Now, I know not every feminist woman reading this is going to agree with me on this one...and that's okay. Because we all have a million points of view on the topic to begin with, PLUS we all have to live in the meantime. In fact, I'd be surprised if any single of us wanted to adopt wholesale anybody else's views on the way to handle love and marriage, particularly as a woman, and as a femininist. We need to allow for some flexibility - we need the cafeteria plan (which is one of the reasons we get into these situations in the first place if you ask me, but a digression about healthcare would take all day).
But as usual, decapitate any one of my standards, and you'll see it double, hydra-like. How unfair! So this post is of course about MEN and the movement, what else?
Men like marriage. "Feminist" men, too.
Not all men (lone ranger stereotype).
Not in every life stage (young playboy sowing wild oats stereotype).
Not of every political bent (hippie stereotype).
Not of every sexual bent (polyamorous stereotype).
And they're not fond of all aspects of marriage (the ridiculous stereotype that men fear women tying them up legally, as though marriage is a contract delivering ownership OF men TO women).
But the biggest lie in the world is that a woman has to trick and trap a man into marriage. Because marriage, on the whole, benefits men. And men, on the whole, are not yet too stupid to notice. That much is very simple, really.
Yes, feminists discussed this back in the (18)70s...so what's my point, you ask?
There are three, really.
1. Because marriage has indeed become quite a bit kinder and gentler than it was in the days before women had any citizenship or property rights of their own at all, The Institution is held harmless when it ought not be, and certainly the fact that men as a class still strongly believe in, support, legislate for, and demand marriage is widely considered to be far more benign than I think it should be. It's as if the entire question has become postfeminist to the point that even "feminist men" are allowed and expected to make assumptions about marriage that feminists would have been outraged at a few decades ago. I am not convinced this is a sign of progress.
Making oppressive institutions more tolerable is a worthy goal, and it is understandable that individuals choose newly-tolerable oppressive institutions over less-tolerable lives outside of those institutions. But this does not mean one ought respond well to someone who's pressing for a variance so they can build a sweatshop in one's back yard, even if "these days" they only employ workers over 15 and make everyone wear OSHA-approved safety goggles. So if you ask me, men who support and uphold marriage conventions in word or deed could certainly stand an askance glance or two at their feminist credentials!
2. You may have noticed that my previous examples have referenced the heterosexual model of marriage. That's because that's the way it is: heterosexuality is the marriage model. And my universal statements haven't been clarified as applying only to "heterosexual marriage." And that's because they apply to marriage in general.
Banning the legal marriage of same-sex couples must be ended immediately, because discrimination is an active emotional harm, and because people are being denied the paltry protections our sexist and classist system offers through legal marriage. This is a big issue, critical to the daily lives of many, many people.
However, the oxymoronic term "marriage equality" and its companion term, the redundant "marriage discrimination," bring to my mind the kind of social advancement Donald Trump started in Palm Beach in the 80s. He made a lot of noise about how his country club (unlike the Everglades Club and the B&T) would have "open membership" (meaning it would accept Black and Jewish members who had the cash to pay the hefty fees). The rapidly-increasing power held by the Jewish and African-American communities in the Palm Beaches HAS been very important in both the micro and macro level of people's lives. And not being shut out of bastions of power was an important part of achieving that political clout. But none of this has done a thing to make the place less money-driven and classist (the opposite, actually, as money and/or class becomes more and more relevant than race/ethnicity down there), nor can the membership of any Palm Beach country club possibly be referred to as "open" or "nondiscriminatory," by both definition and design.
My point is not to defend the old guard of het marriage against tacky Trump-like intrusive homosexuals, but to caution that it DOES matter who challenges the old guard and how they choose to do so – that, as always, the end result does not justify the means but is defined by the means.
And so we see same-sex marriage defenses-—a huge proportion of which are presumed to be profeminist, written by men who are also presumed to be profeminist--that look like the Defense of Marriage Act in every substantial way other than that the sex of the parties being privileged and protected in the famed thousand-plus ways is inclusive. "Marriage equality," my sweet patoot.
3. And while we have countless men concerning themselves with civil union vs. marriage terminology, which states have bans and definitions and restrictions and which of the mostly-male legislature “supports” and “upholds” marriage (as either right or left-wing men want to uphold and maintain it, depending on which side we’re talking about), while this huge hubbub is going on over this one very narrow tactic in the war for recognition of non-traditional[sic] families...
Which men is it, again, who concern themselves with focusing on women as a class achieving full civil and human rights? With all men and women being accorded equal rights to life, liberty and so forth regardless of their sex...OR their sexuality...OR their willingness to cooperate with government proclamations on what composes a socially-desirable family...OR the system in general (isn't that what really composes a right, after all, that it's "even" extended to those who challenge society)?
Where is all the profeminist male outrage over the fact that marriage is a class issue, that marriage is so thoroughly recognized (though this is seldom admitted) to be a property-protection contract that hordes of people enter into it or avoid it based on money, based on assets, based on basic human need? When liberals get upset about UF requiring domestic partners to have sex in order to get benefits, why aren’t they upset that some people find it very difficult to make ends meet without being IN a relationship, and people in relationships find it very difficult to make ends meet without signing on the appropriate dotted lines, to register that relationship?
And in the meantime, this issue is one of those that really tears us women apart. We do it to ourselves, and the marriage-pushing men on both sides certainly hamstring us with it, too. Our culture does everything it can to structure the lives of "single" and "partnered" and "married" women - lesbian, bi, and straight- to have so very little in common that we defend and protect our own pigeonholes out of a sure (and not unreasonable) belief that falling in love with freedom results in freefall, and that women as a class cannot be freed as a class, but as categories, in stages.
Well, that's just not good enough.