You know, “marriage” is one of those words I can never remember how to spell. Is it “marriage” or “marraige”? Sometimes I suspect that other bloggers have this problem too, which is why they refer to it as the “SSM” debate.
Eve Tushnet writes:
When social conservatives start talking about the need to teach gender roles, I reach for my gun. People who believe in the importance of teaching “gender roles” create a social context in which unathletic and non-masculine boys are given beatings by their peers.
I think about the years in which I didn’t go a single day without fearing that someone would beat me up, and rarely went an entire week without being physically brutalized by someone (usually, but not always, a boy). After a few years, I internalized so much loathing that I’d stand in front of the mirror, yell at myself, and punch myself in the face; I didn’t even require a bully to be present to get beat up.
And the beatings happened for one reason, and one reason only – because I was unable to decide for myself what was valuable about me as a male. Instead, the people who think it’s important to teach gender roles got to decide – they created a social context in which the punishment of gender role deviants was not only acceptable but encouraged.
Boys will be boys.
Girls will be girls.
And those who don’t fit into the binary will be taught/punished.
So, to answer Eve’s question, I’m laissez fair when it comes to children’s gender roles. What’s important is providing every child with the individual liberty to act like themselves. If that self fits in with Eve’s conception of proper “gender roles,” fine – but if not, that should be fine too.
The belief that there is a correct “gender role” which must be taught inevitably leads to child abuse, in my opinion.
What always strikes me about the “children must be taught proper gender roles” folks is their lack of faith in the innateness of gender. If masculinity and femininity are really inborn traits, as these folks claim, then why worry about teaching gender roles at all?
Senator John Cornyn argues that the Supreme Court shouldn’t force SSM onto unwilling states. I agree, if only because I think the backlash from such a Supreme Court decision would fuel the anti-gay-rights movement. For years, the anti-gays have lost every argument and cultural debate on this question; despite their best efforts, lesbians and gays are far more accepted now than they were twenty years ago, and overt homophobia has become almost forbidden. All the trend lines indicate that the folks who favor equal rights are the ones with the wind in our sails, while the folks who oppose equality have been losing their wind for a generation.
I think that without a Supreme Court decision to rail against, the anti-equality movement will die out sooner and more completely.
The Senator also writes:
Of course, nobody in the pro-SSM movement is talking about imposing on churches’ rights, either.
However, what the Senator is talking about is picking and choosing which religions’ marriage ceremonies will be recognized by the state. If the Senator has his way, all of the Catholic Church’s marriage ceremonies will be granted state recognition, but only some Reform Jewish marriages will be given the same recognition. In practice, the state will be saying that Roman Catholic beliefs are superior to and deserve more respect and support than Reform Jewish beliefs.
Probably that doesn’t make the Senator – who I’m willing to bet is not Jewish – nervous, but it does bug me.
Some of the anti-SSM marriage folks are now turning to the argument that (in Eve’s words) “marriage is how we reconcile the opposite sexes.” I’m very sorry to hear that Eve, who is (I think) unmarried, has no close male friends nor any good relationships with any male relatives, and exists in a state of permanent war with all men. I assure her, however, that this is not the case for all humanity.
To make this argument work, the SSM (same sex marriage) opponents are regressing more and more to pure sexism; their view of the sexes seems to have frozen somewhere around 1952. To see what I mean, read this piece by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach.
Why do men and women want to drop their same-sex friends, with whom they have so much in common to spend the rest of their lives with the opposite sex? Why does a man give up his male drinking buddies, hide his inner Neanderthal to go home to his wife? Why would a woman leave the chatty, sympathetic company of her female friends and share her life with a monosyllabic brute?
Is it really necessary to explain why this is nonsense?
When I want to find friends in a strange town, I’m far better off dropping by the local science-fiction club – which is likely to be half female (despite the stereotype, fandom isn’t male-only) – than I am trying to join the local all-male club. For that matter, I’m far better off looking for the local chapter of NOW, which might be 100% female.
The point is, if I search for friends based on my interior life – my enjoyment of science fiction, or my commitment to feminism – I’m far more likely to find people I share things in common with. According to the rabbi, I should just look for an all-male group and I’ll automatically be among my peers – but in reality, men aren’t all the same, and we don’t all have the same interests.
Not all men enjoy watching football and Mike Tyson. Not all women want to spend all day trying on outfits in the mall (and not all men find trying on outfits a bad time).
The Rabbi believes that “two men have a lot more in common than a man and a woman.” Well, which two men and which woman? I suspect I have a lot more in common with Eve Tushnet than I do with (say) Ghengas Khan or Mr. Spock. I know I have a lot more in common with Sarah, my housemate of 14 years, than I do with most men I meet. (I think I may even have a little more in common with her than I do with Charles, Sarah’s husband).
The basic point is, do you think that men and women are individuals, with individual traits (some of which are gender-typed, some of which are not), or robots whose every trait and interest are determined by their genitals?
Apparently, SSM opponents think the latter. How odd.
(In case anyone’s interested, by the way, the Rabbi’s overall argument is that attraction is the key to romance, and that common interests are therefore unimportant. His entire argument thus rests on the unlikely assumption that attraction and common interests are mutually exclusive, so if the one is important the other is not.)
In the end, this debate really comes down to equal treatment under the law. Which is why SSM opponants say it’s about the children; no, it’s about society; no, it’s about preserving heterosexual monogamy; no, it’s about reconciling women and men; etc etc etc, blah blah blah.
The SSM debate is about equal rights under the law. And SSM opponants are determined to avoid that real debate, because they don’t have any decent arguments in support of lesbians and gays having unequal treatment. That is, in my view, the bottom line.