Monday, August 11, 2008

How does gay marriage stack up with feminism?

Via the LinkViewer at lgf, I came across an interesting revisit to the subject of gay marriage:

...[T]he main function of marriage is to define the stable family unit as one mother, one father, and children. While other functions and uses have come and gone, marriage and children have gone hand in hand since its creation.

Redefining marriage into anything but ONE man and ONE woman will also redefine the best and most stable family unit. The breakdown of the family unit has lead to an explosion of many of the biggest ills we have: higher crime, drug use, and all sorts of other emotional problems. Now more than ever, the stable family unit, one mother, one father and children, must be protected and cherished at all costs.

I like much of Mike's reasoning on this issue. But he could have actually used a more straightforward phrasing – Biologically, the complete family unit is, in this order: one female, one male, and their combined offspring. Anything else is a societal construct, and history demonstrates which, for mammals, are the constructs most successful for each species going forth, being fruitful, and multiplying, as it were.

Now, allow me to present a feminist argument against "alternate lifestyle" marriages of almost any sort.

Anything other than the father-mother-children arrangement eventually devalues the female in the marriage contract, making her sole purpose, once again, to be a baby factory. The ancient Greeks clearly demonstrated this end result, as wives were chattel, owning nothing, controlling nothing about their own lives (household slaves had more power than wives over their own daily activities), while male lovers were equals in every regard.

The same devaluation/dehumanization of mates tends to occur in multiple marriages and serial marriages.

It's probably not even the least bit intentional, but it happens.

Further, homosexuality devalues the child, turning it from a boon for the future into a property, however unintentionally. One man plus one woman equals partnership, equal investment in the future of their children. One man, one other man, (or one woman, one other woman) and the investment shifts to "my children via whatever source I find" vs "his (or her) interests". They often become commodities -- or worse -- users of commodities (such as time, attention, food, etc.) which will then interfere with the desires/wants/needs of the sexual partner who has no vested interest in the outcome of that child's life, other than to please the partner to whatever degree he or she chooses (wicked stepmother, anyone?). Which means, the child, like the wife, is devalued, by becoming less than completely human.

So much for gay marriage enhancing the strength of family through diversity.

This isn't to say that I think all two-person-heterosexual marriages are, by their nature always going to be superior in raising children to any other arrangements. A happy and successful gay couple, raising children in an openly loving and caring and supportive relationship will certainly beat having those same children in an abusive or neglectful heterosexual household, and, in many cases trumps single parenting of any sort. But when all are done right, the biological imperatives for reproduction and nurture will easily beat the alternative systems.

In other words, defining downwards is not an improvement. We accept that there will be failures, but we should not encourage them.

Mike does slip a little, when he confuses transvestites with transsexuals, but, clearing away that language issue, I'm falling to the side of the conservative, by and large, on this issue (my lefty friends will, I am sure, gasp in shock and horror. heh).

Still, my opinion is not engraved in stone. Like Mike, I'm not opposed to gay happiness, or any other version of love and joy and all that jazz.
If it is protection gays are looking for, then I am all for it. I favor states creating non sexual civil unions, though those unions can't be limited to gay couples. Siblings that live together should also be able to protect each other's assets in the case of death for instance.
Like Mike, though, I see the movement toward gay marriage as problematic.

Again, my opinion is not engraved in stone. If somebody can find me historical evidence that homosexual marriage (or, simply encouraged long-term bonding, since there was no recognized marriage between Greek lovers) has been a substantial improvement for wives and other women somewhere, or good solid scientific indications that we have evolved past the point of needing to solidify the emotional bonds with the lawful bonds in order to encourage a stable homelife, especially for women and children, I can be swayed to support an alternative viewpoint.

As an aside -- One of the anonymous commenters at The Provocateur's post cites Abraham and Onan, among others, as examples of non-traditional marriages, but this argument fails the feminist test, because, in the case of Agar, Sarah's handmaid who becomes the mother of Ishmael, because she was not an official wife, with all the rank of wife, and yet treated Sarah with contempt when Agar produced the child Sarah could not. The childbearing woman has power over her own mistress. When Sarah produces Isaac, Ishmael and Agar are dismissed, sent to the desert, with nothing but a curse upon humanity. Not exactly a shining moment for the obliging "other woman" or, for that matter, the best of humanity.

The unusual marital circumstances around Onan
(best known for "spilling his seed upon the earth") were as follows: Onan was asked by Judah to answer the call from The Almighty, to step up and provide his older brother's new widow with an heir, so that the line might not die off. Onan had sex with her, sure, but withdrew before... well, you get the picture. In other words, he was happy to bump uglies with Tamar, to use her for sexual arousal, as long as he didn't have any follow-through with her. Judah and Tamar had asked a favor of him in the name of The Almighty and His Chosen People, and he chose to act the part until ultimately refusing, in what, to many women, would have been an insulting manner ("What? I'm not good enough even to receive your pitiful cast-offs? You'd rather they be absorbed by the dirt floor?"). I gather from a few scholarly papers that Onan's death wasn't so much about a natural act of self-pleasure, but about its time, place, and circumstances... He failed to provide her with the surety of her future (who else to care for her in her old age?), and failed the tribe as well. So he was punished, having "done been smote down," to put it in the vernacular.

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