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Feminism, The Queer Movement and Marriage

July 18th, 2007     by Stacey May Fowles     Comments

Please excuse me for making the personal a blog post, but lately I’ve been intrigued by Feminist and Queer responses to marriage. Specifically to the wedding-industrial complex. My previous post regarding Julie Goldman’s hilarious video Commitment Ceremony was of course meant to amuse, but it does bring up an interesting point of debate. Should feminists and the queer community support and participate in marriage? Mattilda, aka Matt Bernstein Sycamore, one of my personal heroes (and for fair disclosure editor of the anthology I was in, Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity) says no and says it well:

“Mattilda, aka Matt Bernstein Sycamore, editor of That’s Revolting!: Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation find it “ironic that the central sign of straight conformity is seen as the pre-eminent goal of the gay rights movement.” For radicals like Mattilda, marriage is a signifier of class privilege, a way of dividing a particular version of gay identity from the larger queer community.”  (Clamor Magazine, May/June 2005)

In an interview with another hero, writer and activist Helen Boyd (who herself is married to her trangender “husband Betty”) Mattilda had this to say:

HB: Queer people occasionally love that Betty and I are legally married, and identify as queer, but I get the feeling your thoughts on that might be different. Tell me about marriage and gay marriage.

MBS: “Oh, no — marriage! Well, as we know from decades of feminist activism and scholarship, and from growing up in scary families of origin, marriage is still that central institution through which violence against women, queers, transpeople and children takes place. I don’t think we can reform marriage any more than we can reform other scary institutions of power (like the military, for example) — we’ve got to get rid of it!

Marriage is a big ol’ mess of an argument in the feminist and queer community: if marriage is now an equitable partnership, why shouldn’t we participate and fight for it and our rights to it? Is marriage even an equitable partnership? Why fight for something based in patriarchy? Now that weddings are entrenched in capitalism, isn’t it our responsibility to reject them? If marriage is about “purity” and “property exchange” why would we even want to be part of that?  (There’s also an interesting post on RaceWire today about how “capitalism intersect(s) with wedding rituals in cultures other than mainstream white culture.”)

Now here’s my confession: I want to get married. I want a big girlie wedding and I feel the guilt and discomfort over this every day. In fact I want to get married to my current partner, who, for all of the reasons listed above does not. He believes that marriage is a sexist affront to feminist and queer values and that it is completely unnecessary (if not offensive,) having no bearing on the value or quality of our relationship, or any relationship for that matter.

So my question to you is whether or not marriage and feminism, or marriage and queer politics, are in direct opposition? What are your feelings on marriage and will you participate in the Wedding-Industrial Complex? 

I leave you with Anna’s recommendation: A live performance of the Hidden Camera’s “Ban Marriage.”

Tags: activist report

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