Radfem perspectives on marriage

I am a married lesbian. Let’s just start there. I blame health insurance, ok? A woman needs it and marriage is considered a “qualifying life event” in the insurance world. Our one year wedding anniversary is coming up in a few weeks, and my home state of New York just legalized same-sex marriage on Friday night. Oh joy!! So let’s talk about MARRIAGE, huh? And yes, please be forewarned that this will be a US-centric post because that’s my  context.

As a political matter, I am actually opposed to marriage as a legally recognizable relationship. Gay Inc. has gone wildly conservative supporting a blatantly oppressive patriarchal institution that was specifically designed– and still used!– to control female reproduction and autonomy. I mean, really. Marriage is not cool. See the graphic above and don’t act shocked about marital rape FINALLY being outlawed as recently as 1993! By supporting marriage, similar to celebrations of “gender,” the homo political agenda has chosen to fully embrace a fundamentally conservative social concept without regard to the female-specific harm it is responsible for. I am simply stating the obvious: the LGBTIAQQLOLWTF movement supports misogyny and substantially fails to represent the interests of its female participants.

So, you know, I’m happy for all us married lesbians and gays. We enjoy some nice legal protections. And, by the way, our weddings are way more fun than traditional straight weddings. We’re breaking the rules from the word GO!! Just a heads-up for any future ceremonies you might be invited to. I’m happy for us! I really am. But I have no intention of defending the institution of marriage. Rather, I’d like to see a radical re-conceptualization of legally-enforceable personal relationships and what values we aim to protect or express through them.

As an example of a unique marital benefit, let’s look at spousal privilege. It protects some kinds of marital communications as confidential and functions very much like attorney-client privilege by protecting one spouse from sharing evidence and/or testifying against the other in court. This is one of my favorite marital benefits! The wife and I have secrets from the government! Ahahahaa! Take that, Big Brother! I remember Rosie O’Donnell complaining about not being allowed spousal privilege in her very public and acrimonious breach-of-contract case several years back. Basically:

Because they are not a married couple [though they had a civil union], she and Carpenter were denied spousal privilege, meaning that Carpenter had no legal right to refuse to testify against O’Donnell, even through they have four children, and have been together for six years.

“As a result, everything that I said to Kelly, every letter that I wrote her, every e-mail, every correspondence and conversation was entered into the record of this case,” O’Donnell said. “After the trial, I am now, and will forever be, a total proponent of gay marriage.”

ABC News. This situation illustrates a mutually desirable exercise of spousal privilege. The original intent, however, of this “privilege” was surely to protect male behavior: those things that husbands tell and also do to their wives. Unfortunately, “Spousal abuse is prevalent throughout our society, and no race, ethnicity, or economic class is immune.” As usual, women are the overwhelming victims, and males the overwhelming perpetrators, of domestic violence. Considering our patriarchal context, spousal privilege actually makes perfect sense, then, doesn’t it? Despite the fact that spousal privilege laws apply equally to both sexes, when operating under the conditions of male supremacy, it has created a disparate impact. Spousal privilege hits women harder. Literally. When women sustain more damages from the same law, it becomes a female-specific concern. It is a feminist issue.

As such, feminists have advocated for a legal exception to the exception– I mean, an exception to the spousal testimonial protection– for when one spouse has committed a crime against the other. Makes sense, right? Women must be able to TELL. THE. TRUTH. about how they are being treated behind closed doors! So what happens if your spouse does commit a crime against you? Could the battering spouse still disallow the victim spouse to testify about abuse that happened between them? Yes! This could happen!

In 1995, Texas joined the majority of states by abolishing the spousal privilege in cases where one spouse is charged with a crime against the other spouse. But in some states, waiver of spousal privilege remains conditionally optional. Just a few days ago I read this story about some married lesbians:

Deborah Snowden was charged with assault and reckless endangerment for allegedly threatening Sha’rron Snowden with a knife. When called to the stand, Sha’rron refused to testify against Deborah invoking the spousal privilege.

The ACLU and Lamba Legal even filed a joint brief in favor of the validity of the Snowden marriage (yay gays, I guess) and, therefore, of Sha’rron Snowden’s right to remain silent against her abuser. By finding that their out-of-state marriage was recognizable, the Maryland court also determined that the state’s spousal privilege law applied to the Snowdens’ domestic dispute. We will never know what kind of pressure or threats Deborah may have used to secure Sha’rron’s silence.

Swinging the pendulum all the way in the other direction, some states have gone so far as to frame domestic violence as a crime against the state, thereby compelling spousal victims to testify against their abuse.

In every other crime, prosecutors compel testimony. Failure to enact statutes that create an exception to the spousal privilege sends the message that the state views wife beating differently than stranger assaults. This reflects societal attitudes that it is not a crime to beat a spouse, mainly a wife.29

Renee L. Rold. All States Should Adopt Spousal Privilege Exception Statues, J. Mo. Bar Vol. 55 No. 5 (1999).

Now, I’m not going to delve any further into the feminist debates surrounding prosecution of spousal crimes because my central concern is about marriage. It should be clear that entering into the marital relationship has many serious and complex legal consequences, and that this is especially true for the “wife” half of the arrangement because marriage was originally structured by men to serve male interests, which necessarily operate at female expense.

So what to do about the marriage relationship? Well, despite my distaste for the traditional terms of marriage, certain kinds of life experiences and interpersonal connections continue to deserve legal protection. As a result, I think we have to replace marriage with alternate relationship-forms that may achieve some of the same purposes, but without the harmful effects to women.

In her classic 2000 article entitled A Radical Dyke Experiment for the Next Century: 5 Things to work for Instead of Same-Sex Marriage, Betsy Brown suggests that:

We should develop the concept of designated next-of-kin (DNOK). This would be like domestic partnership, except more inclusive. You could name any number of people as DNOKs–friends as well as lovers. You would have the right to include–or exclude–any of your biological relatives. Your DNOKs would have automatic rights to visit you in the hospital, make medical decisions for you if you were incapacitated, assume custody of your children when you die, and inherit from you in equal shares.

These various social powers need not be exercised or assigned symmetrically. For example, you might want your sister to be able to visit you in the hospital, but not assume custody of your children when you die. You might want your domestic companion make medical decisions on your behalf in the event of your incapacitation, and your friend who likes goats to inherit your house.

Currently and historically, marriage acts as a kind of short cut for many of these decisions. It also offers a few unique benefits, like the spousal privilege protection discussed above. We should separate these legal benefits from the traditional “marriage” structure, and allow them to to be attached to other kinds of legally recognized relationships. I like the term Designated-Next-of-Kin because it speaks to both intent and intimacy. Both parties’ written assent should be required for each “power” granted or assigned, and any of them could be individually terminated at will, by either participant (survival clause, please!) except where there might be dependencies between the powers. For example, you might decide that you are no longer willing to take custody of so-and-so’s children, but still want to be able to visit her in the hospital– you’d simply modify the relationship agreement like you would any contract.

Then, we’d also have to set up separate relationship responsibility structures for minors and disabled people, including some elders. Guardianships, adoptions, wills, power-of-attorney, etc, already provide the frameworks needed for most of these situations.

Other feminists have described marriage’s short-comings as a a result of:

…the law’s focus on the “Husband/Wife dyad” 182 (i.e. the coupled heads of a household) as opposed to the “Mother/Child dyad.”183 [Martha Fineman] proposes abolishing marriage as a legal category in order to raise all intimate relationships—including nonsexual, dependency-oriented relationships—to the same level of legal support and recognition.184

Demoya Gordon, Transgender Legal Advocacy: What Do Feminist Legal Theories Have to Offer?,  97 Calif. L. Rev. 1724 (2009).

So, really, what does SEX have to do with any of this? Nothing at all! Demanding exclusive sexual access to another person is a means of control, not of support. Sexual monogamy doesn’t necessarily benefit either party or society in general. In fact, given the socio-historic tradition of strictly limiting the marital relationship to one male and one female, controlling sexual access amounts to nothing less than state-sanctioned male ownership of female reproduction. Mention of sexual activity should be unconditionally excluded from legally recognized relationships. It is irrelevant. The state has no business telling adults who they can and cannot have sex with, regardless of how many Designated-Next-of-Kin one might be legally involved with.

Marriage has traditionally served as the backbone of patriarchal social organization that enforces compulsory heterosexuality and supports male power. Its historical legacy can be traced directly back to divinely-justified misogyny and male control of reproduction. Women are wise to oppose any political movement or ideology that seeks to celebrate this out-dated institution! We can do better. Using radical feminist analysis, we can identify a few redeeming marital benefits that foster virtues such as trust, mutuality, stability, and support. We must then isolate these elements and transfer them to non-sexual, non-religious, legally recognized relationships that are designed to serve and protect women. Now, that would be radical.

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34 comments
  1. zeph said:

    In fact, given the socio-historic tradition of strictly limiting the marital relationship to one male and one female, controlling sexual access amounts to nothing less than state-sanctioned male ownership of female reproduction. Mention of sexual activity should be unconditionally excluded from legally recognized relationships. It is irrelevant. The state has no business telling adults who they can and cannot have sex with,”

    Thank you for this post, it is breathtakingly brilliant.

    Giving husband right, pre-eminence over sister right and mother right, has caused the death of so many women.

    Historically husbands have had the right to commit their wives to imprisonment in mental asylums (having first gained the wives property through the marriage ceremony) and there has been nothing her own family could do to retrieve her. Even today, if a woman’s blood family disagree with her husband, over her hospital care, the hospital will defer to him. Since more women are raped and murdered by their husbands/live in male partners, than they are by strangers, this is a very bad policy.

  2. SheilaG said:

    The poster alone is priceless UP! Well argued! I’ve always wondered why are radical movement got derailed to support marriage and gays in the military…. talk about conservative and unimaginative to say the least! What I advocate is designated person– so that you can choose legally who can be power of attorney, or health care directive or co-owner of property or health insurance.
    None of this should be dependent in any way on marriage. We should be able to designate social security survivor benefits… hey we are all paying this for straight married couples up the wazooo… when I point this teeny weeny item out, even straight folks ge a guilty look these days.

    Marriage is a property contract… ownership of sex, ownership of names, children etc. That’s all it’s ever been. There should be tax benefits for all people equally, not just because you are married. No one should be able to lose half a partner’s 401 k plan to taxes because they aren’t married. Inheritance should be based on who you CHOOSE to be a beneficiary, and all of it should be taxed equally. Why is “gay” marriage all the rage? One reason may have to do with the fact that gay men have taken over the agenda multiple times. Gay men are into all this stuff. Young lesbians (sorry young ones) but you just seem more conservative.
    And women can really get conned by all the marriage fantasy stuff, since the “marriage planning industry” is salavating over the NY laws.

    When I mention the fact that marriage should not control our health insurance policies, or our beneficiary choices, or our tax status, even straight people are stunned.

    The big “gay” marriage bandwagon was something that perplexed me, because I’ve been with my partner for over 30 years now… and I practice what I preach…. we have no civil partnership, no marriage, and I actually believe that getting married “legally” is going to cause lesbians to go bankrupt in divorce actions. Maybe it’s just my bad luck, but I have no lesbian partner friends who have been together with the same woman they were with even five years ago. I just got bored with the whole partner thing, find it impossible to do friendships on that level… just hate the whole social scene. My partner and I am radically different, and we don’t easily share friends in common… we have very separate lives, and the few close friends we have in common are the exception, rather than the rule.

  3. SheilaG said:

    I think we ought to question this whole rush to marriage that has taken over our movement. We ought to question marriage as an institution that ANY woman would get into. It either is about patriarchal ownership or it isn’t. It either is about the male keeping the woman’s silence about husband’s business dealings or it isn’t. Think of Madoff’s wife, or Weiner’s wife, or any “high powered” penis person who doesn’t want his wife to know what crimes he is committing, or he wants protection from a wife testifying against him in court.

    What marriage might do for lesbians, is it is kind of an easy handle for dumb heteros who can’t imagine how to relate socially to lesbian couples period… this has always been an issue for me. I get tired of it all. Marriage is a huge social failure for straight women in America (HUGE- with Julia’s Robert’s voiceover). Why are we jumping on board the marriage train when all the hets are falling off the cabuse? Maybe it’s just an easy thing…. hey, “I’m married.” Easy. Easy to understand socially, easy to rally the marriage starved troops, easy to raise money… heck, even dumb me wrote one of my biggest checks at a Lambda Legal fundraiser, which I later regretted. Fundraisers have taken over Los Angeles, at the expense of being lesbian community together. It’s sad but true.

    Patriarchy is clever because it co-opts any radical women’s movement. It uses love and marriage to control women’s bodies and minds. So why the hell are we doing this?

  4. SheilaG said:

    You can set up a complete benefits package without marriage. Wills, trusts, life insurance etc. Marriage is not needed to distribute goods upon death.

  5. allecto said:

    Love this post UP! A lesbian feminist friend of mine copped heaps of flack on FB recently for posting a status update letting everyone know that she would not be attending any more weddings because she was politically opposed to the institution of marriage. Many of her straight friends were horrified by her refusal to celebrate their happiness. But marriage is not about happiness. For the majority of women in the world it is the exact opposite. It is an institution of female sexual and domestic slavery and I think my friend is right that we should girlcott weddings in political protest.

  6. SheilaG said:

    Yes, I have been boycotting weddings for decades now. They just are attrocities for women worldwide, and how lesbians got mixed up in the mess is beyond me. It’s as if we are truly idiots to our own political ideals at times.

  7. FCM said:

    thanks UP. i would also add that “2 people do not a support system make” and mirroring the het partnership model in this way does women NO FAVORS, even when they are partnered with other women. you cannot be dependant on one person for your wellbeing, or for the wellbeing of your household or your children, because people die, they get sick, they have wandering eyes etc. and 2 incomes isnt even enough to get by these days. imagine how well we could take care of ourselves, each other and our children if we lived in women-only communities where there were a dozen women who made sure the other 11 (and themselves) were taken care of no matter what? what would happen if one of us got sick, or died, or decided to leave the community or beat one of the other community members up…this would be a completely radicalized living arrangement where women would be RELATIVELY safe and protected from the hideous fallout of failed relationships…even if they were partnered WITH MEN who lived outside the community (or even in it).

    of course, lesbian sexual relationships are PIV-free which makes them WAY less harmful than het relationships, even within the 2-person/nuclear family model. but the 2-person/nuclear family model is demonstrably dangerous and harmful to women and children specifically, and it always has been. we cannot forget this ever.

  8. Hey, FCM, funny you should mention the 2-person partnership!! We’re on the synergy tip again, I think. 😉 So my wife and I had a looong talk last night about monogamy and not being able to get EVERYTHING you need (emotionally) from ONE other person– even if all the financials and shit are taken care of. I think that’s one of the primary manipulations of mono-hetero social organization. It sets women up to feel like failures– especially because males and females are socialized to interact so DIFFERENTLY. I mean, I know there are exceptions, but I seriously can NOT communicate with the menz except in a very limited, concrete fashion. I digress.

    And you’re right: 2 people a support SYSTEM does not make!! I think this is one of the most important things to remember about radfem restructuring. That’s why SEX should have nothing to do with legally enforceable relationships. Ever.

  9. When all my friends were crowing in various online spaces about the NY decision on gay marriage it was all I could do to not say “yay, a victory for gay divorce!!!!” Getting to use the short-cut to certain rights doesn’t solve the bigger issues that we have with creating lasting relationships and truly supportive communities.

    You said it, this is really where it’s at:

    Using radical feminist analysis, we can identify a few redeeming marital benefits that foster virtues such as trust, mutuality, stability, and support. We must then isolate these elements and transfer them to non-sexual, non-religious, legally recognized relationships that are designed to serve and protect women. Now, that would be radical.

    And I love the idea of designated next-of-kin — how much more thoughtful we could be about our choices to support each other if we had this option and the flexibility of choosing each responsibility and person in a careful way? How much more would we seek, create, and nurture our friendships and communities if we had this ability to bond around these responsibilities to each other? I think it would be lovely. Thank you for this wonderful post.

  10. zeph said:

    “2 people a support SYSTEM does not make!! I think this is one of the most important things to remember about radfem restructuring.”

    I was dreaming the other day about women invading and buying, all or most, of the houses in a village. You would have women running the shop, women running the pub, women owning the farms, women starting businesses in the nearby towns. Women running the councils, women policing themselves; productivity and ingenuity would just flow outward from our hands. Low levels of corruption, high levels of community care, we would be rich in the true sense of the word. Trees would grow, wildlife flourish, children would be safe and unmolested. We would still fight sometimes, but life would be so much better than it is today.

  11. Zeph said:

    Even today, if a woman’s blood family disagree with her husband, over her hospital care, the hospital will defer to him. Since more women are raped and murdered by their husbands/live in male partners, than they are by strangers, this is a very bad policy.

    This is an excellent example of how a law that “applies equally” to both sexes becomes skewed in application such that females sustain more harm. Intent and result can be very DIFFERENT. Gender and its attendant norms are responsible for this: male dominance/female subservience. Male violence against women was completely ignored or denied in the design of law, but when we think about public policy, we cannot ignore the context in which laws operate.

    As a side note, I would like to mention that Harvard Law School (for example!) did NOT ADMIT WOMEN until 1953. Most law schools EXCLUDED females from their ranks until around that time. We are working with a deeply patriarchal tradition that has done nothing but RESIST female participation and perspectives.

  12. yttik said:

    Well done, Undercover. For me it feels like here we are with this long struggle for human rights when suddenly the movement takes a hard turn right off the road and down the embankment. Of all the things gays and lesbians have struggled for….. marriage?? Seriously?

    On the more optimistic side, perhaps marriage will be transformed. Many of us are looking at it through this lens of centuries of oppression and misogyny. For example there’s a lesbian couple with five children who are having another. My first response is, you people are nuckin futz! We all know what six kids and marriage looks like. However, they seem to be handling this huge family with a genuine partnership, where the labor, housework, cooking, etc is actually shared. For real. The children are viewed as a job…that ends at 5 o’clock when the other parent comes home from work.

    LOL, some of us here in the het world are gobsmacked to hear a woman say she has to get home to relieve her partner who’s been with the children all day. For many of us, motherhood as a genuine job with the person entitled to some labor protections, like no overtime and real days off, is so foreign of a concept it’s almost comical. In the het world many of us work full time and then go home and put in another six hours, unpaid. And the husband, well he just supervises and demands endless praise if he even remembers to take out the garbage.

  13. FCM said:

    It is sickening how little men do and how much praise they demand for it, and of course they don’t perform any of the MENTAL LABOR at all! Like knowing when and how to do things, and to do them properly. It takes so long and so much effort to do all the remembering and assessing the situation to evaluate what’s needed and then endlessly reminding and explaining, that performing the actual task is really nothing in comparison. Yet all women’s mental labor is ignored and denied, and men’s physically performing the tasks TO THE EXTENT THEY EVEN DO IT is made into such a production its really a joke.

    And this appears to be CONSISTENT in het partnerships, its not just me who notices this. I read about the concept of mental labor many years ago, from one woman who did it all and noticed that her husband did none, and its stuck with me all these years. It’s just completely true.

  14. yttik said:

    Interesting, FCM. I agree, being expected to do all the mental labor is pretty consistent across the board. When you think about it, it’s really a phenomenal amount of work. A simple question like, ” where are my socks” implies that a woman must have a running inventory of everything in the house and where it is located at all times. “What’s for dinner” implies she is required to do all the thinking, planning, and coordination around putting a meal together and we haven’t even got to the cooking part yet. The amount of focus and energy that goes into this unpaid and unrecognized mental labor is pretty staggering.

  15. KatieS said:

    I figured that out long ago, too, about the mental labor part. It figures in to any relationship with a male, not just marriage. The woman does all the work for the relationship even in a friendship. And the man thinks about other things, y’know, like golf, his job and how to get a raise, his buddies and how to impress them, how to turn the platonic friendship into a sexual one, and porn. All the while, the woman is doing the mental work of the relationship/friendship, nurturing, etc. No acknowledgement of the value of this because it is invisible to him.

    I also figured out the mental labor thing about my job. I consciously trained myself to only think about work while I was at work, getting paid. This includes the ways in work is toxic and stressful because of misogyny and what to do about it. How not to take that home? How to keep from not drowning? Try to turn it off at 5 p.m. Get some space for yourself, woman-only space. The misogyny will still be there when you return.

    I think that it is very difficult to change some of the scripts that we get about marriage and family because this is woven into the fabric of patriarchy and heterosexism. Much of it is subtle. Also, about the two lesbians with all the kids: Do they have other adult relationships, not just with one another and with the kids, sort of a variation on what zeph said, “Two people with kids do not a support system make.” Particularly in the misogynist culture and all the ways that culture wears women down.

    @zeph, like you, I want a town, or a whole country that is run by women, all women. Out of this relationships could emerge, ones that make sense. Once women have the space and time to create things that make sense without the constant eroding of our efforts by male entitlement, the vampire-like draining of our creative energy, different things would emerge. I think that women in such a space would need to work out other forms of entitlement, but for some reason it seems to me that would be a whole lot easier without the constant barrage of hatred and threats to our existence of the patriarchy.

  16. SheilaG said:

    KatieS– yeah women doing all the mental labor too. I see this all the time in het women bubbling and fun, while husbands say literally nothing… they do no work to promote friendship or even be interesting. Come to think of it, I have never been to a party where men planned it all, cooked it all, cleaned it all up…. well het men anyway. Gay men entertain all the time. So clearly straight men of a certain social class still do nothing… the women are in charge of creating the “social” the men never think of it at all. In fact, if it doesn’t involve SSM — sex, sales or money, they stay silent and uncharming as ever.

    I have actually gone into our common room at work, and said hello and men will hardly acknowledge it at all. They sit in silence, and it’s very weird, but men are weird, they are morally dead, and I don’t believe they are actually human at all… women are fully human, men are something else… a throw back to a souless lot of millions of years ago. They look modern, but don’t have the capacity to do SOCIAL stuff.

  17. SheilaG said:

    The mystery to me is how straight women married to these idiots don’t notice this…. it must be the money, surely it can’t be the sex 😦

  18. ybawife said:

    ‘Mental Labour’ that’s a womons domain all right! I think it was Dworkin who suggested we need to buy an Island just for womon…..its an idea I have had all my life…..like a room of ones own…..one needs a Country for womon….

  19. Linda Radfem said:

    In male-dominated spheres that mental labour is called “project management” and it pays pretty well.
    You are so right, Sheila, regarding men lacking the capacity to do “social”, most men are socially-retarded blobs without a clue about why they even exist, just some vague understanding that they are somehow very important.

    My understanding of the gay marriage campaign is that it was indeed driven by conservative gay men, perhaps to do with the rise of neoliberalism, those men wanted what they saw other men having, and so they demanded it too. But it is not progress, it is a step sideways at best. It is based on principles of assimilation rather than acceptance of diversity, and as it is so well-supported by straights, I suspect it of being used by straights in order to feel at ease with us and view us through a hetcentric lens. Erasure is what really want.

  20. Linda Radfem said:

    Sorry, what THEY really want.

  21. FCM said:

    Well, public policy also dictates that people not be on “welfare” if this can be avoided…life-partnered people of a certain affluence can avoid this outcome through the legal benefits of marriage. Even conservatives could get behind that couldn’t they?

  22. FCM said:

    Aka, its harm reduction only. It’s not radical, and its not intended to be.

  23. KatieS said:

    “But it is not progress, it is a step sideways at best. It is based on principles of assimilation rather than acceptance of diversity, and as it is so well-supported by straights, I suspect it of being used by straights in order to feel at ease with us and view us through a hetcentric lens. Erasure is what they really want.”

    Recently I was in a social setting with some het liberal women, married or about to be, and a married lesbian couple. They were talking about their children or soon to be step-children. Now, I have no objection to people talking about their children if there is something meaningful to say. But this was just chit-chat to have something to say and it felt to me like it was all about “performing heterosexuality” in the same way that trans people “perform gender.” It was like “Now we are all the same, you know, ‘normal’.” Now, these are women I like, but in doing this, they are erasing themselves. It is about erasure of lesbians, which is the worst harm, but also about it is about erasing the het women, since performing heterosexuality is damaging to het women in the same way performing feminity is. One huge part of the damage is that it keeps women from loving one another and having relationships that mean something, including the end of our oppression as women. In thinking about this, I realize that I want to find a way to reach to deeper levels in these relationships.

  24. Feminist at Sea said:

    I love this post. It echos exactly my feelings about marriage. Many US wedding traditions make their way toward Europe now too, such as giving the bride away and making only the woman wear an engagement ring.

    I really want a DNOK system in my country (The Netherlands) as well. I would totally use it. Can’t we campaign for that instead?

  25. KatieS said:

    It takes a great deal of courage for het women to really love other women, to be devoted to other women in the way that they are trained to be devoted to men. I’m not talking about a couple relationship here, but the kind of devotion and love that they would show to their brothers, fathers, sons. And I’m talking about relationships where they don’t resort to “performing heterosexuality/heterosexism” when they begin to feel things for other women, when they let down those barriers. I believe that there is a tremendous amount of fear for het women in focusing all their attention on women, making women the center of their universe and being willing to be open about it. This began to happen during the second wave, but it got derailed by an even stupider hippie-then-fun-fem kind of sexuality that surpassed the compulsory duty sexuality that women before that knew.

    Loving other women is emotionally satisfying in a way that loving our oppressors (men) never can be. I’ve been moved by the writing of some lesbians about this, including some beautiful writing about it by SheilaG on some other threads. I don’t think it’s a bed of roses by any means, but it is workable and it is emotionally satisfying. When that happens, why in the world would women, including het women, want to have PIV sex? That’s the elephant in the room. The patriarchy will try to stop us from seeing this at all costs.

  26. Yes, same-sex marriage is HARM REDUCTION only, not a radical solution. DNOK is a more radical solution, but political strategy that demands purity of solution is the functional equivalent of surrender. We have 2 choices: support harm reduction or accept defeat.

    I was reading this article yesterday on alternet:

    …conservative lawyer Ted Olsen explained his reasons for serving as a lawyer to challenge the Prop 8 decision in California in a Newsweek op-ed:

    “Same-sex unions promote the values conservatives prize. Marriage is one of the basic building blocks of our neighborhoods and our nation…We encourage couples to marry because the commitments they make to one another provide benefits not only to themselves but also to their families and communities. Marriage requires thinking beyond one’s own needs. It transforms two individuals into a union based on shared aspirations, and in doing so establishes a formal investment in the well-being of society. The fact that individuals who happen to be gay want to share in this vital social institution is evidence that conservative ideals enjoy widespread acceptance.”

    SCARY. And so TRUE. Everyone *is* more comfortable when we conform to these pre-existing frameworks of relationship order. In my opinion, marriage’s focus on SEX and sexual activity is the primary means by which it has been used as a tool to oppress women and enforce heterosexuality. I am quite pleased, however, with the hard-won changes to the institution (refer to poster above) and I don’t believe in eliminating all formalization of relationship “powers.”

  27. @Sheila G! I don’t think it’s the money OR the sex. 😀 Plenty of men can’t offer either! I think it’s the incredible power of social conditioning and need for approval that drives women to marry men.

  28. Thanks, FAS. It would’ve been ideal for gay men to campaign for DNOK in the first place, but they prefer assimilation to restructuring for obvious reasons.

  29. FCM said:

    The accusations of gold-digging and the woman-hatred it evinces/inspires are sickening aren’t they? Especially since so many men are losers and have nothing to offer women anyway, AND no matter how much or little the men earn they ALWAYS demand piv, and usually demand unpaid domestic labor and childbearing and childcare. They are slaveowners and piv-diggers, and they have the unmitigated gall to criticize women for taking advantage of THEM. Talk about a reversal.

  30. KatieS said:

    FCM, back before abortion was legal,if a woman got pregnant, particularly if the man was better off financially than she was, the gossip would always be that she did it on purpose and was a gold digger, like she had somehow entrapped him. This type of scenario was in many stories and novels. A big reversal since quite often the arrogant and entitled man would be “forcing himself” on women who were from a less powerful class, “sowing his wild oats.” Of course, there were not paternity tests then, so hard to prove. Lots of reversals in this scenario. For one thing, HE caused the pregnancy, not her. For another, the woman gets the raw deal you mention, unpaid labor, childbearing, childcare etc. She is the trapped one.

  31. sea said:

    “They are slaveowners and piv-diggers, and they have the unmitigated gall to criticize women for taking advantage of THEM.” Oh FCM, this actually made me laugh out loud. PIV diggers – hilarious! Let’s make THIS part of the common vernacular! 😀

  32. FCM said:

    yes lets. 🙂

  33. sonia said:

    well, I can’t really say shit to this anymore!! You know full well what i would have said three years ago when I left my ex and started El Parador.

    Eventually I decided that loving a man anyway was the biggest fuck you I could say to patriarchy. I know there’s no way to explain that good enough. It was more of a spiritual thing.. I knew forever that I wanted to be with a man, and could never make it work. I found someone who is actually a human with a penis, and it’s so fucking rare and incredible I’m gonna marry him. I’m extremely excited.

    I don’t know why I felt the need to personally comment on your post, honey. I guess cuz I’ve been reading and commenting less on radfem sites because my spirituality kicked the ass of my politics and I feel a little sad that i’m not that angry anymore. I know there are a lot of assholes out there, and I still stick up for women. I got out of my car the other day and shouted some asshole who was shoving his girlfriend on the street all the way down the block back towards his house-first he started towards me and then he saw the “I will neuter your ass right here with the nail file in my purse” look in my eyes. I think he peed his pants a little bit.

    I still really love you gals, even the ones that piss me off. I’ll probably come back and comment. I just wanted to report from the front lines and shit, that I did find one good one. He’s not perfect but he has a soul.

    Keep kicking ass, UP. I love you.

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