[personal profile] flexibeast
In a recent blog entry, Rodney Croome wrote:
Gay liberationists, older-style feminists, and baby-boomers still suffering the scars of their parents' loveless VJ-Day marriages, are deeply suspicious of the institution of marriage. It was their ideological demon, as it is now the religious right's ideological angel. Altman is emblematic of these groups. He vents his and their hostility to marriage as a curse from the past crippling the future.

Together, all this political expediency and ideology will coalesce into a concerted campaign, both within and without Labor circles, to diminish and dismiss same-sex marriage.
i'm not a baby boomer, so presumably i'm both a "gay liberationist" and an "older-style feminist", because i'm not at all enamoured of the institution of marriage; and i'm guessing, from the tone of Croome's comments, that this makes me some kind of out-of-touch 'old fogey', that criticising the institution of marriage is a ludicrous relic from a bygone era.

i disagree. Although Croome has frequently commented that the introduction of 'no-fault' divorce laws has in theory made marriage less of a ball-and-chain than it used to be (particularly for women), i think he focuses too much on the legal aspects of the institution of marriage and nowhere near enough on the social aspects of that institution.

Someone recently posted the 1971 essay "I Want a Wife" to the [livejournal.com profile] womens_studies community, and i feel that many aspects of it would still resonate with many married women today; that marriage is still, socially speaking, a very gendered institution. It's been so for thousands of years, and i doubt that it could change substantially within a mere few decades. i've often seen people in same-sex relationships refer to the homemaker of the couple as the 'wife' (in a manner ranging from joking, to "Ha ha only serious", to completely serious). Conversely, even when people use the term 'wife' to simply mean "the woman to whom I'm married", to many people it still implies 'homemaker', 'primary carer' etc. Furthermore, even if legally a woman could simply ask for, and get, a divorce, it's not necessarily the case that such a move would be socially acceptable: there's still a lot of pressure on women in particular to maintain the marriage "for the good of the kids", "to not embarrass and/or reflect badly on the family", "to not disrespect the husband" etc., even if she's in a DV situation. i thus suspect that in a number of instances, it may well be easier for a woman to leave a non-marriage relationship than a marriage relationship.

Then, too, let's not forget that property rights are still a fundamental component of marriage, even if the property rights in question don't necessarily involve regarding one person as a chattel. Indeed, property rights are openly being cited as a reason (albeit amongst others) for the recognition of same-sex relationships, whether in the form of civil unions or marriage. Furthermore, legally speaking, marriage is still solely about sexual and romantic monogamy - being married to two people, 'bigamy', is against the law - which typically (but of course, not always) involves asserting rights over another person's body ("If you want to have sex with someone else, I forbid it")1.

Given all the above, is it any wonder that i find it difficult to simply regard marriage - as Croome perhaps does - as nothing more than, or primarily, a formal statement of love and commitment? Given all the above baggage, i would rather not be associated with the institution of marriage, even though i would love to have a commitment ceremony with both my partners (although i do feel that love and commitment are far better demonstrated by daily deeds and words than by a commitment ceremony).

As i've noted before, i don't think the state has any business recognising, and therefore privileging, certain consensual adult relationships and not others. (Particularly when it means a six-month marriage is valued more than the unmarried-yet-deeply-committed relationship i've had for several years with both my current partners.) By the same token, however, if the state is going to do so, i want the relationships it recognises to be as broad as possible; and so i support the right to not only same-sex civil unions, but same-sex marriage too. And i will respect people's descriptions of the consensual relationships they have, regardless of whether or not that description is approved by the state.

1. To me, that's not true monogamy; that's forced monogamy. i can't understand the people who claim they're "naturally monogamous" yet need to enforce rules about the sexual and romantic lives of their partners. Surely if both partners in the relationship are "naturally monogamous", they would not be interested in anyone else but their partner, and the enforcement of such rules would be unnecessary. True monogamy makes me go "Awww!"; forced monogamy makes me go :-/.

Date: 2007-12-30 07:35 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ruth-lawrence.livejournal.com
Amongst the queer 'boomers I know (and indeed *I* am in fact one myself) there is a belief that same sex marriage will in the end subvert traditional marriage.

I agree.

It's worth noting that with no-fault divorce and with the civil ceremony there is no *necessary* assumption of sexual fidelity.

There's also the thing that it's a simple human rights issue. Nobody should be excluded from an institution because they are in a minority, eh?

Me, I don't think much of marriage for myself -never did it, would never marry a man-, and *certainly* many I went to (girls') school with fell afoul of the socially embedded shit, but that doesn't mean I think nobody should do it or that the baby should be thrown out with the bath water.

Same sex marriage (as reactionaries have noted) is also on the pathway to group marriage.

..but I know we don't particularly agree on this issue :-)
Edited Date: 2007-12-30 07:37 (UTC)

Date: 2007-12-30 09:44 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] flexibeast.livejournal.com
Amongst the queer 'boomers I know (and indeed *I* am in fact one myself) there is a belief that same sex marriage will in the end subvert traditional marriage.

Only insofar as queer culture has 'subverted' het culture. Queers and queer culture(s) increasingly permeate het culture, but our culture is still fundamentally monogamously and heterosexually oriented . . . . assuming that the mere existence of certain queer cultures will in themselves fundamentally change het culture is like assuming that the existence of indigenous culture 'subverts' Australia's fundamentally Anglo culture. Yes, it challenges the hegemony of the latter, but it doesn't automatically result in the hegemonic culture falling to, or completely accommodating, the challenging culture.

It's worth noting that with no-fault divorce and with the civil ceremony there is no *necessary* assumption of sexual fidelity.

Sorry, that's just plain wrong. Yes, no-fault divorce allows serial monogamy; but one can still only marry one person at a time. Sure, one can have a marriage such that each partner is free to have other partners; but one is not free to marry other partners. The law says that marriage is about commitment to one person.

There's also the thing that it's a simple human rights issue. Nobody should be excluded from an institution because they are in a minority, eh?

Exactly; and i've never said otherwise. It's just like how i don't agree with many forms of Christianity, but will nevertheless support other people's right to hold Christian beliefs, as long as they don't infringe on other people's rights in doing so.

doesn't mean I think nobody should do it or that the baby should be thrown out with the bath water.

i think it's a very personal choice . . . . i think it's rather rude of Rodney Croome to make the comment he did about the "loveless VJ day marriages" of certain people's parents as being an 'explanation' of people's opposition to marriage, in the same way as i feel it's outrageous for people to say "Well, you're just queer because your parents did X / didn't do Y." Even if that is the case, so what? Our desires with regards to marriage and sexual orientation shouldn't therefore be dismissed. i'm not arguing that other people shouldn't get married; i'm merely saying that i have a range of what i consider to be very reasonable opinions on why i'm not going to be a cheerleader for the institution of marriage, let alone get married myself. And i feel Croome and others should respect that.

Same sex marriage (as reactionaries have noted) is also on the pathway to group marriage.

Even if group marriage were legal, i still wouldn't get married. Other people may not have a problem with all the reactionary baggage it still carries which all too often has a negative influence on women's lives, but i do; and i bristle at the notion that i can only get married with the approval of the state. Until the day marriage no longer has such a negative effect on so many women, and until it no longer has anything to do with the state, and is simply one type of commitment ceremony, marriage will not be for me. In the meantime, however, if other adults want to consensually marry, i will emphatically support their right to do so, regardless of sex / gender / number of partners.

[ Continued in next comment . . . . ]

Date: 2007-12-30 11:01 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ruth-lawrence.livejournal.com
There is no requirement for sexual fidelity in no-fault-divorce civil marriage.

Reactionary is as reactionary does, to my mind.

I won't Not Do < list > because the old left/Dworkin-McKinnon/other peole I regard as narrow and wrong cannot share my perceptions.

Anyway, I *would* marry a woman.

Not a man (said No several times).

The meaning is different.

Date: 2007-12-30 12:07 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] flexibeast.livejournal.com
There is no requirement for sexual fidelity in no-fault-divorce civil marriage.

i already acknowledged that marriages can be 'non-mongamous'; please read what i wrote more carefully: Sure, one can have a marriage such that each partner is free to have other partners; but one is not free to marry other partners. The law says that marriage is about commitment to one person. If marriage was not primarily about monogamy, one would be free to be married to more than one person at a time. One is not; it is against the law. And i would argue that socially, most people regard marriage as involving both sexual and romantic monogamy. Continually repeating the "There is no requirement for sexual fidelity in no-fault-divorce civil marriage" mantra, as people such as yourself and Rodney Croome, doesn't change that.

Anyway, I *would* marry a woman. . . . The meaning is different.

For you, sure. And i would support your right to do so, regardless of what anyone else says. Nonetheless, just because the meaning is different for you, doesn't mean it is for everyone: many people, both straight and queer, would expect you to have a certain type of relationship (e.g. closed both romantically and sexually).
i myself would argue with them; i would ask, for example, if marriage is not primarily about commitment, and ask why, for example, having a regular fuck buddy necessarily implies a failure of commitment. But i won't necessarily convince them (and in fact, i probably won't) of such views; and for these people - who i suggest probably represent at least a strict majority of our society - marriage and monogamy will remain tightly linked.

Date: 2008-01-05 05:47 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ruth-lawrence.livejournal.com
I use 'marriage' (as I do 'gender' and other words), in the cultural-anthropological sense.

I've lived through great social change -including around marriage- and have faith in young people, and older folks who are flexible.

I have also always known that in a democracy such as ours, laws are tools that can be changed as soon as there is the will to do so.

In other words I perceive the world very differently from some.

Date: 2007-12-30 09:44 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] flexibeast.livejournal.com
[ . . . . continued from previous comment. ]

..but I know we don't particularly agree on this issue :-)

True . . . . i get the impression that you have more faith in the power of minority cultural politics alone than i do, and that you believe the state is reformable to primarily defend the interests of the majority of all those it has power over, rather than select groups, in an ongoing way requiring no further interventions? Whereas i believe the state will always tend towards working to the benefit of certain select groups, even if it can temporarily be forced, through mass action, to behave otherwise1. Consequently, i also believe that the 'surface area' of the state should be minimised, in order to minimise the number of areas in which we have to work against negative state tendencies. And i feel that the current debate around the recognition of same-sex marriage by the state demonstrates this - we wouldn't be having this debate if the state kept its nose out of people's consensual personal relationships.

Date: 2007-12-30 11:12 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ruth-lawrence.livejournal.com
I think times change.

I think young folks have a far more secular and accepting view of GLBTIQ.

I'm more democratic-socialist and less libertarian than you, it seems.

Yes, I know about industrial history: I learned class analysis (Marx and all) *as a teenager*, 35 years ago.

See, I'm part of the grandparents generation now.

'The state' is people we put up there. 'The laws' are things that we voted them in to create and they can be voted out, with pressure.

Govt can do their jobs as we elcected them to or go the way of S Bruce or J Howard in the end.

See, I'm not personally impressed by those who have power.

Never was.

I can and will defy them, resist them, take back their co-opted then distorted crap, march against them *and have*.

See, humans have lived in communities always.

The current, co-opted idea of marriage is ephemeral and contingent.

Date: 2007-12-30 13:07 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] flexibeast.livejournal.com
'The state' is people we put up there. . . . Govt can do their jobs as we elcected them to or go the way of S Bruce or J Howard in the end.

. . . . which to me suggests that you don't in fact agree with the class analysis you learned - at least, class analysis as i, and most other people i've met who claim to engage in class analysis, understand it. To me, a class analysis recognises that states govern for a certain class of people. In Australia, we have a bourgeois state: a state of and for the bourgeoisie. In this analysis, 'the state' is not simply the people that are elected to parliament: the state also consists of the army, the police forces, and at least some sections of the bureaucracy. When there's a strike, and it reaches a point where the army and/or the police are called in to intervene, on whose side do they intervene? The bourgeoisie. When the military is sent overseas to fight, or assists the military of foreign governments, whose interests is it in? Was it in the interests of the average Australian wage-earner for the Australian military to train the Indonesian military under the Suharto dictatorship, a dictatorship whose invasion and occupation of East Timor was supported by a number of different ALP governments? Did the Australian people elect those governments to do that? i don't think so. And more recently, the Victorian nurses' industrial actions - did the Victorian Labor government support the nurses, and their demands for more resources for both themselves and the health system, which would have benefited the average Victorian wage earner? No, because that would have encouraged other workers to demand better conditions, which doesn't benefit the bourgeoisie. (There is, of course, also the issue of inflation, which can devalue workers' purchasing power; but if we look at recent times, despite inflation being relatively under control, real wage purchasing power has declined.) And how are most people influenced to vote? Via the mass media, whose biggest players are run in corporate interests: the Herald-Sun, the paper with the largest circulation in Australia, argued, as a Murdoch paper, in support of the invasion of Iraq, and was that in the interests of the average worker? And the government-run media is not necessarily free of what i would consider to be biased behaviour - witness the arrogant dismissal of the Greens person by the presenter of Insight in a recent pre-election episode.

The fact is, reviewing history since Federation, both ALP and Coalition governments have done many many things that are clearly not in the interests of the people who voted them in, but are in the interests of at least certain sections of the bourgeoisie. Corporate interests would prefer to throw their weight behind Coalition governments, because such governments are most aggressive at supporting attacks on wages and conditions; but such governments usually end up resulting in industrial unrest (e.g. the response to WorkChoices), and it's at that point that they start getting behind the ALP, who regularly position themselves as the party which balances the interest of business and workers (despite the party's name). So we end up seeing the mass media being less critical of the ALP and more critical of the Coalition - which is precisely what we saw last election. Finally, in any case, once in power, elected governments have regularly shown that they prioritise listening to the bourgeoisie and their associated lobby groups (including, for example, Christian lobby groups funded by business-based resources) over anyone else, unless there are mass movements convincing them that doing so is significantly destabilising. And that's exactly why people such as you and i end up having to "defy them, resist them, take back their co-opted then distorted crap, march against them" - because, regardless of the grounds we voted them in on, they usually don't by default represent our interests, but the interests of (at least certain sections of) the bourgeoisie.

Date: 2008-01-05 05:51 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ruth-lawrence.livejournal.com
I learned class analysis veyr young, and am aware of its flaws.

To see everything only through Marxixt glasses seem to me to ignore sex, gender, orientation and so on, as in also *silly*.

*Of course* those with power have been ripping off those without...but Marx' anaylsis is based on a ridiculous understanding of hiuman exixtence ansd prioritises economic class above all.

Engles was less narrow, but again he just didn't know stuff that is, now, known.

The simple fact is that men as a group have formed coalitions against women, and so on and so forth.

Date: 2008-01-07 03:57 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] flexibeast.livejournal.com
Oh yes, Marxism definitely has some limitations, although there are instances where it's not as limited as some people seem to think. For example, Marxist theory was greatly extended by not only people such as Lenin and Trotsky, but also by people such as Marcuse; and it's only people with a very basic understanding of Marxism that reduce it to economism (as Stalinists often have). But many Marxists would, for example, be dismayed at the fundamental role i personally believe patriarchy and religion play in our society and politics, not only through their connection with economic factors, but independently as well.

Having said that, my comment above wasn't using Marxism to discuss the totality of human existence, but merely to analyse the function of the modern bourgeois state. i think that history has shown, repeatedly - and i can keep pulling out supporting examples - that the Marxist analysis of the modern state is fundamentally correct in the broad. So i feel it's disingenuous of you to avoid addressing my Marxist analysis of the state in particular by talking about the limitations of Marxist analysis of human society in general.

Date: 2008-01-07 07:13 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ruth-lawrence.livejournal.com
I didn't address it beause I feel it's irrelevant to revisiting the concept of marriage.

I refuse to regard the state as powerful.

I regard it as intrusive, and to be averted *or changed*. Which we can do *easily*, here.

Marx wasn't living in a democracy, was bourgeious and sexist to the core himself, and knew no proper anthropology.

I shall write no more on the topic in here.

Date: 2008-01-07 08:46 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] flexibeast.livejournal.com
I didn't address it beause I feel it's irrelevant to revisiting the concept of marriage.


So although it's the state via which one is legally defined as married, and which same-sex marriage activists have been fighting to have recognise same-sex marriage, you think the state is irrelevant to the discussion??? i'm lost for words.

I refuse to regard the state as powerful.

Right, so the state is not powerful, despite being able to regularly get away with injuring, maiming, jailing and killing people? Take, for example, the Australian state engaging in the genocide of the indigenous people of this continent - the Australian state has used its powers to ruined and ended many indigenous people's lives, shows no sign of making any substantial effort to remedy this (c.f. the ALP's support of the offensively paternal 'intervention' in the NT), and yet where's the national and international outrage (on the same level as the outrage against the apartheid regime in South Africa)? Any nation-state that can get away with such crimes obviously has a great deal of power. What world of fluffy bunnies and unicorns are you living in?

I regard it as intrusive, and to be averted *or changed*. Which we can do *easily*, here.

Sure, we can change some aspects of the state, sometimes permanently, sometimes temporarily, sometimes simply through a bit of lobbying, sometimes only through massive and ongoing nationwide campaigns. i never said that we were totally powerless against it. That would be just as ludicrous as your own (apparent) view of it as a neutral institution run by the majority for the majority. That's why i'm a very strong advocate of trying to force the state towards progressive reforms as much as possible, a perspective i've noted numerous times in my LJ and in discussions with you (which i'd assumed you'd read; but perhaps that assumption was incorrect). Nonetheless, i can also see from the history of bourgeois states around the world that there are limits to such reforms; that when it comes to the crunch, these states show their true colours by orienting towards engaging in behaviours that benefit sections of the bourgeoisie much more than anyone else. You can teach the dog of the bourgeois state some new tricks, but you can't fundamentally change the fact that it's a dog - a dog that can choose to stop doing those tricks if it doesn't feel like doing them anymore.

[ Comment continued below . . . . ]

Date: 2008-01-07 08:47 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] flexibeast.livejournal.com
[ . . . . comment continued from above. ]

Marx wasn't living in a democracy, was bourgeious and sexist to the core himself, and knew no proper anthropology.

Once again, you seem to have ignored what i've written to you elsewhere. Marxism is far more than Marx, as i wrote in my previous comment. Trying to imply that Marxist analysis is basically useless because of Marx's own failings is like bagging out all of physics because Newton was an alchemist. It basically shows you have no idea of developments in the field, and have no substantial arguments to offer. You call yourself a 'democratic socialist', so perhaps you should read the analysis of gender issues by a contemporary Australian Marxist organisation such as the Democratic Socialist Perspective. i certainly don't agree with all their positions (last time i checked), but their positions on such things as gender issues are much more sophisticated than you seem to be claiming a Marxist perspective must inevitably be.

(i actually very much get the impression that your view of Marxism is stuck in the Marxisms that predominated prior to the major social movements and changes that happened in the 70s. Not all Marxist groups had the same dismissive attitude towards social movements, reform-oriented or otherwise, as Stalinist groups such as the old CPA did.)

So, you've offered no concrete counterpoints to the points i made earlier about the numerous times - and as i wrote, i could provide many more - when the Australian state has acted, or continues to act, far more in the interests of certain sections of the bourgeoisie than in the interest of the majority of the population when the chips are down. Then you claim that you've not done so because you apparently feel that the character of the Australian state is "irrelevant to revisiting the concept of marriage"! Well, i doubt that many of the activists fighting to have their same-sex marriages legally recognised by that state, so that their marriages get the same legal, financial and social privileges that differing-sex marriages get, would agree with you.

Date: 2007-12-30 12:21 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] indigo1.livejournal.com
i agree. i'm not married because i think that:

1. the state has no legitimate right to legally validate any particular set of social relationships. any relationships based soley on emotional bonds are none of it's goddamn business and it has no right to mandate any form of emotional relationship over any other. the state should have no involvement with relationships which do not involve assets or children.

2. relationships involving shared assets and finances should be explicit contracts between the parties involved and there should be no 'default' assumptions based on emotional bonds. there is no longer any justification for making emotional bonds a kind of cypher for a legal financial obligation. the assumption just that because you want to share a house with someone and have sex with them it means you want to give them half of everything you own or that you are obligated to support them is ridiculous.

3: relationships involving raising children should be explicit, irrevokable contracts between the parties involved, and state involvement should be limited to ensuring that the needs of the child are met and protected by that arrangement. there should be no such thing as an involuntary parent and defaulting on the responsibilities of raising children should be treated as same as a default on any other contract taken on voluntarily.

so: if i were Empress of Australia i'd get rid of marriage as a legal contract. (have whatever commitment ceremonies you like, i couldn't care less, but they imply nothing about the legal status of the relationship). i'd make all domestic arrangements require explicit, individual contracts for the people to be legally treated as anything except single individuals. as bearing a child is a choice in this country (and i'd make damn sure it stayed a choice), i'd require a legal contract agreeing to parent the child as part of the birth registration as a condition of being granted any parental rights.

Date: 2007-12-31 04:17 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] flexibeast.livejournal.com
All very well said. :-)

Date: 2007-12-31 13:53 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] haw-thorn.livejournal.com
I find this position so obviously intelligent and reasonable that I think it is highly unlikely that it would ever be implemented by any forseeable government in this country.

Date: 2007-12-31 22:50 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] indigo1.livejournal.com
ah well, vote me in as Empress of Australia and i'll implement it by fiat. ;)


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