so, i go to write a new post on my blog, here, and wordpress has added a fucking rainbow to my toolbar (or whatever it’s called, that line up top there that has the reader link and my profile link and stuff on it). I did NOT sign on for that, i do not want it, and I’m pissed that it’s there.
But the US just implemented marriage
assimilation equality for same sex couples. and we’re all supposed to be happy now. Rainbows for everyone! We’re all gay and queer and all alike! there is no more inequality!
Never mind that marriage is a patriarchal institution that is deeply rooted in patriarchy, and was originally instituted in order for men to own women and their children. No matter who marries whom now, marriage “remains an endorsement of a formal equality approach that does not challenge the regulatory function and the often oppressive role of marriage in society” (Boyd, 2012, p. 287).
We’ve been around this block before–many many times. We are pack animals; we all want to belong somewhere. NEED to belong somewhere. And having The Man (aka ‘the state’) recognize two people’s love for each other as legitimate and worthy of shared pension plans, benefits and burial plots indicates belonging. I know people who married, with the ownership papers signed and the ceremony officiated by a retired United Church minister, so that they would have legal rights to visit one another in the hospital should either become ill or incapacitated. They married because they did not trust that their parents would not swoop in and leave the other partner out of decision-making, assets and support.
Others married in capitulation to their partners, who wanted the state sanction of legitimacy. There is not as much these days in the way of a righteous radical feminist movement in which we can imagine and build intimacy and commitment that is not rooted in patriarchal, and deeply sexist, classed and colonizing traditions.
I’m going to help to MC a wedding in a couple of weeks. I have to say, I was pretty conflicted about it before this whole mass marriage kool-aid consumption in the US. This morning, though, the essential contradiction inherent in resisting patriarchy with all my might — but hosting and singing at a wedding (a supporting pillar in the medieval, enduring castle of men’s oppression of women) — had me holding my head so it would not burst into flames.
This is a heterosexual wedding, and the couple are both in their middle years. the woman is my friend — she helped me A LOT during a very bleak period in my life, and helped me to find a place where I belong. I love her. I also love doing stand-up comedy, singing, playing my accordion and ranting about sexism and patriarchy– all of which she expects me to do, so that’s good. She asked me to MC, with another friend of ours, and she knows I am critical of marriage, and expects me to offer a ‘cole’s notes’ version of my criticism, even.
On my way to work this morning, I nearly stopped my bike and called her to tell her I couldn’t. But I didn’t. I called another friend, a woman whose judgments I trust. She said, “she will still love you, and she will understand, but she will be hurt.”
“AND” she continued, “If you do it, you will have a platform, think of that — I was uncomfortable with the whole gay marriage thing, but I couldn’t say why until you said ‘assimilation’. You will have an opportunity to say what you think, and I know you will be loving and respectful when you do this, because you are good at this kind of thing.”
That did it for me. I think I can do this without selling my soul. And another thing, it’s important to be a witness to other people’s promises to each other. I can do this for that reason, to hold them accountable to their promise to care for each other’s well-being. I can do this because they invited me and other people they love and trust. Yes, they are entering into a patriarchal institution which has few, if any possibilities of redemption, but they are going in with their eyes and hearts open, and held by loved ones, some of whom stand resolutely outside (as far as possible, anyway) the restrictions of state-sanctioned matrimony. Their relationship is held strong not by the permission and rules of the state, but by the connections they have with others, and our shared memories of their promises to each other.
I can still say why marriage is not a win, even as I help my friends celebrate their commitment to each other.
Also, I don’t really think resistance is futile. It’s absolutely necessary, even when you don’t see results. Because while we might be all equal, under the (resolutely patriarchal) law, we are not yet (even close to) free.
Boyd, Susan, (2012). Marriage is more than a piece of paper, in National Taiwan University Law Review Vol. 8: 2, pp 263-297