Monday, February 20, 2006

marriage.

i stole this from Kameron, because it made me laugh. i hope she doesn't mind.

i was trying to think about how to start breaking the issue of marriage, and my own feelings and confusions about it, into something managable. it's difficult. but i think a good place to start is to point out that in my own life, i see the decision of whether or not to get married as actually two separate decisions: whether to get married in the eyes of the state, and/or whether to get married in the eyes of my community.

obviously, most people just kill two birds with one stone and do both - they sign a marriage license and have a wedding ceremony. some people have specifically religious ceremonies, others secular communal ceremonies. on the other hand, some people are fine with just killing one bird, so they forgoe the ceremony all together and spend 30 minutes at city hall. on the third hand, some people don't bother with the legal paperwork but have a ceremony of some type where they make wedding vows (for gay couples in any state other than massachusetts, this is unfortunately their only option).

so, i guess when i think about it, it's three options (oh great! like i needed more than two): marry legally, marry communally, or marry legally AND communally. funnily enough, i have problems with all three of these ideas.

i won't subject you to all of my problems in this post. but i will touch on the first option, marrying legally. most would argue that the point of marrying legally is not so that you can bask in the warm glow of governmental approval, but in order to access all the legal benefits of marriage: tax breaks, property rights, visitation rights, etc etc etc. seems like a no brainer, right? but it bothers me that the state is pretty much offering me incentives to marry. it's like when i offer my cat a treat as an incentive to not scratch the furniture. (or just to get her close enough so i can grab her and toss her in the cat carrier. i'm so cruel.) i sit here and think, you're not the boss of me! i didn't just fall off the turnip truck here, i see what's going on!

well ok, i don't really think those things. but they're fun to say.

here's the thing: i think that a lot of the benefits accorded to married people, both immediate and tangential, should be accorded to everyone regardless of marital status. i should be able to go through a process of establishing visitation rights with BoyCat without having to be married. and don't get me started on health insurance. the fact that BoyCat and i would have to be married in order to be covered under each other's health insurance sucks major ass. ever hear of partner benefits? it's the new wave, corporate america, let's catch it!

i know, i know, someone is going to throw out the "but you can't just let anybody claim partner benefits on anyone else! roommates shouldn't be able to be covered under each others insurance! blah yada blah!" this strikes me as the "but people shouldn't be allowed to marry their dogs!!" insanity about legalizing gay marriage. it is possible to control for this sort of thing in the way laws are constructed and enforced. if we wanted to be a society that was open and accepting to partnerships that don't fit within the traditional bounds of marriage, we could do it. we just don't want to.

so, what's a radical feminist girl to do? turn her back on all those marriage benefits because she sees that the system which bestows them is corrupt? then she pays the price of a lifelong relationship without legal protections and levels of uncertainty no one should have to deal with. does she capitulate, taking advantage of a system that her gay friends aren't even allowed to access and in which she doesn't necessarily believe, in order to save her own skin? then she pays the price of a conscience that feels let down and a nagging feeling that giving in certainly isn't the way to advocate for change.

what's a girl to do?

12 comments:

Jared Goralnick said...

Politics aside, is there also a psychological component to an official marriage? I'd say there is something about taking a relationship to that level, but clearly I don't know much about this. No really, I don't.

So you've already gone ahead and pointed out the advantages to marriage. You've also stated in other posts that you're in it for the long haul with BoyCat. Now it just sounds like out of principle you wonder whether it's right to further endorse this state-imposed societal expectation?

If it's just an issue of principle then there's not an easy answer. Well, the easy answer is to marry the boy. But you are radical feminist girl after all...

Poor BoyCat. Yes, poor BoyCat with his expensive medical insurance...

BigBuddhaPuppy said...

"What's a girl to do?"...

The same as a boy...complain...accept it...or change it...

Our gov't has had these tax incentives set up for quite some time...also tax incentives in having children...which the arguement could be made that we don't need any more children in this world...it is social construction via money...

I agree with the idea that all people are entitled to the same rights...I think social engineering through our tax system should come to an end...no tax breaks, a graduated flat tax system, no loopholes, I know that is dreaming, because we are an oligarchy and they love their tax breaks...

Before I go off on a tangent, the idea of insurance, the time is coming that it will be offered to "companions", "friends", "groups", when it can be justified to the insurance companies that there is a market for it and there is money to be made...

Eventually insurance will be moot idea, because the medical burden will be in our gov'ts hands...depending on whose numbers you take, the gov't all ready pays 50 to 60 percent of total US healthcare costs...we are getting older as a nation, we are living longer...socialized medicine is around the corner, whether our gov't wants it or not...

Anonymous said...

Fuck it all!! Part of rad fem is changing things from the ground up. Marriage doesn't have to mean anything that you don't want it to mean. You can get married legally or socially or whatever for the fringe benefits, but it doesn't have to mean that you're playing into the hands of the evil empire. If you want to get married, go right ahead. The act of getting married and the state of being married can mean anything you damn well please.

barb said...

I'm sorta against marriage for me personally. I mean, you're right everyone should get those benefits but I'd go even further and argue that if I want my roommate to have visiting rights or even be on my health insurance plan, what business is that of anybody's? Each person gets one beneficiary. Period. Doesn't matter who it is, whether they're married or not, we each get one. How's that not fair?

barb said...

Also I'm wanna be in solidarity with those people who can't marry!

barb said...

Kate, could you fix that typo for me? I *hate* typos!

kate.d. said...

i can try, but i'm not sure if blogger allows editing comments :( you can always delete it yourself (there should be a little trashcan you see at the bottom of your blogger comments), and repost, though.

Cinnamon said...

I agree whole-heartedly with you on this. And I'm beyond thrilled to read this right now since my partner and I are talking about this topic quite a lot lately. We've been together for 10 years and I have a lot of large issues with the institution of marriage and who is excluded and why in the hell are there so many financial benefits to being married, cause shouldn't finding that special someone be enough of a benefit on it's own?

So far the biggest argument for getting married that has come out of his mouth is "I want to marry you. And it hurts my feelings that you're not able to look past political ideals to marry me." It's come very close to making me agree because I don't want to hurt him. But do I tell him "The only reason I'm doing this is so I don't hurt you"? Not exactly the romantic sentiment he desires.

Not looking for answers, by the way, just commiserating.

Paul Wright said...

In England, most of the benefits of marriage in tax, insurance etc. Also, for centuries there has been the idea of common-law marriage: if you live with someone for a certain amount of time, that is recognized by the law in some ways. Do they have that in America?

As for the emotional side of it, read the discussion of romance and brain chemistry back on Barb's blog. Sentiment is fleeting; commitment has to transcend it. People don't really "get married", they begin a marriage.

I agree with anon: you and BoyCat have to decide what your partnership means. Every couple has to go through a power struggle. You sound enlightened enough to work it out.

kate.d. said...

paul, yeah, that "chemistry" (both brain, and romantic) discussion was really interesting. i still haven't worked out what i think about it all, but i certainly have more reading on the subject to do before i can claim an informed opinion.

BigBuddhaPuppy said...

Paul...some states still recognize "common law marriage"..

Sara E Anderson said...

I don't really understand what the difference between a government-sanctioned "partnership" and a marriage is, in the eyes of the law. If you want the law to allow you visitation rights and to recieve benefits through your partner's employer, why not get married? (There is the problem of when you can't, if you happen to be partnered with someone of the same sex. That can be solved by allowing any two people to get married, which I wholeheartedly support.) With the employer-based insurance model, I can see why an employer would want some sort of indication of permanence on the part of your union before it lays down the cash to pay for your health care. Why do you want to call it "partnership" and not marriage?

And, I recently discussed the way that the law being involved in marriage can create equity in a relationship where one party may try to screw the other, if you're interested (and I also put in a good word for commmon law marriage, too).

I'm married myself, and think that it's not that we need to jettison marriage, but that we need to expand it so that anyone can participate. We need to make healthcare universal. But I really like the public recognition of my committed relationship, and am not going to allow marriage's sexist baggage to sully the good marriage I (and many others) have.