/be married. If you want me to put on an ugly dress and be in your wedding, I'm there. I'll even throw you a shower. But none of that is going to change my essential feelings about the decision you're making, and those feelings are what I'm going writing about here, on my soapbox, so read at your own risk.

Now. About marriage.

Marriage in the U.S. is a fundamentally discriminatory institution. Clearly, it discriminates against anyone not in a male-female relationship, but that's just a part of it. It also discriminates against anyone who is unlucky enough not to have someone to marry, or anyone who chooses not to participate. It elevates one set of citizens over another by virtue of their personal relationships and how they choose to legally codify those relationships. This is never going to be OK with me. While it's not by any means my only problem with marriage, it's the top of the list, and it's the one that makes me feel fine about making the following analogy:

When you choose to participate in a legal heterosexual marriage, you are, in essence, choosing to drink from the "white only" fountain. You may not have put that fountain there, you may not agree with its existence, you may do whatever else you can personally and politically to open it to people of all colors but you are still partaking in it. You are buying into an inherently discriminatory system, and by participating in it you are helping, in the slightest way, to keep that discrimination alive and kicking. You may have any number of personal and financial reasons to have made that choice, and some of those reasons may be very sensible, but the bottom line does not change. That isn't OK with me. For me, watching my friends and family make that decision isn't something that feels celebratory. I can be and often am nothing but happy for friends and family members who have found wonderful partners and want to build a life with those partners--but that happiness does not extend to their choosing to participate in legal marriage.

I honestly don't believe that the small number of us who choose not to marry for this reason (or for this among other reasons) are doing anything particularly effective to protest in favor of same-sex marriage. That's really not the point. Even if my getting married doesn't make the slightest difference in eradicating this particular discrimination, I am still committed to not being married. I want no part of an institution built on treating women as chattel, an institution built on "legitimizing" children, or an institution wherein rights and privileges are based on personal or sexual partnerships. And it's not just a "this is my personal preference, you do what you like" type of thing. I think it's morally wrong.

This clearly isn't some sort of deal breaker between my friends and I--if I didn't have married friends, at this point, I'd have few friends at all. Just as I am sure there are decisions I make with which the people who are important in my life disagree, this is a decision that most of the people in my life are making/have made with which I disagree. The difference that I can see is that it's a decision for which most of society will laud you. When you get married, or announce you are going to, you expect congratulations, presents, parties, etc. That makes sense. And it might make it even more insulting when someone among your friends (like, say, me) isn't excited for you, and doesn't say congratulations. Like I said before, I am not going to try to convince anyone I know not to get married. My friends and family members are, by and large, grown ups with their own decision-making processes and I have to respect the decisions they come to. But I am also not going to pretend I'm OK with it, because I'm not, and the more time passes, the less OK with it I get. This is, increasingly, the hill I am willing to die on.

So. There it is. A few of my thoughts on marriage. There are more, but on the slight possibility I still have friends left, I'm going to stop here.

9 Comments

I always figured you stayed unmarried so you'd be free to slut it up on the weekends.

Obviously, you being against marriage isn't going to hurt my feelings a bit. Your feelings on pornography, of course, enrage me. So, in the interest of having an argument, I will present the following topics that look fit for debate:

1. the utility of boycotting an organization based on wrong from History.There is little point in citing "thousands of years of history" as an argument against marriage. The rhetoric suggests that "thousands of years" make a tendency more significant, whereas I think all you're doing is saying that things have been different recently.


2. the comparison of how we treat our gays to how we treated our blacks under Jim Crow. Denying marriage rights to gays is part of a movement to create laws to deny gays civil rights, but that movement hasn't had the same kind of cultural/legal success as Jim Crow.

ok...go!

Thank you so much for posting this and reminding me I'm not alone. My first peer-type wedding is coming up next month and I'm starting to experience the ridiculousness on a more personal level.

You can't at all suggest that even for a moment that the marriage might not "work" because they'll, in all probability, get divorced in 5 years. And if that does happen, then it is a tragedy of such epic proporations as to rival 9/11 itself. If you're asked "when are you getting married?" you have to giggle and act shy and avert your eyes and say "soon, I hope". And you have to squeal over the matching pot holders and towels and not wonder why they needed a 20 dollar set when they could have picked them up for 50 cents at Salvation Army and for that matter they are grown adults, don't they have some fucking pot holders already?

I refuse to do this. I love them and all and I play this game to the best of my ability. But I can't trick myself into believing that this anything but a way for straight people to show off their mismatching genitals to ask god for permission to play around with them.

I know you know this, Grace, but since you've laid out some good arguments about the elitest nature of marriage, I'll add another: Many people who are disabled cannot get married and keep their benefits. An example: In order to keep their Medicare, which is the only health care they can afford, they must be single, and sometimes even lie about cohabitating.

I think you pissed all your married friends off, because nobody is coming to the Defense of Marriage.

I'd do it, but my tepid defense will be some kind of vaguely intellectual call for "tolerance" of values that are not our own.

So please, married people or people who value marriage: stand up for yourselves.

Ok ok, I err on the side of marriage.

My husband and I "cohabited" for 7 years before we got married. Why did we bother? Because to me, marriage is an outward show of the love I feel for my husband. I made a commitment in front of hundreds of people to say that I love him and will stand by him even when he makes me want to cut his head off!

Now, do I think that everyone looks at marriage this way? No. Not even gay people who fight so hard for the right to "marry" and then get divorced as well. Does it make them any better than a heterosexual?

There are LOTS of people who can't be in a commited relationship and should not make that promise to their SO. Gay or not.

I chose to make that decision, and so did my husband. 11 yrs together now and we are still as strong, if not stronger than before.

And yes, for some, there are benefits to being married. We get a much better tax rate, my children carry my husband's name(although I would be happy with a hyphenated name personally..lol) and we had a fun wedding(low cost, lots of family and friends and CAKE!)..so like I said, I err on the side of marriage-for SOME.

There are just going to be some people who are not suited for marriage. This does not make them worse or better than me, it just makes them different, which is what I love most about this world. Differences. :)

I am marrying simon btw. we will be registered at warhammer40k.com

while I mostly agree, I object for totally different reasons!


1. In no other instance would you be allowed to throw a party and force your grown friends to wear what you picked for them.

2. In no other instance would anyone's friends allow them to stage a bad, tired play directed and starring them, the ending of which we all know by heart.

3. You're in a relationship? Awesome. Why do you have to stage a production to show us all. If you do other awesome things and keep pointing out how awesome you are by having big public ceremonies about it, you'd be called an ass. Not in this case, for some reason.

4. Weddings, like many other holidays, have been coopted to be BUYBUYBUY CONSUMERIST NIGHTmares. YET in this case, people who would otherwise agree, think you are cheap if you dont get them this year's disposable blender. Because they are paying a lot for your dinner. Um, excuse me but who asked you to buy overpriced everything?

5. I fundamentally DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHY you would ever involve the state in your religious ceremony. It's pretty much fundamentally the reason why the pilgrims moved here to STOP DOING THIS.

6. Relatedly, I love when people who you've never seen in a church suddenly find their religion for a wedding ceremony because it happens to be a pretty room.

7. Why do you have to announce your relationship in public for it to be real?

8. I AM fundamentally opposed to people having their bad play and saying "till death do us part" when it doesn't mean that at all. You want a lifetime binding contract? You should get one. I mean if anyone is making a mockery of marriage it's the people getting married--they hardly ever stick to it.

9. So wait, now you have double the income and more tax breaks and I, single income no tax breaks have to give you presents and shoulder your portion of taxes? How the fuck is that reasonable?

10. Controversial, but true. Almost 95% of the time people who get married become less fun. I wish this wasn't true, but basically after people get married you don't see them ever again. Why? I have no idea.

11. Also controversial, most married people make some excuse about how they got married because of the kids. This is a total sideswipe at single parents and "bastards." Judgmental much? How is a kid raised by two parents with no piece of paper better than the same two parents without one?

While I agree that marriage comes from a sexist place, I Don't think that means people shouldn't do it--I mean only white, male landowners could vote, that doesn't mean I shouldn't do it now. Also, I am all for taking advantage of stupid laws.

OK, firstly, I'm still your friend. I still love you. But I call BS on your analogy.

I should say that I have been directly and indirectly a part of gay circles since I was a little kid. Through my family I have been raised by, with, and among camp to closeted, butch to queen, bi to curious. I have marched. I have raised money. I have corresponded with my legislators on preserving the right for LGBT couples to adopt. I have probably been to more gay weddings than you've been to weddings total. My own little family is mixed race.

So I'll take some umbrage at being called complicit with systemic injustice paralleling jim crow because I'm married (for the second time, so am I twice as bad?).

I'm also not sure what you mean by marriage: would you consider civil partnership that grants all the same rights and priviledges but not the name? would you consider marriage if you lived in Norway, where gay marriage is legal? what about California?

If all those new couples in California waited for every state to recognize their marriages before commiting, America wouldn't be seeing the images of thousands of couples eager, not so much for the tax break and right to see their partner in hospital (although those things are important), but also because, for many many people, this public, cornball, cliche event is an important acknowledgement of where their relationship is and where they want it to go. Which is why Jay and George, Nike and Renee, and so many others over the past century have had weddings that no state or government or institution recognized. But they registered for pop-corn makers and ladles, hired a musician and a cake maker, and put on a party to say "this thing seems serious".

And maybe that's an option for you as well, when the time comes: get the dress and the bridesmaids and the flowers and the honeymoon trip but skip city hall ... use the venue to say, "we'll only go as far as our friends can go until we can all cross the line together."

Given that you know some of the most progressive, consciously pro-feminist, anti-racist, and generally nice folks, they (we) deserve more credit than to be collectively called passive collaborators in repression. This is not the same, and the country seems to be on the verge of a tipping point in favor of allowing marriage for all.

But progress is coming one state at a time, one country at a time, and marriage means many different things. Do you think we should have waited for Texas or the whole country or the whole industrialized world or the whole world? Would it have been more OK if we'd gotten a civil partnership instead? Would it have been better if we'd had the ceremony/party but kept our legal status "single"?

Sorry for rambling on a bit. Clearly I should be doing this in my own blog. :)

Am married. Feel no need to stand up for myself as I basically agree with Grace, but console myself by reminding myself I had to get married for immigration reasons. I didn't feel it was useful to give up the relationship (which still shows every sign of 'working' [hee] after 6 years.) We thought of divorcing, in solidarity with gays (and the disabled, now that I know about that - I didn't at the time - I come from a country with socialised medicine) but cannot afford the tax. Seriously. Or the fees, or to live separately while doing so. (We couldn't afford and didn't want any kind of wedding either, and I basically agree with your and Rachel's ideas about weddings too.) This doesn't let me off the hook, obviously. If I really wanted to, I could no doubt swing it somehow. I just worry about money too much.

By the way, to the person who likes cake up above.... you can name your child whatever you want, married or not, you know. Whether the name should be that of the parent with the penis is a whole other conversation.

I have no particular use for marriage and do not 'value' it at all. I think we should remove all of the rights attached to it and let religious types do it if they want. If we were in my country, or both from the same country, we'd have no need to, and have never really had any wish to. (As an aside, it was really good fun explaining that once to a 'marriage counselor' - the only type available on the insurance. Oh, that's another thing I like about it. Medical insurance. Don't get me started...)

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