December 4, 2008
From Funny or Die, requires no comment:
Vodpod videos no longer available.
See also my previous post refuting the claim that marriage has been the same since the “dawn of time.”
November 5, 2008
Since my master’s thesis was on marriage, normative gender roles, and the production of heteronormativity, I very much enjoyed Jon Stewart’s November 3rd commentary on Proposition 8 opponents (even though my own marriage politics is of the Beyond Marriage flavor).
He comedically points out that while those who are against the legalization of same-sex marriage rely on the definition of “traditional marriage” and the way it has “always been,” their arguments, if nothing else, are short term at best.
With traditional marriage, women were property exchanged between their father and their husband, often for the sake of political power, transferring wealth, and keeping the peace. And as Stephanie Coontz points out in her book Marriage: A History, the idea of marrying for love is a fairly recent phenomenon…perhaps less than 100 years old! Love and sexual faithfulness were less important feature of marriages than were the political and economic interests that were advanced by the union. “Marriages of convenience,” at many times, were actually quite normative at some times.
The bottom line is that there is no “traditional marriage” or marriage “norm” that we can either continue with or change. The fact is, that marriage ideals have always changed with societal changes, and often with changes in technology. Marriage’s definition has always been a social construction, and has always been related to political, social, economic, gender, and racial power. Stewart’s piece demonstrates this basic, yet unacknowledged fact:
Vodpod videos no longer available.
Even more, just like there is so “natural” definition and understanding of marriage–that it is a human construction that can be defined differently, the way we have organized societal obligations along the lines of marriage is also a construction, and so can be constructed differently. That we take the married family to be the social unit upon which our social assumptions are made is something that needs it change; it does not reflect the interests and realities of many Americans’ lives and their desired choices today. We have to stop foreclosing ways to organize one’s economic, reproductive, and sexual needs, as well as the way we wish to form relationships commitment other than heterosexual marriage. Just like heterosexual marriage is not what is always has been defined as, social organization does not have to be what it always has been. We can be creative in the way we organize our lives to meet our needs, if we can only decenter marriage as the central, normative, ideal set of living arrangements.
July 15, 2008
Well, I finally finished. Today I submitted my Master’s Thesis. It is now in the hands of FedEx via the US Postal Service. I have done several posts that in one way or another relate to my project, so I thought I’d share with you the title, abstract, and Table of Contents to get an idea of what I’ve been working on:
A Critical Analysis of Marriage in the United States as a Discursive Site of
This thesis is a critique of the United States’ adherence to marriage as the primary organizing feature of both social life and civic status, which in turn perpetuates gender inequality and heteronormative structures. This thesis demonstrates how ideal American citizenship requires participating in marriage, which further maintains the gendered public/private divide. The analysis concludes that since marriage is not one institution, but rather is comprised of cross-institutional practices, it persists in producing gender hierarchy in spite of the equalization of marriage laws and economic practices in the latter half of the twentieth century. Further, the cross-institutional nature of marriage means that legalizing same-sex marriage is unlikely to fundamentally change the discursive meaning of marriage and that same-sex marriage will be subject to the same normalizing and marginalizing effect of marriage practice.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: What the Same-Sex Marriage Debate Tells Us About Normative Marriage…1
i. Same-Sex Marriage Advocacy: “We” are Just Like “You…3
ii. Marriage is Not a “Path to Liberation”…11
iii. Queer Theory: Same-Sex Marriage as a Site of Regulation…17
Chapter 2: Citizenship, Marriage, and Gender in the United States…25
i. American Political Philosophy, Citizenship, and Marriage…27
ii. Citizenship and Marriage in Public Policy: The Cases of Native Americans and Polygamists…31
iii. Slavery: Property Cannot Make Contracts…34
iv. The Importance of Sexual Citizenship…37
Chapter 3: Shaping Normative Families Through Taxation and Social Welfare…45
i. The Depression and the New Deal: Marriage Norms Through Economic Policy…46
ii. 1990s Social Welfare Reform: Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Program…52
Chapter 4: ‘Home Economics’ as a Means of Producing Gender…62
Conclusion: De-centering Heterosexuality and Normative Gender…82
May 5, 2008
Mildred Loving, whose court battle resulted in making interracial marriage legal has died.
From her statement, made a year ago on the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision:
I am still not a political person, but I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.
Via Alas, a Blog
RIP, Mildred Loving.
(Cross-posted to The Reaction)