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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » COMMUNITY ANNOUNCEMENTS & HELPS » Staff Stuff » anti-marriage?

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Author Topic: anti-marriage?
likewhoa19
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So Miz S keeps saying she's anti-marriage for "feminist" reasons, and I want to know why more specifically. (I say a similar thing about myself). So I was hoping this could be a safe space for expressing doubts towards the concept of marriage, about things inherent in the concept itself. (and by "safe space," I'm only partially joking...)
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Heather
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Sure, no problem.

Primarily, the tradition of marriage, especially legal marriage, is steeped in a history of ownership of women as property. Even today, we have countries and states where:

- marriage law means a male spouse cannot ever be considered to rape his wife, because marriage constitutes, by law, sexual ownership.
- a woman can marry under the age of consent, and marriage makes her having sex legal and okay because, essentially, she is condiered property who has been given by her father to her husband.
- marriage generally holds women to monogamy far more than men -- while there have been some cultural shifts in that regard (male infidelity is considered much less acceptable than it used to be; for most of history, it was an easy given), that standard still holds, including how child custody and divorces often play out.
- laws still do not offer adequate protections for women who are married per domestic violence.
- married couples are given benefits which singles and unmarried couples are not, many of which are vital for everyone's well-being.
- marriage is only defined as being between a man and a woman.
- marriage is only allowed between people of the same race.

(Oh, I could go on, but I'm in the middle of some household stuff at the moment.)

As well, because in most countries worldwide, the U.S. included, women do not have an equality with men per their rights, do not often have equal pay, women have less agency to leave a marriage than men do. Because, all in all, worldwide and historically, marriage grants a woman status she would not have otherwise NOT by virtue of having a partnership, or having someone she loves and who loves her, but by virtue of someone taking ownership of her. The status of a married woman in culture, how she is seen, vastly eclipses how a man who is married is seen: his status is generally unchanged by marriage.

That isn't to say plenty of people don't personally DO marriage that way, in their own homes and relationships, individually, or don't try and structure things so that things like the above are not part of their marriage. (Nor to say that I haven't or don't support friends of mine who are married, or protest those planning to marry.)

However, the law is what the law is, the tradition is what the tradition is. Suffice it to say, most marriage vows and ceremonies are chock-full of sexism. Yes, even if you take the "obey" out.

I also don't want the government in my bedroom: if I'm going to be polyamorous and have a third-party in my intimate relationships, I'm not going to choose a state or country as our bedmate. I don't want, for myself, to go anywhere in the world where I am viewed as someone's property. I don't want to be defined by what relationships I have, by whom I am with, any more than I already have to be just by living in the world I do. I don't want, by virtue of my gender, no matter what roles a partner and myself might choose, to be automatically seen and referred to as Wife.

I also want to do what I can to be sure that each and every day I'm choosing to be with a partner because I want to be with that partner, not because leaving would mean lawyers and court and big bucks.

For me personally (in my personal life) and for my feminism, marriage isn't something I want to support as an institution or be a part of myself. And that's the short version. [Smile]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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-Lauren-
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I hope you don't mind me asking another related question, Miz Scarlet.

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but from your recent posts you've stated that you are currently with a partner you consider the love of your life, who is male.

How do you explain to others your stance on marriage? I'm undergoing a lot of pressure on that topic at 18; I shudder to think how much I'd get as an older woman.

How, also, do you counteract the notion that marriage is the only thing that makes a man-and-woman relationship complete and valid? I personally tire of people calling my partner a "passing ship" simply because I'm not engaged or married.

So, if you undergo such pressure as well, how do you deal with it? Thanks!

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Heather
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Don't mind at all.

Per the age thing, in many ways, it's actually a benefit in that regard, rather than making it a greater conflict. A lot of people assume that once you've reached a certain age without marying -- and I'm 36 -- that you're just not going to. Plenty of people who would be invested in a woman getting married when she's younger also don't necessarily feel stronger about it when she's older, the opposite really, likely because it's obvious that having lived this long mostly on my own, I'm clearly capable of taking care of myself.

My politics have never really changed in this regard: I've felt the way I do for the whole of my adult life. Plus, for the whole of my dating life, right from partner one, I have dated people of all genders: anyone who knows me at all knows that it was just as possible (if not more so, in some regards) that a big love of my life would be/was female as male, which meant that a lot of the pressure I might have gotten to marry was removed from me. I also never had kids, which can make a big difference: single mothers get a LOT of pressure to marry.

My father, sometimes my mother, and a lot of my personal community share my feelings on the matter to some degree as well. Generally, the circles I run in in my personal and professional life are either not those which support marriage, or simply those who understand objections to it.

And that's the sunnier side. [Smile]

Where the grass is less green, it's tricky. One of the toughest bits for me is having any sort of discussion about this with people who ARE married. I rue, for instance, the day that Mark's parents, who have been married for almost 40 years and are just wonderful, fantastic people, ask about this. Why? Because I don't know how to explain my feelings and objections without insulting them, without telling Mark's Mom that from a feminist/political perspective, that I think she's in bondage. Because their marriage is as fine as they get, and I don't want to be hurtful. Thankfully, though my partner doesn't have the exact same feelings I do on the matter, he is of the mind that discussion of marriage at all right now is totally premature, so he's expressed that we should have a five-year-grace period before I/we even have to DISCUSS our feelings on this with others, something he expresses if the question is asked of him very benignly. We keep meaning to have cards printed up, actually, which just say, "Save the date! On August 1st, 2010, you can ask us about that."

Over the last couple years, my mother has also changed her tune a bit about marriage -- perhaps because my younger sister recently married. My mother, in man y ways, is pretty concerned with appearing conventional outwardly, which, suffice it to say, has always been a conflict with us. When she met Mark, she got the idea from his outward appearance that her wacky daughter had finally hooked up with a "normal man," (which is so far from the truth it's not even funny, since my sweetie is a total weirdo who just LOOKS normal) and got a little bug in her ear about the marriage thing. We had one minor phone argument about it, and she since backed off. Eh.

quote:
How, also, do you counteract the notion that marriage is the only thing that makes a man-and-woman relationship complete and valid? I personally tire of people calling my partner a "passing ship" simply because I'm not engaged or married.
Again, I think coming of age queer and being queer give me a bit of an escape route on that argument. Anyone who knows me at all would have to know that opening that door would mean ne asking them what, then, makes a same-sex partnership "valid."

No one has called my partner anything akin to a "passing ship," who is close to me, but in all honesty, I have always been a VERY active dater, so there certainly have been passing ships a'plenty in my life, and I've generally tended to be forthright about them being exactly that.

Too, this may be another arena in which my age helps me: people aren't going to talk to a 36-year-old woman the same way they'll talk to a woman of 18, often. I've lived a really unconventional life, and at this stage of the game, most folks are going to have the good sense to know I'm not malleable, I can't be swayed to what someone else wants for me, etc. As well, people who know me even a little know my politics as well as knowing that opening a debate with me on topic like this is opening quite the can of worms: very few people choose to argue with me intentionally, I'm one hell of a debater.

That, believe it or not, is the short answer. [Razz]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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September
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When she met Mark, she got the idea from his outward appearance that her wacky daughter had finally hooked up with a "normal man," (which is so far from the truth it's not even funny, since my sweetie is a total weirdo who just LOOKS normal) and got a little bug in her ear about the marriage thing.

Heh. Change the name of the bf and you get exactly the same situation I am in now. I'd always had unconventional relationships before that my mom did not approve of and where it seemed unlikely that they would culminate in marriage. I was dating women, junkies and people who were depressed and suicidal. None of them prime marriage material, not that that was ever on my mind to begin with. But I can no longer remember just how many fights my mother and I had about when I was going to find 'a nice guy to settle down and start a family with'. What I found even more annoying than being pressured into breeding was when I was being told that I'd change my mind about not wanting to get married or have children. It always drove me mad because I felt like I was being patronized and belittled, like my opinion was not valid merely because it did not jive with mainstream ideas about what a woman should do.

Just throwing that out there because I can relate. I do actually agree with a lot of things you said about marriage in the your first reply, and I know so many marriages where it would have been best for all involved if the vows had never been spoken. Regardless of that, I also know marriages that are wonderful and stable and have absolutely nothing to do with supressing women or with bondage. They're just partnerships where both people respect and love each other and that are outwardly visible to everyone because of the rings they wear. And if I ever get married, I want my marriage to be like that, because I believe that a marriage is always what you make of it and that it can be full of love and respect regardless of what others have made of it and still make of it.

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Johanna
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"The question is not who will let me, but who is going to stop me." -Ayn Rand

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Heather
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quote:
I also know marriages that are wonderful and stable and have absolutely nothing to do with supressing women or with bondage.
As do I.....within the marriage itself.

And that's really part of my trouble (and also why I'm of a very mixed mind about pushing for queer marriage): even for those which ARE healthy and equitable inside that relationship/home, the contract those two people have signed unto IS part of the system which is inequitable for women, which, to various degrees, DOES lawfully bind her to things like a lack of protection in the case of spousal rape, to various things which make her owned chattel.

So, even if I changed my mind about what I wanted for myself per marriage, I would have an awfully hard time doing it anyway, because I -- personally -- feel that signing that contract is enabling that system for ALL women. To me, it's just too high a price to pay, especially on the backs of other women.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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September
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So, even if I changed my mind about what I wanted for myself per marriage, I would have an awfully hard time doing it anyway, because I -- personally -- feel that signing that contract is enabling that system for ALL women. To me, it's just too high a price to pay, especially on the backs of other women.

And I thoroughly sympathize with that sentiment. It's just that I do not believe in politicising my private life. Whether or not to get married is a personal choice, one that is solely between me and my partner, and I would never say no to that just to make a political statement. However, I am a feminist with all my heart and I will always fight for the rights of women, regardless of the decision I personally end up making per marriage.

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Johanna
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"The question is not who will let me, but who is going to stop me." -Ayn Rand

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Heather
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Which is one of many valid choices, IMO. If a big part of feminism isn't to give every woman the right to make her own personal choices, then something's pretty seriously wrong.

But for myself, as a visible activist for my living for many years, and per my own feminism, I do agree with the old adage that the personal absolutely is political. It's not so much about making a "statement," -- I do that much more powerfully by talking about/writing about/making art about these issues -- as it is putting my money where my mouth is, as it were. If I talk about a system that is corrupt, that is not feminist, that endagers women, my credibility is going to be limited if I participate in it myself, or come to it with, "...it's a corrupt system and tradition... but it's sure nice for me."

Especially because personally, I don't think that it is when it comes to marriage-as-law, rather than, say, a simple public or private non-legal, non-institutionalized ceremony/agreement between a couple or family to commit to one another the way they would like to.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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September
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Just one more note before I quit hijacking this thread.

What I also feel is, that I am in an incredibly lucky position because I have that option not to get married, and I have that option for the marriage to be completely on my own individual terms rather than on terms set by a culture/religion/etc and I appreciate that so much and I couldn't bring myself to say a categorical 'No' to that. It's a bit like when I was little and didn't want to finish my dinner, my mom would say "There are children in Africa who would kill for what you are throwing away." I feel like, if I have this awesome opportunity, then I might as well take it.

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Johanna
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"The question is not who will let me, but who is going to stop me." -Ayn Rand

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Heather
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I hear you. I do.

Just isn't where I'm at, in the same way that yeah, sure (well, probably not at my age, actually), I now have the option of going into the army as a woman, but as a pacifist, it's not an option I'd exercise.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Heather
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A side note which may be of interest: my good friend Audra and her partner very much wanted to get married, but their primary objection was that their queer friends who wanted to couldn't have the same, and that being the case, there was no way they could really enjoy their own marriage themselves.

Audra runs a feminist PR firm in Halifax. So, what did they do? She cast a pretty broad PR net stating that until gay marriage WAS legal in their province, they were not going to get married, period, which got the right for gay marriage an extra push of visibility in that province.

And when it DID pass, they got married, and made a point of cultivating donations in a jar for kisses (rather than the traditional glass clinking) to ad to funds to get it legalized all through Canada.

Point is, if you're really dead-set on it, there are some creative ways even in doing it oneself, to help make a difference in changing the whole institution and policy base around it for what you think is the better.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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awons
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I'm late to this topic but I just wanted to add my input, even if it is unrelated.

I never really thought about others being anti-marriage, which, thinking about it now is sort of strange because my mother is anti-marriage & actually rejected my father's marriage proposal (they're still together, & have been for 25 + years now) before I was born.

When I was younger I was actually ridiculed by kids from religious families so I used to lie & say that my mum just didn't wear a wedding band. I obviously got over being teased about it & being called a "bastard" because I am not ashamed of my mother's beliefs & she is more than entitled to them. I can't imagine my mother ever being married to my father & I know she won't be. I just can't believe I've never thought others felt the same as her.

That's all, I know it doesn't have much to do with this topic, so sorry if I'm disturbing the tone :]

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