The Limits of Abnegation as a Political Strategy

What started out as a lovely little thread in which Roxanne asked people to help Lauren out with ideas for her wedding reception turned into a debate about whether progressive straight people ought to get married so long as gay people cannot.

A commenter named Tara said:

Ugh. You know, I might be making a mistake and assuming the poster (Roxanne) and the people she’s writing about are in opposite-sex relationships (and, by marriage, that they’re referring to legally-recognized unions) and that this might not be the case. (I couldn’t tell, at a quick glance, but I think that’s the case.) If so, it’s just so hard for me to have warm and fuzzies (and also not be offended) when you’re taking this action (getting ‘married’), and also asking others to be excited for you, when other people, including some in your audience, can’t have their relationships validated in this same way. ‘Getting married’ is a political act. The institution, and its use to discriminate against sexual others (and, more broadly, subject everyone to its coerciveness — but, that’s a different post), only exists because people — many of whom consider themselves tolerant, even ‘allies’ — still decide to get married and/or perpetuate their being accorded privileges (some physical, some symbolic), even when they know others aren’t being allowed this right. I hope I’m not seen as someone who’s raining on someone else’s parade, but it just seems presumptuous to parade around hetero-privilege. I get offended.

Hilarity ensued.

Tara was pretty much alone in taking this stance. Can’t say I haven’t seen it before, in other contexts: for example, when I first started filing paperwork to emigrate (and, indeed, when a lot of disheartened people were talking about voting with their feet after the 2004 election), there were a lot of people who got very, very angry about it. Some of it was a form of American exceptionalism (i.e., people who didn’t think twice about immigrants moving here got very upset about the idea that Americans would want to leave), but there were others who made the argument that because there were people in the US who didn’t have the choice to emigrate, that I should forgo the opportunity.

Well, I’m not buying that.

Even if I forgo the opportunity, I still have it. Even if I choose not to marry, I still have the choice.* What good does it do to people who don’t have the choice or the opportunity to decline the choice or the opportunity? Wouldn’t it make more sense to fight like hell to expand the privilege?

Indeed, with marriage rights, maybe we should be thinking about challenging some underlying assumptions we have in this country; namely, that marriage should be the source of so many rights and privileges. The main reason that marriage equality is such a hot-button issue is that there are so many rights and privileges and protections that can only be had when one is married. But why should so many of them depend on marital status? Why, for instance, should people feel they have to marry so they can have health insurance?

It’s worth noting that Tara’s argument is rarely applied across the board. For example, perhaps she should abstain from voting until the franchise is extended to all women across the world. Or she should forgo internet access until everyone has it. Or decline to get an education because so many people don’t have the ability to go to school.

But I doubt she does any of that.

_________

* Provided, of course, I find someone I want to marry who is willing to marry me as well. Which is not looking good.

79 comments for “The Limits of Abnegation as a Political Strategy

  1. February 12, 2007 at 12:02 am

    Provided, of course, I find someone I want to marry who is willing to marry me as well. Which is not looking good.

    Oh, please.

  2. twf
    February 12, 2007 at 12:32 am

    Thanks for that. Your arguments are sound, and it makes me feel better. I married in a jurisdiction that now allows same-sex marriage, but didn’t at the time of my marriage. And I always felt a little bit guilty about it.

    A friend of mine felt very guilty about having her education paid for by her first nations band. She saw many poor people around her who didn’t have the same opportunity. Her therapist helped her out of that guilt. The argument is very similar to the one you made here.

  3. February 12, 2007 at 12:38 am

    I don’t think that the voting comparison is sound – you can make a difference by voting. It’s hard to make a difference by being married. Which is kind of sums up how I feel about this: my getting married doesn’t really affect anyone else’s right to get married. Not getting married as an act of protest I think has some symbolic value, but I don’t think it’s very politically useful.

  4. sophonisba
    February 12, 2007 at 12:46 am

    Even if I forgo the opportunity, I still have it. Even if I choose not to marry, I still have the choice.* What good does it do to people who don’t have the choice or the opportunity to decline the choice or the opportunity? Wouldn’t it make more sense to fight like hell to expand the privilege?

    This all sounds very good, but I sure wouldn’t buy it from somebody who wanted to join a country club that doesn’t take Jews, say — which is to say, I don’t think it really works as an abstract argument. With marriage, it’s very easy for people on either side of the argument to make themselves feel noble about doing what they wanted to do anyway, but it’s really a case-by-case decision that has to be made on specifics, not general principles. If marriage is my only way to get health insurance, I’m not going to go without just to stand in solidarity with people who can’t: I can’t fight for marriage equality if I’m sick or dead. Then again, if I don’t need the ceremony for financial or immigration reasons or for any reason beyond wanting to have a big symbolic party — it might be worth not doing it for political reasons, actually, and telling people why I’m not doing it. It comes down to whether, for a given couple, getting married is more of a survival question or more like joining an exclusive straights-only club. And for the many couples for whom it’s the latter, I think people who can’t legally get married have every right to resent them. Especially if, for the resentful, the tangible practical benefits of marriage are things they really need.

    If I get engaged, I don’t expect it’ll feel, to me, like I’m flaunting my privilege in people’s faces and expecting to be congratulated for it. But I wouldn’t blame people for not being quite so happy about My Special Day as I was, even if it’s rude for them to come right out and say so.

    It’s worth noting that Tara’s argument is rarely applied across the board. For example, perhaps she should abstain from voting until the franchise is extended to all women across the world. Or she should forgo internet access until everyone has it. Or decline to get an education because so many people don’t have the ability to go to school.

    But I doubt she does any of that.

    Probably not. But I bet she would decline a college scholarship from a white supremacist group, and so would I. Just because you can’t be totally “pure” doesn’t mean there aren’t some things you can afford to say no to. There are degrees, and marriage doesn’t fall neatly on one side of the line or the other.

  5. Kerlyssa
    February 12, 2007 at 12:49 am

    Considering the attack on gay civil rights is currently taking the tack of ‘saving’ heterosexual mariage, a hetero married couple’s support would seem beneficial, no?

  6. tara
    February 12, 2007 at 1:01 am

    “What good does it do to people who don’t have the choice or the opportunity to decline the choice or the opportunity? Wouldn’t it make more sense to fight like hell to expand the privilege?”

    I think this refusal has both symbolic and political value, to the person who doesn’t partake in the privilege as well as others whose thoughts, belief systems, practices, etc., are impacted. For me, this is kind of like boycotting places where they practice apartheid or fly the Dixie flag, not buying stock in companies that hurt native peoples, not joining clubs that discriminate against Jewish or Black people, etc. Your particular action — opting out — may not change the situation (right away). But, at least you’ve shown solidarity with the people (and/or animals) who are suffering because of the unjust practice. You can say that you had a semblance of how it felt to be discriminated against. It seems to me that this reaction on this issue is different from so many stances taken in liberal/progressive circles where it is just accepted by more people that you shouldn’t partake in an unjust situation even though it might make life more complicated for you.

  7. Mnemosyne
    February 12, 2007 at 1:39 am

    I told my husband about this little blogwar and this was his response:

    “I refuse to let all those fundamentalist fucktards take over marriage the way they’ve taken over the flag.”

    Let’s say that all of the progressives refuse to get married. That means that the politically unaware and the fundamentalists will be the only ones getting married. Which means you’ve just shot yourself in the foot, because the only people getting married are the ones who are most likely to oppose gay marriage, and they will be able to say, “Well, clearly marriage is a religious institution — look, only religious people do it!” And they will be right.

    Now, if your intention is to completely destroy marriage as an institution, that’s fine. If that’s the case, don’t go around pretending that what you really want is gay marriage.

  8. Mnemosyne
    February 12, 2007 at 1:40 am

    It seems to me that this reaction on this issue is different from so many stances taken in liberal/progressive circles where it is just accepted by more people that you shouldn’t partake in an unjust situation even though it might make life more complicated for you.

    If shopping at a store that flew a Confederate flag meant I could get healthcare, I would probably have to consider it. Getting married is a little more complicated than deciding to buy organic.

  9. Em
    February 12, 2007 at 2:11 am

    In the same vein as Mnemosyne: it seems that if progressive people boycott marriage, there are a couple unsavory outcomes:

    1) “Teh gays hate Marriage! They ruined Marriage! Teh gays want to get married and now they’ve sullied Marriage’s good name!”

    2) “Well, go talk to all those nice liberals over there who don’t need to get married. They’re fine with not being married. What makes you Gay People think YOU need to?”

    (remember, the wingnuts will take whatever message you’re trying to send and bend it into THEIR message. they’re freakishly good at that.)

    As a bisexual person, it certainly frustrates me that if I want to spend the rest of my life with someone, the way I practice and celebrate this decision is governed largely by the genetalia of my partner. However, if my current partner and I eventually decide we’re in this for the forever-haul, I’d certainly marry him. I think that boycotting marriage as a political institution is a potent sentiment and one that’s worth discussing further, but I’d much rather the two of us be vocal as two married people who, far from thinking gay marriage will sully our union, see it as a welcome step in defining what it should ACTUALLY mean to get married (who wouldn’t rather see two men who adore each other get married, as opposed to a marriage of political/social convenience between two people who don’t even enjoy each other’s company?) (yeah, I know, don’t answer that :/)

  10. February 12, 2007 at 2:23 am

    You can say that you had a semblance of how it felt to be discriminated against.

    Choosing to stand in solidarity can in no way give anyone “a semblance of how it felt to be discriminated against.” You still have the choice.

  11. Cecily
    February 12, 2007 at 2:26 am

    I recognize that my decision not to get married to my partner, which is partially for the solidarity reason, isn’t right for everyone and isn’t going to single-handedly change the world. I’m not pushing it on anyone else. However, while some people are demanding that others conform to their moral notions in terms of abstaining from marriage, isn’t the idea that progressives should get married to change the institution/protect it from wingnut domination a bit unfair to the individual couples as well?

    This is where we start to test the ad absurdam limits of the personal being political. Maybe there are political statements or actions that are so crucial and so effective they are worth risking your health and happiness over. I doubt one person’s marrying or not marrying is going to cause a big enough political effect to justify the personal cost to her of going against her own needs and nature.

  12. Cecily
    February 12, 2007 at 2:30 am

    P.S. I also think that gay marriage would improve the institution of marriage, eventually eroding many of my other reasons for not entering into it. There are selfish reasons for the ‘solidarity’ thing too.

    P.S.2. I don’t do this ‘semblance of how it felt’ thing. My version of solidarity is just that, if marriage is worth engaging in, it should be available to gay folks too. I’m not taking free cookies from the Patriarchy.

  13. tara
    February 12, 2007 at 3:04 am

    “Choosing to stand in solidarity can in no way give anyone “a semblance of how it felt to be discriminated against.” You still have the choice. ”

    I stand totally corrected.

  14. February 12, 2007 at 3:58 am

    tara Says:
    February 12th, 2007 at 3:04 am
    “Choosing to stand in solidarity can in no way give anyone “a semblance of how it felt to be discriminated against.” You still have the choice. ”

    I stand totally corrected.

    That’s not to say, “Don’t do it,” but rather “Let’s not do this under any illusions.”

  15. tara
    February 12, 2007 at 4:23 am

    “It comes down to whether, for a given couple, getting married is more of a survival question or more like joining an exclusive straights-only club.”

    This is a really keen question (the whole paragraph, and post, are). It has me thinking and challenging my views. I think it’s the consciousness thing — the ‘owning’ of privilege, versus the rhetoric maneuvering around it — that I’m really after on this issue.

  16. Alex
    February 12, 2007 at 5:45 am

    This is lovely, thanks for posting.

    It’s worth noting that Tara’s argument is rarely applied across the board. For example, perhaps she should abstain from voting until the franchise is extended to all women across the world. Or she should forgo internet access until everyone has it. Or decline to get an education because so many people don’t have the ability to go to school.

    The above examples are a bit cunning, all three are unequal comparisons.

    ok (from what i can see) The motive behind Taras wish for solidarity with people in her country who face discriminations on the basis of sexual orientation is equality and on a deeper level, justice.

    Now, in the above three examples meant to act as ‘the board’ which tara’s argument fails to cross, mathematically ‘unequal’ distributions of class and national privledge schrade as inegalitarian social conditions by blindly assuming a uniformly top-down and eternally discriminitory arrangement of power from which a ruling class/Institution assigns who gets internet access, who gets to vote and who gets education on the basis of discriminatiory categories …an arrangement not manifest in the United States.

    In the United States, elements of the governemnt are perpetuating the inegalitarian social problem of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, barring homosexuals.

    Well, I guess my hunch is that ya’ll disagree about what to do with governmental marriage benefits in the USA…. tara wishes to expand, the rest wish to eliminate.

  17. February 12, 2007 at 6:47 am

    Agreed with Mnemosyne.

    Marriage is more than just a lifestyle choice. If it weren’t, then it wouldn’t be an issue as there are churches that will perform same-sex marriages. It’s the legal status that’s at issue here: things like heath insurance (in states that don’t have civil unions, even when companies offer Domestic Partner benefits, those extra benefits are taxed as extra income), enduring power of attorney, next of kin/visitation rights, pensions, child custody/adoption, etc. We’ve allowed the right wing to frame this as some sort of “they want to force the churches to do something against their beliefs” which is bullshit. Trying to get the Catholic Church to perform gay marriage is a battle for within the Catholic Church.

    In the meantime, my fiance and I talked long and hard about how we could best show solidarity with the LGBT community while not continuing to walk a tightrope*. Considering most of the rhetoric is that marriage is for procreation, we already feel like we’re sticking a thumb in the eyes of the fundies since I’m sterile. But, we’ll be having the actual cermony in Canada.

    Insisting that straight people not get married until gay people can is, IMHO, pretty naive and dismissive of the efforts that progressive straights make to ensure marriage equality. I feel for Tara, but I can’t agree with her.


    * yeah, health-insurance related. Two years in a row, he’s been in the emergency room without any good health insurance.

  18. az
    February 12, 2007 at 6:58 am

    I think that perhaps what Tara is talking about is a strategy of refusal, rather than a strategy of abnegation. It’s not about choosing to deny oneself a privilege just because other people are denied it by force; I think there’s something deeper at work in decisions like not voting, or not getting married. It’s a political choice not to participate in an institution that one perceives to screw everyone over; the distribution of privilege masks the fact that marriage as an institution forces everyone who particiaptes in it (and some who do not0 to do things other than they might choose. It seems quite bizarre to read your critique of tara’s post, zuzu, given that the first critiques of marriage (and decisions not to marry) were made by women, for whom the decision carried far more weight than a mere experssion of solidarity with the oppressed. I think not wanting to marry still carries that weight. Cuz marriage is still sexist and heteronormative, as far as I can tell.

    Now, if your intention is to completely destroy marriage as an institution, that’s fine. If that’s the case, don’t go around pretending that what you really want is gay marriage.

    Well, some queers think gay marriage is the worst idea anyone ever came up with, and would gladly destroy marriage as an institution. Queer people don’t all think the same. Who’d a thunk.

  19. zuzu
    February 12, 2007 at 8:45 am

    Well, I guess my hunch is that ya’ll disagree about what to do with governmental marriage benefits in the USA…. tara wishes to expand, the rest wish to eliminate.

    Sorry, Alex, but thanks for playing. The argument is over whether straights forgoing marriage is an effective strategy for expanding marriage to include gay and lesbian couples, not over whether marriage should be eliminated. And you need to close your tags.

    It seems quite bizarre to read your critique of tara’s post, zuzu, given that the first critiques of marriage (and decisions not to marry) were made by women, for whom the decision carried far more weight than a mere experssion of solidarity with the oppressed. I think not wanting to marry still carries that weight. Cuz marriage is still sexist and heteronormative, as far as I can tell.

    Sure it is. But it’s also the only way to get a whole bundle of legal rights and responsibilities, and it’s a privileged legal status for both parties, now that couverture laws have been repealed. When women were refusing to marry back in the day, they were refusing to enter into an institution that stripped them of a lot of their rights and privileges as adults. Married women had the legal status of children under couverture laws — their husbands were considered their legal guardians and spoke and acted for them.

    That’s not the case today. And the goals are different — we’re not trying to ensure that people getting married will be treated as legal adults; we’re trying to ensure that anyone who wishes to get married to the person of their choice can do so without regard to sexual orientation. It made sense then for those women to refuse to marry unless they could keep their rights. It makes sense now for gay couples to demand to be allowed to marry and attain greater rights. What it doesn’t make sense to do is to guilt straight couples into refusing to attain greater rights. Who does that help?

  20. tara
    February 12, 2007 at 8:59 am

    “Insisting that straight people not get married until gay people can is, IMHO, pretty naive and dismissive of the efforts that progressive straights make to ensure marriage equality.”

    I understand this sentiment, but I’m also troubled by it. It seems you want gay people to be grateful and not ask too much. They should be accommodating to their liberal/progressive allies who, of course, can’t (and shouldn’t — that would be rude) be asked to do too much for the cause (because, it is implicitly stated, they’re already doing enough). — By just being sympathetic to gay rights issues? By not thinking that gay people are the scum of the earth? What about something more? For me, this thinking shifts the focus from the ethics (for everyone) of choosing to participate in state-sanctioned marriage to something else, and I think of how whenever a minority group makes a rights claim/asks for representation, the focus too often goes back to the needs of those in the dominant group, who invariably feel challenged by their benefiting from a social inequality. There are different views on this among those in social movements, of course. I think what you’re describing is more of the liberal model seen in 1970s second-wave feminism — work from within the system, don’t radically critique the system, put a lot of effort into allies. I’ve been informed by critiques of this, from queer and women of color critiques, that challenge how far they got when they strove for being accommodating.

  21. February 12, 2007 at 9:26 am

    As to the very broad, ungenerous assumptions you are making about my motivations, that’s another flame war.

    I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with working from within the system. It’s a lot harder for people to dismiss a straight person who has gotten married and is challenging the legal status of gay marriage than someone who could be labeled as a sour-grapes crank. I don’t think that it’s the only way to proceed, in fact, I think it’s a lot easier for people to work within the system when there are radicals working from outside as well. But the people in the system have to be understanding and not dismissive of the radical cause. But I think it’s unfair to exhume the corpse of the second wave in this argument. For that matter, why not reach back to the first wave? We’re in a different place culturally, philosophically, and legally. We have hindsight, and we should know better than to make the same mistakes.

    Already, I’ve had tremendous success rhetorically from our own experiences in getting people to re-evaluate their opinions on gay marriage, or how Civil Unions are “good enough.” People need to be able to personalize this shit otherwise they aren’t going to understand what the big deal is. If the person challenging them is someone they can identify with, they have an easier time empathizing when you lead them into unfamiliar territory.

  22. car
    February 12, 2007 at 9:31 am

    This was stated not by me on the pandagon thread, but in case that person isn’t over here I’ll repeat it because I thought it was a very good point. It’s basically the same as Em said.

    It’s difficult to simultaneously say that gay marriage has no impact on hetero marriage, but that heteros refuse to get married because of the gay marriage thing.

    Now back to me, I think that it is much more persuasive against the fundamentalists if married heteros are in favor of gay marriage rather than a bunch of protesting singles. I’m not saying there’s any real difference there, just that it’s a perceived difference by those in opposition to gay marriage. It’s very easy to rally the base and have an us v. them mentality if “they” are all single and living in sin and whatnot (from their point of view). Much more difficult when it’s a bunch of couples otherwise just like them.
    If staying single but cohabitating is supposed to make some kind of statement about gay marriage, the only thing it’s telling the idiots who oppose it is that it’s not just immoral and wrong, it’s also supported by people who are themselves immoral and wrong. Oh, and again as Em said, also supporting their point that marriage must not be a big deal to you people if you’re all deciding not to do it, so why fight over it? It’s conceding territory.

  23. Sally
    February 12, 2007 at 9:58 am

    Wouldn’t it make more sense to fight like hell to expand the privilege?

    See, I think this is a cop-out, mostly because very few married straight progressives do really fight like hell to expand the privilege. They feel a bit guilty about the privilege, on the very rare occasions when they bother to think about it, but it’s certainly not a priority. What they mostly feel is entitled to get married and pissed off when anyone challenges their sense of entitlement. When privileged people say things like “wouldn’t it make more sense to fight like hell to expand the privilege,” what they’re really saying is “how dare you suggest that there’s anything wrong with me enjoying privilege?! How dare you make me feel bad about the fact that I have privileges that you don’t. [Actually, I don’t know if Tara is queer, but if she’s the Tara I’m thinking of, I seem to remember that her mothers are.] Shut the fuck up, sit the fuck down, and stop making me feel bad.”

    So here’s what I think. Marriage is a structure of legal inequality. When straight people get married, they are participating in an reinforcing that structure. And if they really think that’s a problem, they need to do more than pay lip service to changing it. For instance, you could announce on your invitations that in lieu of a gift, you will be asking attendees at your wedding to donate to organizations that promote marriage equality. You could take your wedding as an opportunity to point out and protest the inequality from which you are benefiting by remembering in your ceremony the couples who don’t have the right to get married, in the same way that Jews during the Cold War used to remember in their b’nai mitzvah that there were Jews who didn’t have the right to practice their religion. I have straight, married friends who decided that in lieu of anniversary gifts to each other, they would make an annual donation to an organization that supports marriage equality. It’s not quite as good as building that protest into the actual wedding, because it’s not public and therefore doesn’t educate other people, but it’s a start.

    I wouldn’t ask people to forgo marriage, even if they’re not doing it for something as concrete and necessary as health insurance. But I think we all need to engage honestly and non-defensively in questions about what we can do to work to end our own privilege. And I do think that’s a discussion that’s appropriate to have when people on feminist blogs ask about how to have a progressive wedding.

  24. February 12, 2007 at 10:04 am

    Who gets to make the decision if a married couple really is fighting like hell, or is just copping out and content to feel really bad? I mean, does it really come down to a dollar amount or logging a certain number of hours at a gay rights rally?

  25. February 12, 2007 at 10:58 am

    Em (#9) said:

    As a bisexual person, it certainly frustrates me that if I want to spend the rest of my life with someone, the way I practice and celebrate this decision is governed largely by the genetalia of my partner. However, if my current partner and I eventually decide we’re in this for the forever-haul, I’d certainly marry him. I think that boycotting marriage as a political institution is a potent sentiment and one that’s worth discussing further, but I’d much rather the two of us be vocal as two married people who, far from thinking gay marriage will sully our union, see it as a welcome step in defining what it should ACTUALLY mean to get married (who wouldn’t rather see two men who adore each other get married, as opposed to a marriage of political/social convenience between two people who don’t even enjoy each other’s company?) (yeah, I know, don’t answer that :/)

    This is where I’m at right now, as I plan to marry my male partner. I myself am having some guilt issues as my ex-gf is planning her own August wedding with her female partner (and their save-the-date cards are the cutest, BTW). While I have no illusions about the fact that choosing to get married, let alone get married in the Catholic church, has huge political and religious rammification, I also think that our union is a statement about what marriage SHOULD be – egalitarian, always based on love and compassion, and open to our GLBT family and friends. With a marriage based on radical equality, we are already in the process of breaking down and re-imagining what marriage is. There is this fabulous article in The Rake, a Twin Cities publication, that argues that straight people in love have already “destroyed” marriage.

    FWIW, my ex-gf and I have had some conversations about this, which always come back to why we’re both getting married. And that’s what she calls it, and we are calling her ceremony a wedding. We’re both in love, and we’re both really happy that each of us has found someone so special, good, kind, intelligent, etc, so forth, to share our lives with. For the two of us, I know that if I choose not to get married, the action would mean little to her. She doesn’t want me to not get married – she wants me to stay with her on the front lines of the battle for equality in our state. And I will certainly do that. (Also knowing, of course, that our sentiments are not that of all GLBT people, but I also think our decisions should be made with an understanding of our relationships and communities.)

    Cecily (#11) said:

    I recognize that my decision not to get married to my partner, which is partially for the solidarity reason, isn’t right for everyone and isn’t going to single-handedly change the world. I’m not pushing it on anyone else. However, while some people are demanding that others conform to their moral notions in terms of abstaining from marriage, isn’t the idea that progressives should get married to change the institution/protect it from wingnut domination a bit unfair to the individual couples as well?

    I agree with you also. I know that for some hetero-normative couples, marriage (whether church, state, or both) is unnecessary or not necissarily desired for their relationships. So I don’t pretend for a minute that my way is the right way. I truly believe that as long as we all are thoughtful and respectful of each other’s relational choices, as Cecily suggested, while simultaneously fighting for legal equality, we’ll come out on top. For interested parties, check out the Alternatives to Marriage Project.

    And sidenote, if you want to, check out this shirt which I designed, which pretty much sums up my thoughts on fundamentalists and gay marriage. My friend Becky has a bunch of marriage equality themed shirts up.

  26. February 12, 2007 at 11:53 am

    Marriage has gone through so many good, progressive changes throughout the ages that I don’t see why getting same-sex marriage recognized is somehow asking too much. :)

  27. February 12, 2007 at 11:56 am

    What we really should be doing is encouraging transfolk to marry.

    My spouse and I didn’t marry for a long time precisely because we didn’t like the idea of getting benefits same-sex couples didn’t have. All of my lesbian buddies thought this was sweet, but kinda stupid.

  28. car
    February 12, 2007 at 11:56 am

    Oh, I love that shirt.

  29. Thomas
    February 12, 2007 at 12:35 pm

    About fighting to expand the privilege, here’s my take (as a married het).

    We all probably do something, like give some money or some time or sign petitions, in support of marriage equality. If we don’t, we should, and that’s where to start.

    Aside from the obvious participation in the straightforward (if long and difficult) fight for legal equality, there is the cultural fight. And that fight is very different.

    In the real world, there are already same sex marriages and same-sex headed families. They exist in a state of legal discrimination, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. The way to win the cultural fight is to recognize and underscore this day-to-day, at the gym and at the water cooler. I’m talking about obvious stuff here. Include same-sex couples in any discussion of married couples; treat the absence of legal status as the bizarre anachronism that it is. Expect other people to be inclusive in their language; point it out when they are not. Some of us can do this at work (I sure do). Others can’t because the power structure would crush them; but most of us have at least one space where we can say what we think freely.

    (Which reminds me, I need to write a letter to the Aquatic Director commending my son’s swim instructor for using inclusive language. I thanked the teacher, now I can make sure he gets credit where it counts.)

  30. CLD
    February 12, 2007 at 12:41 pm

    And yet, we still can’t marry legally. Nor do we benefit from being able to provide health benefits to our spouse without being taxed to hell for it [if DP benefits are even allowed]. And we have to jump through all myriad of hoops just to visit them if they’re in the hospital.

    As far as I’m concerned, anything anyone would like to do in order to show support for same-sex marriage, is whole-heartedly accepted. I turn no offers down and as long as no one is physically endangered or emotional damaged, nothing anyone chooses to do to show support and get things changed would be considered stupid.

  31. karen in kalifornia
    February 12, 2007 at 12:46 pm

    No matter what you all say, supportive or not; what youall have done or not; I still can’t marry my partner of 27 years.

  32. piny
    February 12, 2007 at 12:51 pm

    It’s a lot harder for people to dismiss a straight person who has gotten married and is challenging the legal status of gay marriage than someone who could be labeled as a sour-grapes crank.

    This isn’t because unmarried people are dismissed as cranks. It’s because marriage legitimizes the relationship and the married couple. It’s a privilege, in other words, one based on heteronormative ideas about what partnerships are moral and valid. I don’t know how I feel about that strategy, straight people using the reasoning behind straight privilege to become better spokespeople for queers.

  33. piny
    February 12, 2007 at 12:52 pm

    It’s a lot harder for people to dismiss a straight person who has gotten married and is challenging the legal status of gay marriage than someone who could be labeled as a sour-grapes crank.

    This isn’t because unmarried people are dismissed as cranks. It’s because marriage legitimizes the relationship and the married couple. It’s a privilege, in other words, one based on heteronormative ideas about what partnerships are moral and valid. I don’t know how I feel about that strategy, straight people using the reasoning behind straight privilege to become better spokespeople for queers.

  34. bmc90
    February 12, 2007 at 12:55 pm

    The real acid test of “marriage” as a commitment between two people to love and support each other all their lives would come only if marriage was stripped of all legal meaning in civil society. Any two people could commit to share a household and accumulate assets/debts together. Such persons could appeal to a court of equity to divide the assets if they wanted to end that arrangement. Persons who were parents could appeal to those courts to ensure that both parents fulfill their parental responsibilities. And that’s about it. Standard forms available at the post office would allow people to check the box as to who stands in the shoes of what has traditionally been labeled a spouse in the event of intestacy, who decides to turn off the life support etc. People already married would be grandfathered into the existing system, but could opt for the new one. If your church recognizes marriage as some kind of sacrament, awesome, but we don’t need to recognize it legally. Then we will see who keeps getting married. Should be interesting.

  35. February 12, 2007 at 12:55 pm

    So I’m confused, would it be better if the straights just gave up trying to be supportive?

  36. Myca
    February 12, 2007 at 1:03 pm

    If I am able to argue in favor of marriage equality as a married straight, I believe that it lends my words more weight than using the same argument as an unmarried straight.

    This is because so many of the arguments about SSM are predicated on how SSM harms straight marriages, so to be able to speak about that from the perspective of someone in a straight marriage means that I’m speaking from personal experience, rather than speaking about theoretical equality for one group of people and theoretical harms to another.

    As a married straight person, I would be able to say clearly that the lack of equality for my LGBT brothers and sisters clearly diminishes my marriage.

    I believe that therefore, based solely on political effectiveness, getting married would be more useful to the cause.

  37. Myca
    February 12, 2007 at 1:07 pm

    This isn’t because unmarried people are dismissed as cranks. It’s because marriage legitimizes the relationship and the married couple.

    That’s part of it, but there’s also an aspect of speaking ‘from personal experience’ that lends more value to your words.

    It’s like me talking at length about how to cook Greek food. I freaking hate Greek food. Dolmas blow ass. Of course nobody’s going to listen to me. If I’m an experienced Greek chef, though . . .

  38. Myca
    February 12, 2007 at 1:17 pm

    Or the difference between a peacenick hippie like me speaking out about the issue of gays in the military and a decorated military officer.

    People, right or wrong, will listen more closely to the words of the military man.

  39. Roy
    February 12, 2007 at 2:17 pm

    I wonder, does it make a difference how one views the benefits?

    I think it’s wrong that same sex couples are denied marriage because I think that the benefits of marriage should be available to everyone. By my reasoning, it’s not that heterosexual couples are getting an unfair benefit from marriage, it’s that same-sex couples are being unfairly denied a benefit they deserve. From that perspective, it doesn’t necessarily make sense to expect heterosexual couples to refuse the benefit, if it’s a benefit that everyone should be allowed to get.

    If I thought that heterosexual couples were getting benefits that weren’t fair, though, I’d definitely feel differently. If they were getting perks that nobody should have, then I’d be all kinds of down on supposed allies who were getting married and taking advantage of those benefits.

    And, I also don’t think it’s unreasonble for a same-sex couple to be less than enthusiastic about someone else getting married. I would think it’s hard to really get behind cheering for someone else if they’re getting something (even something they have a right to) if you’re being unfairly denied the same thing.

  40. Tara
    February 12, 2007 at 2:24 pm

    Who gets to make the decision if a married couple really is fighting like hell, or is just copping out and content to feel really bad? I mean, does it really come down to a dollar amount or logging a certain number of hours at a gay rights rally?

    I think that Sally, and I, are asking for a serious consideration of this issue by progressives. Somehow, raising these issues gets immediately cast as moralizing against liberal/progressive straight people and being prescriptive; I don’t see that. Ironically, we end up echoing the neocons/neolibs and their “Defense of Marriage Acts” and we start immediately coming to the defense of something we find under attack by those ungrateful queers. We don’t even listen to and engage with the points they raise. I’d rather the focus be on considering the questions succinctly laid out by piny in the newer thread.

  41. nik
    February 12, 2007 at 4:02 pm

    Indeed, with marriage rights, maybe we should be thinking about challenging some underlying assumptions we have in this country; namely, that marriage should be the source of so many rights and privileges. The main reason that marriage equality is such a hot-button issue is that there are so many rights and privileges and protections that can only be had when one is married. But why should so many of them depend on marital status?

    This is a very intelligent thing to say.

    There are two types of benefits that come with marriage. Type (1) includes things like hospital visitation and power of attorney. These do not effect anyone apart from the spouses – so don’t bother me one bit. Type (2) are things like tax benefits. This do effect everyone else, as they are claimed at everyone else’s expense. So far as these are concerned, the married are a privileged class, who marry to obtain these privileges, and oppress the unmarried.

    What good does it do to people who don’t have the choice or the opportunity to decline the choice or the opportunity?

    If you don’t pay inheritance tax because you are married, you oppress the unmarried who pay inheritance tax and fund your tax break. You are claiming a benefit at their expense. If you get insurance because you are married, you oppress the unmarried who do not get that insurance, and fund your benefit. You are claiming a benefit at their expense. If you claim on a spouses pension, you oppress the unmarried who pay for that claim and fund your pension. You are claiming a benefit at their expense.

    I could go on. There’s a direct structure of oppression. Many of the privileges of marriage are funded directly by the unmarried – they are not free. If you get Type (2) benefits from being married, there is a redistribution taking place to you from someone who is not married.

    P.S. I’m reluctant to criticise married people too much, as many genuinely do marry for Type (1) benefits as that is the only way they can get them, but I wanted to make the point. With the current structure of marriage it also culturally difficult to enter a marriage that is not legally recognised, because it’s perceived as not genuine and lacking in commitment. I know someone who proposed to enter a not-legally-recognised marriage with his girlfriend, and she was Not Happy About It for that reason.

  42. Mnemosyne
    February 12, 2007 at 4:13 pm

    I think that Sally, and I, are asking for a serious consideration of this issue by progressives.

    Yes, but … what counts as “serious consideration”? From what you’ve said, both here and Pandagon, it sounds like the only answer you will accept is, “We’ve seriously considered it, and we refuse to get married.” Any other measures (making donations, announcements at the ceremony, etc.) have been derided as not good enough.

    I realize there’s a lot of anger about this issue since, as Roy says, it’s an issue of gay people being unfairly denied benefits that they should have. But Tip O’Neil’s suggestion at Pam’s place, that he’s going to start picketing random weddings of straight people, isn’t going to win many friends and probably gain a lot of enemies.

    Though I have to admit, I would have loved to see Tip and his friends protest my wedding. They could have stood under the giant “We Support the Freedom to Marry” banner at the front entrance of the church.

  43. Alex
    February 12, 2007 at 4:58 pm

    Sorry, Alex, but thanks for playing. The argument is over whether straights forgoing marriage is an effective strategy for expanding marriage to include gay and lesbian couples, not over whether marriage should be eliminated. And you need to close your tags.

    Very good zuzu, you know fully well (in your heart of hearts) that in my sentence, the implied subject of ‘eliminate’ is ‘marriage priv’, not ‘marriage’, as would follow in an argument where the issue is the privledge,not marriage, you litigator… or in your own words

    “The main reason that marriage equality is such a hot-button issue is that there are so many rights and privileges and protections that can only be had when one is married.”

    See, I understand that your intentional misunderstandings make for good rhetoric and it’s easy to substitute corutroom smoke and mirrors for an argument that actually focuses on the issue of marriage Priv. But whatever, I do agree that forgoing the Priv will not have an effect here, I’m just not exactly swayed by some of your justifications/examples.

  44. Tara
    February 12, 2007 at 5:18 pm

    Any other measures (making donations, announcements at the ceremony, etc.) have been derided as not good enough.

    To me, this is a heteronormative way of thinking and, as such, it’s simplistic, stops short of effecting change, preserves power relations. I think it can and should be open to critique. That’s all part of the dialogue. What I think gets in the way of this dialogue is the defensiveness of posters, who immediately feel attacked and have to put down any criticisms.

  45. Tara
    February 12, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    correction: I’m not talking about the measures you mention. Rather, it’s the sentiment, that these are “decried as not good enough,” that I think is problematic.

  46. Mnemosyne
    February 12, 2007 at 6:03 pm

    To me, this is a heteronormative way of thinking and, as such, it’s simplistic, stops short of effecting change, preserves power relations.

    Please stop using jargon and state your opinion: IN YOUR OPINION, is there any measure short of straight people refusing to marry that you will accept as being supportive?

    A yes or no answer is fine.

  47. zuzu
    February 12, 2007 at 6:15 pm

    Very good zuzu, you know fully well (in your heart of hearts) that in my sentence, the implied subject of ‘eliminate’ is ‘marriage priv’, not ‘marriage’, as would follow in an argument where the issue is the privledge,not marriage, you litigator

    Alex, you’re still missing the point. You’re claiming that everyone but Tara wants to expand marriage/marriage benefits and the rest of us want to eliminate them. You’re just plain wrong. We all have the same goal; where we differ is strategy.

    And please. Don’t bring my profession into it. My being a lawyer has nothing to do with you being unable to make a coherent argument or follow along. At least you got your tags right this time.

  48. Alex
    February 12, 2007 at 8:25 pm

    Alex, you’re still missing the point. You’re claiming that everyone but Tara wants to expand marriage/marriage benefits and the rest of us want to eliminate them. You’re just plain wrong. We all have the same goal; where we differ is strategy.

    If you read my initial comment a little closer you will see that I disclaimed my remarks on exapnsion/reduction as a ‘hunch’ meaning a guess 100% unsubstantiated by evidence. I’ll admit being wrong, thanks for the correction.

    ok,

    My argument towards you is that same as the one in my first comment: 3 of your examples are invalid because they are unequal.

    Funny enough you call that ‘incoherent’ without even bothering to adress it.

    Instead and as usual, you attack perifrial elements of my argument and/or simply ridicule my tag ineptitude.

    But whatever, my in/ability to make a coherent argument/follow along in regards to the final sentence of my first comment has little to do with the friviously unsound comparisons (your ‘board’) I challenged in comment # 16.

    And please. Don’t bring my profession into it. My being a lawyer has nothing to do with you being unable to make a coherent argument or follow along. At least you got your tags right this time.

    Well, yes, I’m not a ‘smart’ individual. You can rub it in all you like if that will soothe your sadistic impulses. Eh, I did get the tags right, *that time* (I’m about 1 for 10 right now).

  49. Alex
    February 12, 2007 at 8:51 pm

    btw zuzu,

    clear me:

    Indeed, with marriage rights, maybe we should be thinking about challenging some underlying assumptions we have in this country; namely, that marriage should be the source of so many rights and privileges. The main reason that marriage equality is such a hot-button issue is that there are so many rights and privileges and protections that can only be had when one is married. But why should so many of them depend on marital status? Why, for instance, should people feel they have to marry so they can have health insurance?

    Yay

    It’s worth noting that Tara’s argument is rarely applied across the board. For example, perhaps she should abstain from voting until the franchise is extended to all women across the world. Or she should forgo internet access until everyone has it. Or decline to get an education because so many people don’t have the ability to go to school.

    Nay

    p.s. A few other fruitful angles of attack you haven’t yet explored are: my pompus vocbulary, poor writing, ambiguious syntax, and communism (redder than a bottle of heinz ketchup).

  50. zuzu
    February 12, 2007 at 9:41 pm

    I see you’re back to ad homs. I’ve warned you about that before. And now you’re trying to derail the thread to be all about you and your sense of wounded outrage, instead of the topic.

    I do have something called a “job” now, and as much as I would like to have refused to take paying work so I could sit around online all day just waiting for your arguments to respond to, I had to make the sacrifice.

    In any event, you’ve made no points worth responding to, and I dont’ know what the fuck you’re talking about in #50 anyhow. I really don’t give a fuck about your communism, though your garbled syntax is part and parcel of your problem with clarity and coherence.

  51. Alex
    February 12, 2007 at 10:19 pm

    woah, you’re actually upset?…(or really good at faking)

    Look man i’m not in the business of stressing, so i’ll show myself the door.

    -laters

  52. tara
    February 12, 2007 at 11:56 pm

    Please stop using jargon and state your opinion: IN YOUR OPINION, is there any measure short of straight people refusing to marry that you will accept as being supportive?

    A yes or no answer is fine.

    You’re frustrated, I’m frustrated. We’ve got different perspectives, that’s for sure. For me, being asked to be prescriptive is part of the oppression. I’m being forced into making a palatable declaration, on your terms. Being limited to yes or no goes counter to what my communication goal was. By using the word, “accept,” you convey your p.o.v. about my supposed rigidity; by answering your query, I’d be reinforcing that. (and also that I’m using jargon and not communicating my opinion)

  53. zuzu
    February 13, 2007 at 12:12 am

    Tara, why don’t you just tell us what you want people to do? You’ve already said what you *don’t* want people to do.

    What, in other words, would make you happy?

  54. sophonisba
    February 13, 2007 at 1:11 am

    Not Tara, but here is the bare minimum a I think straight couple might be expected to do: if they are having a full-fledged wedding with party and everything, only use gay-friendly vendors and venues (and if you’re not sure if they are, ask.) Tell your mother or whoever’s in charge of planning showers and telling your relatives where you’re registered that the couple encourages donations to marriage equality groups in lieu of gifts. If people give you money, donate it to LBGT legal aid/marriage advocacy groups. And when your gay friends are not as happy for you as you might want, or are, god forbid, resentful, don’t be a dick about it. Agree that it sucks, even if you’re going to go ahead and get married anyway, because it does.

    I don’t think any of that’s a particularly heavy burden to put on straight couples, and I am part of one. I am sure there is a lot more people could do, but that’s a start.

  55. tara
    February 13, 2007 at 2:14 am

    zuzu and Mnemosyne, I think sophonisba’s and Sally’s postings are fabulous re: your question. I’m on the same page with them.

  56. az
    February 13, 2007 at 7:16 am

    What it doesn’t make sense to do is to guilt straight couples into refusing to attain greater rights. Who does that help?

    Apologies for coming back to this late, but who said anything about guilt? People have a ‘choice.’ That’s what’s so ironic, and what makes the arguments about enlarging the privileges of marriage to more people: it’s totally a liberal dilemma, and once again (I made this mistake too, by arguing about women’s rights) it ignores how marriage rights (like almost every other right) are about the process of consumption rather than conferring positive protections in law. Marriage is an act of consumption — not only the expensive dress and reception etc, but the rights and privileges. Gay pro-marriage couples are also fighting for the right to consume marriage, and to consume rights. It’s basically about the reproduction of capital (social and economic, or both indistinguishably, at this point.) That’s why people have a choice, and why the only way it seems you can think the refusal of marriage is as some kind of consumer boycott involving emotions like guilt. I think of it more as something like the refusal of work, or the refusal to respect the laws of borders. It’s a refusal of the system in which we must consume rights and act as individual competitors for those rights.

  57. az
    February 13, 2007 at 7:25 am

    What it doesn’t make sense to do is to guilt straight couples into refusing to attain greater rights. Who does that help?

    Apologies for coming back to this late, but who said anything about guilt? People have a ‘choice.’ That’s what’s so ironic, and what makes the arguments about enlarging the privileges of marriage to more people so weird: it’s totally a liberal dilemma, and once again (I made this mistake too, by arguing about women’s rights) it ignores how marriage rights, like almost every other right, are about processes of consumption and reproduction of life/biopower/subjectivity rather than conferring positive protections in law. Marriage is an act of consumption — not only the expensive dress and reception etc, but the rights and privileges it confers. It produces subjects of a certain kind. Gay pro-marriage couples are also fighting for the right to consume marriage, and thus to produce themselves as [economic] subjects of a certain kind. No matter what their sexuality, those subjects reproduce capital by passing on property, by socialising their children to also marry, by reproducing the affective mythology of monogamous, romantic love. It’s basically about the reproduction of capital (social and economic, or both indistinguishably, at this point.) That’s why people have a choice, and why the only way it seems you can think the refusal of marriage is as some kind of consumer boycott involving emotions like guilt. I think of it more as something like the refusal of work, or the refusal to respect the laws of borders. It’s a refusal of the system in which we must consume rights and act as individual competitors for those rights.

    Also, weirdly, nowdays it actually doesn’t make much difference whether a couple marries or not, given that de facto partnership rules are almost the same. (At least, that’s in Australia, where I am. I understand that in the US it’s probably different, depending on the state.) So for marriage to still hold so much power as a symbol of rights and protection seems a little odd, even anachronistic, and not disconnected to the how Christian ‘values’ are creeping back into every aspect of sociality by the back door. The more marriage loses it exclusivity, the more it becomes symbolised as something to hold on to, to perform nostalgically, to ‘protect’ and/or ‘expand’. Paradoxically, this is coming even from the left, and even from the queers.

  58. zuzu
    February 13, 2007 at 8:33 am

    zuzu and Mnemosyne, I think sophonisba’s and Sally’s postings are fabulous re: your question. I’m on the same page with them.

    Now you’re backtracking. First you don’t want straight couples to marry, now you’ll be happy if they use gay-friendly vendors.

  59. Sally
    February 13, 2007 at 10:23 am

    What, in other words, would make you happy?

    I don’t understand why you think that Tara should pretend to be happy with anything except an end to injustice and oppression. I don’t understand why you have the sheer fucking gall to demand that Tara take time and emotional energy away from fighting oppression and direct it towards soothing the hurt feelings of people who benefit from inequality. I don’t understand why you think you are entitled to demand that Tara mute her anger. I don’t understand why you think it’s Tara’s responsibility, not the responsibility of straight couples who benefit from inequality, to figure out how straight people can be effective allies.

  60. zuzu
    February 13, 2007 at 10:33 am

    Sally, I’m asking Tara to articulate what it is she wants, because she’s backpedaling all over the place.

  61. Sally
    February 13, 2007 at 10:43 am

    Tara wants justice. Why don’t you stop attacking Tara and start posting about what you can do to support the movement towards justice?

    When you say that the solution is not to stop getting married but to fight like hell for equality, what I hear is a justification for non-action. If that’s not what it is, then why not concentrate on the “fight like hell” bit, rather than the justifying getting married bit? Why expend more energy attacking angry oppressed people than ending the oppression?

  62. zuzu
    February 13, 2007 at 11:18 am

    Sally, Tara’s offered not much in the way of actual suggestions for action. She’s pretty much offered a lot of shaming and guilt: she popped into the Pandagon thread and wagged her finger at Lauren and the other posters for daring to think about getting married at all. Which sounds suspiciously like “How dare you call yourself a feminist while you’re wearing lipstick.” Pardon me if I don’t find that constructive.

    Now, she says she agrees with sophonisba’s suggestion that getting married is okay if you use gay-friendly caterers.

    And how is “fight like hell” in any way NON-action? In what way does refusing to get married work in getting the laws changed? That’s not what worked in Canada or Massachusetts — sustained activism and legal campaigns did.

  63. Tara
    February 13, 2007 at 11:24 am

    zuzu, we all have intersecting privileges and oppressions. this thread, and the earlier one at pandagon, reminds me that those who might be conscious of, and trying to fight, some oppressions (for example, gender — like you [i can tell this from your other work on this site]), might benefit from, and seek to maintain, another oppression, that from heterosexism. (and on and on.) that’s the only way i can explain your and Mnemosyne’s postings, with their (1) outrage that someone might disrupt, and not be silent on, the ‘lovely’ narrative that many heterosexual-identified people want to maintain and have others, including lgbt persons, participate in; (2) refusing to actually just listen to the experiences of others who make an emotional and logical argument about how their lives are impacted by these practices; (3) refusing to even think about you benefit from this injustice on a daily basis; and (4) then, having not stopped for a minute to reflect and admit a few things, actually worked to discredit and undermine the arguments that call you on your unchallenged privilege. Sure, there are different views on this issue (!), but I don’t see you actually engaging with that issue. Instead, I see your purpose as something more nefarious: You really want to maintain hetero marriage privilege.

    It’s sad for me that an attempt to challenge an injustice, and get progressives thinking about their own participation in these, has resulted in the further entrenchment of that inequality (e.g., the argument that says straight people should get married even more!). i find that absolutely shocking; but, i’m probably naive. (i know, intellectually, that visibility is a tricky thing and can easily be co-opted and turned against those on the margins, who end up even more so.) And, following Sally, I find your and Mnemosyne’s ‘requests’ to be heteronormative to the bone (e.g., shifting the focus from your responsibility to mine, always seeking the contradiction, demanding that i give you what you want — all of which convey that you really think marriage inequality is a ‘gay’ issue). (and that you’re agitated to no end that you might have to defend your deeply-held beliefs).

    What more is there to say that hasn’t been said already? You say that I don’t want to engage on this issue. For me, it’s you who doesn’t want to engage/listen/be reflexive, who makes the demand that this ‘engagement’ be straight-friendly, easy, accommodating.

  64. Tara
    February 13, 2007 at 11:26 am

    Now, she says she agrees with sophonisba’s suggestion that getting married is okay if you use gay-friendly caterers.

    A purposeful misreading if there ever was one.

  65. zuzu
    February 13, 2007 at 11:31 am

    I see your purpose as something more nefarious: You really want to maintain hetero marriage privilege.

    Riiiiiight.

    Again: what is it you’re asking for? You keep throwing out accusations like the one above, but you refuse to say what will satisfy your sense of justice. Help me help you here.

  66. Joseph
    February 13, 2007 at 1:41 pm

    Riiiiiight.

    Again: what is it you’re asking for? You keep throwing out accusations like the one above, but you refuse to say what will satisfy your sense of justice. Help me help you here.

    It’s not Tara’s fault if you don’t try to understand what she’s saying. Why did you only quote that sentence? Why didn’t you try to address what she said about finding your ‘requests’ heteronormative? Why not the rest of her post?

    It seems to me, as a (until now) bystander in the debate here and at Pandagon, that people feel their heterosexual privilege being attacked and are scrambling to defend themselves, when Tara wasn’t attacking anyone personally.

    I want to know why people want Tara to validate their choices. As heterosexuals, we need to own the privilege that comes with that, and not expect people without our privilege to reassure us that yes, we are good people. And Tara doesn’t need to have a 12-step plan of action to legalize gay marriage for her to feel marginalized by a post at Pandagon announcing a straight person’s marriage without once addressing the privilege inherent in that announcement.

    I’m a straight white man. I know what it’s like to feel personally attacked when someone brings up privilege, especially when that person doesn’t make much attempt to be conciliatory. But that isn’t Tara’s fault, just like it’s not blackamazon’s fault when she writes a post that makes me realize how much of what I have is built on what someone else doesn’t.

  67. Sally
    February 13, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    You keep throwing out accusations like the one above, but you refuse to say what will satisfy your sense of justice.

    I just don’t know how to say this so that it will penetrate, zuzu. Nothing will satisfy her sense of justice, short of actual justice.

    What you are demanding is that Tara give you a formula that will enable straight people to enjoy straight privilege without queer people resenting them for it. And that’s not going to happen. It can’t happen. The only way to end the resentment is to end the privilege. You are directing your anger at the wrong target. Instead of lashing out at oppressed people who resent privilege, you need to focus your energy at ending oppression and privilege.

    This entire discussion is a red herring. It redirects the focus of the discussion away from oppression and what can be done to end it and towards the hurt feelings of privileged people who don’t like being resented for their privilege.

  68. CLD
    February 13, 2007 at 3:33 pm

    Not that my opinon matters, but I don’t see any problems with what Tara and Sally have been pointing out in the last few comment posts. What I do see is zuzu and Mnemosyne appearing to be angry with Tara for actually expressing how she feels about the injustice inherent in marriage as it stands now.

    I don’t feel that Tara needs to explain any further than she has as to what it is she’s hoping hets can do to help with the fight for SSM. Just do something; anything is a move forward.

    Again, that’s my opinion and it comes from someone who like Tara, would like to marry the person I love, yet can’t.

    What exactly makes anyone think any of us has the magic answer as to what straight folks can do to help? All any of us can and should do is support each other and understand that some of us may feel the slightest bit ticked off when we witness yet another wedding with all the privilege and acceptance we’ve not yet experienced.

  69. Roy
    February 13, 2007 at 4:34 pm

    I understand the resentment.
    Really- I understand where it comes from. I think it really sucks that my best friends don’t have the protections and the benefits of marriage, even though they’ve got the most stable and healthy relationship of anyone I personally know.

    I understand resenting the system that prevents them from getting those rights.

    I’m not sure I fully understand aiming the resentment at people who’re trying to help, though. If someone is suggesting “Look, both of us think it’s bullshit that I’m beind denied certain rights, but I think you should refuse to take those rights, or, at the very least, you shouldn’t express happiness at declaring your commitment to your partner because of this” I don’t get that. I don’t. I don’t resent my friends and allies when they enjoy rights that everyone should have, even if I’ve been unfairly denied them. I’m happy for my friends and allies. I’m angry at whatever system is denying rights to people who deserve them. Is that common? Do people usually resent their allies and friends when they enjoy rights that everyone ought to have access to?

    We are allies. Marriage may not be for everyone, but everyone should have the option. If someone doesn’t want to get married, I’m totally behind that. I have no intention of getting married, either. On the other hand, nobody who wants to get married should be denied it, and the rights that come from it should be available to everyone. Well… or no-one. I’m fine either way, personally. The point is, things aren’t even, and I sort of felt like all of us were there- we agreed with that.

    I don’t know what makes anyone think that any of us have the magic answer to what can be done to help, though.

    That’s what makes this frustrating for everyone, I imagine. Just because I’m straight doesn’t mean that I have the magic answer, either. It doesn’t mean that I know what it will take to get justice. Both sides think that the anger is misdirected. Maybe it is.

    So, yeah. I understand the resentment, and I understand being hyper-pissed about it. What I’m angry about isn’t “privileged people being resented for their privilege” it’s a group of people being denied access to privileges that they have every right to expect, but are being unfairly prevented from enjoying. It doesn’t make sense to me to resent allies for getting married- they’re enjoying a privilege that we should all have anyway.

    I don’t expect to be praised for being a good person, but I don’t expect to be shamed or derided for enjoying rights that we should all have when I’m doing what I can to help people who’ve been unfairly denied those rights. I don’t expect my friends to be derided for enjoying rights we should all have when they’re doing what they can to help.

    I think everyone here agrees that there’s a problem. So, what can we do about it?

  70. February 13, 2007 at 5:27 pm

    I’m resisting the urge to post my non-romantic reasons for getting legally married, all of which are both big and important. I don’t deny that I’m exercising my access to marital privilege, but nor do I wish that others be denied access to that same privilege. Mostly, I’m tired of justifying every decision to everybody with an opinion.

  71. Tara
    February 13, 2007 at 5:55 pm

    Mostly, I’m tired of justifying every decision to everybody with an opinion.

    Having privilege is what allows you to feel like you’re always on edge and being asked a lot of, in the same way that many people, who’ve lost/struggled to maintain their material or symbolic power over the last 50-60 years (white men…and women, colonial subjects, Western nations, etc.), have felt a loss of self when their claims to power were challenged.

  72. Lorelei
    February 13, 2007 at 8:47 pm

    i’m not getting married legally for several reasons. one of the big reasons is because gay people cannot be married — however, my statement is more along the lines of ‘if it’s actively being used to oppress another group (and has been in the past), i don’t want to take part in it.’ besides that, i find it to be such a unnecessary institution, and really want to get married more to have a pretty dress… in which case i don’t need the whole ‘legal marriage’ shebang.

    note that although i find the institution to be unnecessary and don’t think it should really exist, i do think that if others are being allowed to get married, then gay people certainly should be able to get married. didn’t wanna confuse anyone with that.

  73. Lorelei
    February 13, 2007 at 8:51 pm

    yayyyy tara :)

  74. February 14, 2007 at 6:50 pm

    Having privilege is what allows you to feel like you’re always on edge and being asked a lot of, in the same way that many people, who’ve lost/struggled to maintain their material or symbolic power over the last 50-60 years (white men…and women, colonial subjects, Western nations, etc.), have felt a loss of self when their claims to power were challenged.

    Maybe, but that’s not what I was referring to. Over the last couple of years feminist bloggers have had to defend everything from their veganism to their sexual practices to their parenting to their use of or lack of makeup and now our marital status or lack thereof, etc., again and again and again. I’m not suggesting that these aren’t conversations worth having whatsoever, but I’m not about to flay my personal life for a public audience again just because someone is offended by my relative privilege. Let’s just say that some people knowingly enter arrangements that they’d like alternatives to because the other alternatives available to them are relatively dangerous. Furthermore, that these hypothetical people are loathe to rationalize their reasons on a public forum for a public audience because (in their paranoid wisdom) certain others might be reading.

    Not that I disagree with your statements at all, Tara, I just want to clarify my external sigh.

  75. tara
    February 15, 2007 at 12:45 am

    Lauren,

    But, you see, you’re not being attacked , though I understand how it may feel like that (see what Joseph says toward the end of his excellent post). Why is the focus still not on lgbt people and their being denied rights, citizenship, and recognition? Why isn’t the focus being put on how hetero practices, including those of progressive-identified people, might contribute to that marginalization? I see so many people feeling put upon with having to ‘defend’ themselves from critique and wonder why there is no focus on the clear suffering of lgbt people because of the practices straight-identified people engage in.

    Seeing the critique of hetero marriage privilege as something akin to feminists being chastized for their use of makeup (not made with animals, we’re talking about), for example, puts the focus strictly on hetero women, who are made to be the victims of others’ criticisms, and whose contested practices aren’t implicated in a loss of rights for others. So, it becomes easy for you to see others “moralizing” about your choices. You see yourself as being oppressed, but you don’t see yourself as oppressing anyone else. You see your marriage practices as a personal choice that shouldn’t be ‘flayed’ by a public audience. Who exactly made this public in posting the announcement of your wedding reception in a public forum? (That’s the tremendous visibility and coerciveness of normative heterosexuality in practice, the freedom to discuss and celebrate it everywhere and all the time — something that is sponsored by the invisbility and demonization of homosexuality.)

    I don’t see anyone considering the argument that they (and not just the government) reproduce social inequality; hence, the response is that heterosexuals choosing to not marry is bad because they, too, will be denied the rights due to every citizen (and why should they suffer, too?). (And, then, in a rhetorical, guilt-reducing move I can’t quite fathom, heterosexuals choosing to marry become noble heroes who are going to transform the institution of marriage through their radicalism, to save marriage from the fundamentalists, to be the advocates we desperately need, on the inside, to ‘fight like hell’ to rewrite marriage laws for gay people, on and on!)

    I would just like you to focus on the critiques of feminism that have focused on how racism, heterosexism, and classism have been reproduced within feminism.

  76. February 15, 2007 at 8:56 pm

    I repeat: Let’s just say that some people knowingly enter arrangements that they’d like alternatives to because the other alternatives available to them are relatively dangerous. Furthermore, that these hypothetical people are loathe to rationalize their reasons on a public forum for a public audience because (in their paranoid wisdom) certain others might be reading.

    That’s all I can say about that.

    I would just like you to focus on the critiques of feminism that have focused on how racism, heterosexism, and classism have been reproduced within feminism.

    That’s partly why I started Feministe.

  77. February 15, 2007 at 9:01 pm

    That’s all I can say about that.

    And to further clarify, because I can’t shut up, I’m a little pissed that I’m not as anonymous as I’d like to be because the reasons I’m alluding to are definitely relevant to the discussion of marriage in a political context, especially in a state that is attempting to further moralize the definition of marriage not only in the state constitution but in the family courts. It’s a blatantly feminist issue I can’t discuss on a public forum, I regret, because certain people do read this site and my new site.

    So, it becomes easy for you to see others “moralizing” about your choices. You see yourself as being oppressed, but you don’t see yourself as oppressing anyone else.

    Is this a hypothetical “you”?

  78. Tara
    February 16, 2007 at 6:57 am

    Is this a hypothetical “you”? — I’m abstracting, yes. I was trying to speak to multiple people. Thanks for clarifying.

    I appreciate Feministe, for sure, and thank you for starting it. I still think, on this issue, that the responses to this issue, even on this site, aren’t as reflexive as they could be…

    And, I understand there being many personal, particular reasons for ‘marrying.’ But, my goal was to discuss marriage privilege (and its visibility and our notions of ‘tolerance’ and support of gay rights) as more of a political issue.

    No personal attacks on you.

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