Monday, November 14, 2011

Quote: Beyond Marriage Equality

The recent efforts to promote lesbian and gay marriage also promote a norm that threatens to render illegitimate and abject those sexual arrangements that do not comply with the marriage norm in either its existing or revised form. At the same time, the homophobic objections to lesbian and gay marriage expand out through the culture to affect all queer lives. One critical question thus becomes, how does one oppose the homophobia without embracing the marriage norm as the exclusive or most highly valued social arrangement for queer sexual lives? Similarly, efforts to establish bonds of kinship that are not based on a marriage tie become nearly illegible and unviable when marriage sets the terms for kinship, and kinship itself is collapsed into 'family.' The enduring social ties that constitute viable kinship in communities of sexual minorities are threatened with becoming unrecognizeable and unviable as long as the marriage bond is the exclusive way in which both sexuality and kinship are organized. A critical relation to this norm involves disarticulating those rights and obligations currently attendant upon marriage so that marriage might remain a symbolic exercise for those who choose to engage in it, but the rights and obligations of kinship may take any number of other forms. What reorganization of sexual norms would be necessary for those who live sexually and affectively outside the marriage bond or in kin relations to the side of marriage either to be legally and culturally recognized for the endurance and importance of their intimate ties or, equally important, to be free of the need for recognition of this kind?

-- Judith Butler (Undoing Gender, p. 5)

[Sorry, by the way, that my last few posts have been's what I can do that fits with the other demands on me at the moment, some of which involve reading the things that I'm quoting from. Hopefully at least a few of you have found them interesting and/or useful!]


Dr.Dawg said...

What a breath of fresh air Judith Butler can be.

I'll support SSM simply because of the resistance to it from the homophobic Right. But marriage is a feudal institution, and I feel the same sense of discomfort supporting it as when the GLBT community fights for front-line roles in the military, and women demand the right to be priests.

I mean, sure, in the abstract, but to fight for oppressive forms and roles is not where I'd personally put my progressive energy.

Red Jenny said...

Interesting. At the moment, there are legal rights that go along with being married. Of course we could try to change those rights, or make the institution of marriage increasingly inclusive, or both.

Scott said...

Dr. Dawg: Yes, I agree! And the thing I like about this quote from Butler is that it shows some nuance...occasionally, things I've seen from radical queer folk, particularly in the U.S., have raised some important critiques of marriage equality as a primary movement goal but have done so in ways that come across as not just critical of ways in which people's relationship and sexual practices are regulated but also critical of individual people's choices in ways that I don't think are helpful. It's nice that she avoids that.

Jenny: Yep, those seem to be the options. I think what Butler is arguing for is detaching rights (and therefore also state regulation) from marriage and reconfiguring them in ways that are much more conducive to the many ways the romance, sexuality, and kinship can be configured in all of our lives, including forms that resemble what is currently normative.

Ms.Marx said...

Great quote, Scott! I had a lot of trouble finding time to blog when I was doing coursework as well.

I have had difficulties with these concepts in my own theorizing because I am opposed to marriage (not strongly, just that it is based on an archaic tradition that transfers property - the woman - from father to husband). But I support same sex marriage because if straight people can do it, everyone should. So my thoughts often become tangled in this debate, especially when my kids start asking me questions about whether I am going to get married someday. Butler is very eloquent when it comes to wording and theorizing around such nuanced ideas.