Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Awful piece on marriage, gay and otherwise

With a hat tip to Isaac Chotiner at The New Republic, whose post alerted me to this editorial, I'd like in turn to draw your attention to a terrible piece of writing on marriage. It's by one Sam Schulman at the conservative website/magazine The Weekly Standard, and is full to brimming with head-slappingly ridiculous claims about marriage between people of different sexes and the same sex. If you don't read all of Schulman's work, read Chotiner's post to get the flavor.

To be honest, I have a tough time with my feelings about the piece. On the one hand, my reaction is so strongly and immediately negative, and almost everything Schulman writes seems wrong in such a glaring, obvious way that it could be dismissed as a self-made straw man of sorts, an extreme outlier. At the same time, however, he lays bare a major undercurrent I've always noted in the arguments against marriage equality: the desire of social conservatives to preserve "traditional" gender roles in heterosexual relationships. How can you keep the work/homemaking spheres separated, after all, if the married couple in question is two ladies or -- added ickyness! -- two dudes?

The answer to those like me who believe in making your home life in the way that you and your loved ones see fit* is that you don't, or need not, keep the spheres separate unless you choose to do so for yourselves. And so, I look at a paragraph like this one Schulman cobbled together from the bones of the past, and after every sentence, I find myself flatly negating the statement he just made:
Even in modern romantic marriages, a groom becomes the hunting or business partner of his father-in-law and a member of his clubs; a bride becomes an ally of her mother-in-law in controlling her husband. There can, of course, be warm relations between families and their children's same-sex partners, but these come about because of liking, sympathy, and the inherent kindness of many people. A wedding between same-sex lovers does not create the fact (or even the feeling) of kinship between a man and his husband's family; a woman and her wife's kin. It will be nothing like the new kinship structure that a marriage imposes willy-nilly on two families who would otherwise loathe each other.
The assumtion of universality, the "one-size-fits-all" of his model of marriage is staggering. It's not that a groom might partner with his father in law, it's that he does. No he doesn't, Mr. Schulman. It's like he got his idea of family and marriage from all the old comic strips that newspapers only keep to avoid receiving nasty letters from septugenarians.

I feel that mentioning, as Schulman does, that he's been married thrice, is scoring easy points. Honestly, if I didn't think someone would read his piece and bring this fact up in a comment, I'd leave it out.

Anyway, I feel like today is a good day to celebrate marriages of all kinds, as it is Melissa's and my second anniversary. The first two years have been wonderful, and I'm looking forward to many pairs of years more!

* (So long as nobody is being harmed! Gay and non-traditional straight marriages are not a slippery slope to legal incest, bestiality, and polygamy.)

1 comment:

MFunk from Plansland said...

Admittedly, I haven't read the whole article yet. But my favorite part so far is where he says, "The [homosexual community is] replicating what we might call the "romantic marriage," a kind of marriage that is chosen, determined, and defined by the couple that enters into it....But [romantic marriage] is a luxury and even here has only existed (except among a few elites) for a couple of centuries--and in only a few countries." Somehow, I feel like the gay community in this country is basing their desire to have the right to marry off of the model that they have seen growing up. Not the model that existed in 1624. Additionally, one could argue that if this type of romantic marriage has only existed for a couple of centuries, it is the model of marriage upon which this (relatively young) country was founded, and is therefore wholly traditional in our cultural context. This guy is making my brain explode.