While I’m a huge fan of Feministing, I’m a little upset with them right now. They’ve had a series of posts lately about how marriage is bad, mm-kay. (Sorry but I can’t figure out how to trackback to their site.)
I’m not going to say that marriage is perfect, for everyone or even available to everyone. (Full-disclosure: I’m married.) Many of my hetero friends who are my age have told me that marriage is not for them even though they are in long-term, monogamous relationships that would appear on the outside to be very similar to marriage. And I would never defend the homophobia surrounding the same-sex marriage issue.
It’s true that there are people, including some in my own family, who view marriage as the 1950s-sitcom thing, complete with standard gender stereotypes. And there are some, like my own parents, who aren’t necessarily the gold standard of marriage considering their serial divorce records (total between them so far? 5). But just because there are some bad apples, doesn’t make the whole bunch rotten.
It’s the labels and fucked up societal crap that give marriage a bad wrap. It’s only if you buy into that stuff that marriage becomes the “inequitable, homophobic and sexist tradition” that Samhita called it yesterday.
When I got married (10 years ago next week), my husband and I crafted our own ceremony and it came from a very punk DIY aesthetic. I wrote our vows. We had our best friend marry us because we didn’t want a traditional churchy, sexist experience. We decided for ourselves what traditional customs to keep (I wore a dress, we had cake) and what to throw out (over-priced “necessities like special cake-cutting knives, sexist vows, etc.). We had three punk bands play our reception. As Sinatra sang, We did it our way.
But even before I got married, the anti-marriage folks (sadly, many of whom were my feminist friends at the UO Women’s Center) started in with their expectations and fevered rants. And I say that as an ardent feminist who was actively working as an activist on feminist issues while planning my wedding! I’ll never forget the day that an all-out fight erupted in the Center about the issue of changing your name. Someone asked me what I planned to do (at the time I was on the fence, but did decide to change my name). Suddenly, the conversation escalated from a back-and-forth weighing pros and cons to an attack on me and every woman who would even consider taking her partner’s name. Two women in the office that day began to literally shout at me, an emotional response I felt was totally unnecessary and mean-spirited.
(And an aside about why I changed my name … I decided to change because I did want for us both to have the same last name. We discussed changing to my last name, but isn’t that another form of patriarchy to take my dad’s name? We talked about creating a new last name that we would both take but then when we found out how hard it would be for a man to change his name, it just seemed more practical for me to do the deed. Sometimes, you have to take one for the team, but it doesn’t diminish me as a feminist or as a person to play the game!)
I’m not going to say that the institution of marriage is perfect. It’s not. But that’s why you have to throw out the crap that’s out-dated, irrelevant or problematic. You don’t have to throw out the baby with the bathwater. And much like the child-free by choice issue, I don’t think it’s fair to gang up on those who make different choices than you. It’s not an indictment on your life choices if I make different ones. It doesn’t bother me in the slightest that some of my hetero friends are choosing not to marry even though they are certainly with their life partner. And I think my friend’s upcoming summer marriage to his boyfriend will be beautiful and just as real and meaningful as my own wedding day. (And I’ll keep passionately working on getting them the same rights I enjoy, because it’s wrong that same-sex couples are discriminated against on the marriage issue.)
There are things that are wrong with marriage and the wedding industry. I’m totally against all the hyped-up crap being sold as “love” for your “most important day of your life.” But that kind of materialistic, consumer-driven crap-fest is something I would hate in any form (including Christmas, but I’ll save that for another day). No, you don’t need a white dress. You don’t need a church. You don’t need bridesmaids, groomsmen, diamond rings (especially considering the whole conflict diamonds issue), tiaras, veils, or any of the other bloat that somehow attaches itself to a ceremony that at its core is supposed to be about truth, love and commitment.
Since I got married my husband and I have sculpted our marriage experience from who we are and what we want. We divide the housework as evenly as possible (although you can’t really keep score). We make decisions together about our finances and major issues.
The fact is, I know I’m lucky to be able to marry my best friend. But the same-sex marriage issue aside, everything about marriage isn’t broken. Just like everything else in society, I think the power of feminism is that we can point out the flaws and then work to change the parts that are broken. I don’t advocate marriage for everyone. I don’t think it makes me better than those who aren’t married. But for me, it was really important to stand up in front of my family and loved ones and declare my love for the man who always encourages me to follow my dreams.
For me, marriage is about being your own special team of two. There is a power in that for me. It fills my cup up. If that’s not your cup of tea, that’s cool. But don’t hate on me for making different choices than you, especially you ladies at Feministing, because I hate to be mad at you.