My new favorite Twitter-er is madgastronomer, who writes about all sorts of interesting things (and in the last few days, has made references to both the Muppets and Dr. Who! Huzzah!). A few days ago, she did an amazing job taking down some privileged, more-radical-than-thou bullshit from Jenn Levya of Fat, Smart, and Pretty.
The conversation started with this tweet from Jenn:
If you’re getting married, I want to know why you aren’t searching for radical alternatives that subvert capitalism and misogyny.
Madgastronomer responded that, for her, marrying another woman is radical–and there’s no alternative that would convey the same protections. She summed up her thoughts in this series of tweets:
I used to be all for abolishing all legal marriage and using contracts instead. And then I did some actual research into the rights and protections granted by legal marriage, and the fact that a huge number of them cannot be granted through any other means, and honestly some of them, like the right to not be forced to testify against a spouse, SHOULD [not] be grantable by contract. And many of these protections serve to protect marginalized people — or can, invoked at the right time.
And as I became more informed, I realized that we would always need something analogous to marriage, something that could be used to put most or all of these protections in place all at once. And then I realized that no matter what you call it on paper, such a thing will continue to be called marriage by most people.
She also made the point that ” [i]t’s way too easy to fuck up contracts in ways that are discriminatory, too. Like not allowing an abused [partner] a way out without huge penalties — something that having a standardized definition of marriage CAN protect against.”
And that, despite Jenn’s insistence that marriage is inherently linked to capitalism, “people get married in socialist countries, communist countries, tribal cultures that have no monetary system.”
I think this is a really important distinction. Marriage can definitely be a vehicle for consumerism, but it doesn’t have to be, any more than it has to be a vehicle for sexism. It seems sort of…closed-minded to assume otherwise.
A few of my thoughts in no particular order:
1.) Jenn mentioned in another tweet that she’s interested in “child-free ppl and hippy alternatives for raising kids communally,” but none of those things are incompatible with marriage. There are plenty of married couples who are childfree or live in intentional communities, some of which involve communal child-rearing.
2.) I do think that some of the benefits associated with marriage in the US should be accessible in other ways–most notably, health insurance. It’s incredibly fucked-up that people have to marry each other just to get health insurance, which should be available for everyone through the state.
However, health insurance is available through the state in most of Europe, and people there still get married! Because marriage provides many other protections, and has cultural and sometimes religious significance.
3.) I’ve also read critiques that the LGBT rights movement focuses on marriage equality at the expense of other issues such as workplace discrimination, teen suicide, and hate crimes. This makes sense to me. But I still think marriage equality is important–it just shouldn’t be elevated over all other issues, or held up as the only barometer of progress. (I see a parallel to Natalie’s recent critique of fatshion here.)
4.) How do we include people who want to commit to each other platonically? What about people who are asexual or aromantic, or just would rather make a life with a friend/relative than a romantic partner? Is there a way to expand the definition of marriage to include them, or should they be covered by contracts or some other system? This is something I need to do more thinking and reading about.
5.) It gets even more complicated when you take polyamory into account, and then, I have no idea. My first instinct is that relationships between more than two people are inherently too complex to be codified into a system like marriage, but I’m open to being convinced otherwise.
In conclusion…well, I don’t really have much of a conclusion. But madgastronomer rocks and she makes me think. And I’m continuously impressed with the depth of the conversations I read on Twitter (or in this case, well, the depths of one side of the conversation).