Feminist critiques of marriage – tell me what you think!

Hello wonderful Feministing readers! For my amazing gender studies course I am writing about feminist critiques of marriage and, in particular, whether queer folk should be seeking same-sex marriage or defining our relationships outside of the marriage norm. What better place, I thought, to gain inspiration than the wonderful Feministing community discussion boards!

So…. marriage.

I think that gaining same-sex marriage is an important first step. As it is, marriage is often used as a vehicle for homophobia and hated (“marriage is between a man and a woman”, “think of the children!!). Legalising same-sex marriage would go some way towards greater institutional recognition.

However… as a bisexual woman, the idea of rejecting the norms surrounding marriage greatly appeals to me.

Here are the main criticisms of marriage I feel have power:

1)  Marriage is an inherently hierarchical institution: marriage exists to invalidate other forms of relationships. If all relationships were valued equally, marriage would be meaningless. Is it enough to legalise queer relationships? Where do polyamorous relationships fit in this equation?

2) Why should the state have role in validating people’s relationships at all? As an anarchist and a socialist I can see problems with opting to join the system in this way.

3) Marriage has historically been used a tool of control – to promote a certain lifestyle deemed to be ‘beneficial’ to society. Hence, marriage has often been used to support patriarchal and capitalist systems. Can marriage be separated from its historical function of oppressing women through an unfair divison of labour?

4) Do radical feminist critiques of the model of love glorified through marriage hold? Is the possessive, strictly monogamous, ultra-dependent, life-long model of love something we should be aspiring to? Or should we be leaving to Twilight to glorify such potentially abusive forms of love?

5) Finally, can we do better?? Rather than seeking to join the status quo, can queer people lead the way in re-imagining what it is to love?

I like this quote from Catherine Donovan: “In actively pursuing same-sex marriage or partnership registration we sell ourselves short and give up on the possibilities and alternatives that exist for legitimizing the diverse ways we live and love.”

So, what do you think? Are these criticisms valid?

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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