Saturday, June 03, 2006

Should Feminists Get Married?

Again, I have no answer to this question. Many of my good friends, who are indeed feminists, have been or are married. And, for some of them it is a very meaningful choice because they are Christian. Some of my feminist friends have gotten married solely to take advantage of health insurance benefits and other legal stuff. I have, however, never gotten married. And, the more I think about it, I don't think I have ever truly seen the value of being married.

I was engaged once, but that lasted for such a short period of time and, frankly, I did my part to sabotage it anyway. Lately, I have lost interest in marriage. In part, I don't like the way that it gives 1,400 + rights to married folk that other people in long term, committed relationships do not have. I guess I don't understand why the federal government should favor marriage as the best institution for raising children or declaring your commitment to one you love.

But, I asked if feminists should get married. This is the question that perennially haunts me. Historically, marriage was a means of continuing property relations and reproducing. Women were legally dead the moment they entered into the marriage contract. Obviously, that era is over and people have the right to enter into marriage as autonomous individuals--both man and woman--without losing their legal rights. Marriage is also no longer an institution solely for transferring property and maintaing the patrilineal line.

However, the religious ceremonies are still imbuded--the mainstream ceremonines, that is--with lots of rituals that are reminiscient of patriarchal rule. For example, when the father gives his daughter away to the bride. I tend to get pretty nauseous at those rituals.

Sure, we can redo the ceremony in a way that purges those patriarchal overtones. And, we can take the religious part out of it all together. But, then we are left with the obvious point which is in this era only heterosexuals have the right to get married. So, to participate in this institution is to tacitly approve of the exclusionary nature of this institution. You are willing to avail yourself of the legal benefits at the exclusion of many others who cannot enjoy those rights.

This seems like a real moral dilemma for feminists and other committed to fighting sexism, sex-based discrimination and all forms of heterosexism. What do you think?