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I’m getting married in 6 weeks.
So, it’s with great interest that I’ve been reading a lot of anti-marriage polemic that’s been floating around the internet lately. One thing I’ve consciously tried to do (and, I think, succeeded) is refrain from ever getting defensive about my choice to get married. I wrote a pretty polemical post about name changing, and a lot of of people really called me out on it. Their criticism basically amounted to: if you are so repulsed by heterosexist straight married privilege, as you claim, why the fuck are you getting married?
To which I only have to say: good point.
I admit it. I want to benefit from that privilege. I want it. I want my relationship to be regarded as extremely important by others, the way I regard it. I want assets I have to automatically pass to my spouse if I die suddenly and I haven’t thought of everything. I want to be able to take advantage of a whole pile of benefits, social, legal, and otherwise.
I want the family privilege. I want my family to regard my partner as part of their family, and I want my partner’s family to accept me as the same. And, I admit, the big party and lots of people fussing over me, and the opportunity to fuss over my partner and have a ceremony where we talk about how we love each other, is a pretty awesome side benefit. And, since I’m going to have an open marriage, I want that legal status even more, to provide emotional and legal security for the person I have chosen as my primary partner.
None of this is a sufficient justification. Just because I want it doesn’t make it progressive. I don’t believe, and have never believed, in “choice feminism,” and I recognize that lots of choices we make support and reinforce the patriarchy. Including this one.
Which is why I was particularly moved by this post by Addy Fox at Jezebel about why she isn’t getting married:
[T]his isn’t really about statement making for me. It’s more about what’s in my heart, and how I would feel joining a club that has rules I don’t agree with. And in the bargain, taking the argument against gay marriage (it will hurt “normal” marriage) and flipping it on it’s head by showing that denying gays marriage can turn plenty of straight people off it.
There’s something very compelling about that idea: there is something morally reprehensible about participating in an institution that you know to be broken or unjust. But I don’t even agree with Fox that the problem with marriage is that gay people aren’t allowed to do it.
It’s much worse than that. This Newsweek piece gets a little closer, but it still misses the mark. The problem with marriage will not be fixed on the day that gay people are allowed to do it and DOMA is repealed, although that will help a lot. Jessica Bennett and Jesse Ellison make the case that marriage is no longer necessary, and thus they are swearing off it. That first part isn’t accurate. I think that marriage still provides social approval, legal protection, and financial security that a lot of people still desperately need. However, I do think that a world in which fewer people feel the need to get married is a better one.
A world where people can provide the full panoply of benefits to their partners without getting married is a better one. A world where we accept that relationships are fluid instead of pretending they are forever, is better. A world where we don’t have state-supported monogamy enforcement is better. A world where people don’t feel the need to enter into a legal contract to legitimize their relationships is better.
I want to bring that world into being. And since I’m benefiting from the privileges that I abhor by getting married, I’m going to work even harder at it. I don’t believe that “fighting from the inside” is better than “fighting from the outside,” but I do think I’ll have an opportunity to illuminate the way married privilege works to benefit the heterosexist patriarchy, by seeing it firsthand. I plan to take that opportunity.
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