On marriage

I’ve been saying for years that not only is feminism hot, it’s romantic. Read this, tell me if you agree.

On the occasion of his 31st anniversary, PZ Myers from Pharyngula compares his family values to Newt’s, and the dirty hippies come out on top:

Gingrich was cheating on his wife, but it’s OK — because he also tells us that it was wrong and inexcusable, and then he wraps it all up in God and country to make excuses for it. Hypocrisy is acceptable as long as the right words are said to reinforce the public face of propriety.

Now look at those dirty rotten hippies, like me. We say the ties between a couple should be made with respect and affection, not the strictures of law and precedent; letting gays marry, for instance, strengthens the public approval of our kinds of bond, while weakening the authoritarian bonds. Our ideal is a community of equals, while theirs is a hierarchy of power, a relic of Old Testament values in which marrying a woman was like buying a camel, a certification of ownership, and nothing must compromise the Big Man’s possession of properties.

If we strip marriage of the asymmetry of power, as we must if we allow men to marry men and women to marry women, then we also strip away the man and wife, dominant and submissive, owner and owned, master and servant relationship that characterizes the conservative view of marriage. This is what they want to preserve, and this is what they are talking about when people like Gingrich echo those tired phrases about “Judeo-Christian values” and complain that their “civilization is under attack”. And it is, when we challenge their right to treat one partner, so-called, as chattel.

And once you look at it that way, you see no abuse of their values when Gingrich goes tomcatting around—he’s simply asserting his traditional privilege as the Man.

Paradoxically, though, it turns marriage into a brittle business where women are stressed by subservience and oppression (believe it or not, women are human beings who might resent being treated as servants), and men feel it is their right possess any woman willing to surrender to them. It’s not surprising that their relationships break up in courtroom battles.

I don’t condemn Gingrich for getting divorced, since it just means that so far he has managed to make a couple of women very happy twice. It’s also paradoxical that I see absolutely no problem in dissolving those bonds — if two people aren’t happy together, they should separate — and that that attitude can also make a marriage stronger.

I know. I’ve been married for 31 years, and my relationship with my wife is solid. Not because I’ve got her shackled with a prenup, a pile of legal documents, and a willingness to abuse her to keep her in her place, but because we’re comfortable together, she with me and me with her, and there’s no stresses that might tear us apart. With both of us in academic careers, there have been years where we’ve had to live apart, and those separations have been made with complete trust in one another — while we’ve both had times when we’ve “worked far too hard,” and we’ve been “driven” by passions for our work, strangely enough it never seems to have the side effect of sending us shopping for a different mate.

So, just a suggestion: if you want a relationship that lasts, don’t rely on god, lawyers, and social pressure to force it to work. Love and reciprocal trust are the only chains that last, and the only ones that make you feel happy while wearing them.

I think those are the “secular, atheist” values that Newt and his ilk find heretical and threatening. Those values allow me to sit smug and content in a happy home while watching authoritarians discard wives.

One thought on “On marriage

  1. I’ve been married 11 years, I think I’m in that “divorce” stage in life where everyone around me is divorcing. By some miracle I’m married still. knock on wood. Forgiveness is been key for me……..working through problems instead of walking away. Geez I sound 80 well least I’m still married : ) knocking on wood still : )

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