December 12, 2012

Being Institutionalized

Sir Tony Baldry is reported as saying, "For the Church of England, the uniqueness of marriage is that it embodies the distinctiveness of men and women, so removing that complementarity from the definition of marriage is to lose any social institution where sexual difference is explicitly acknowledged."

To imply that sexual difference is essential to marriage is just a circular argument for "only mixed-sex couples can marry." To say that removing sexual difference from marriage means we have to remove it from all other social institutions is to the point, though. I mean, haven't we? Shouldn't we? Is it just that marriage is the last bastion of the social shrine of sexual difference? To what end?

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG
h/t Thinking Anglicans


IT said...

But the fact is, we've already "De-genderized" marriage, as Stephanie Coontz argues in this column.

In the US, women were not allowed to vote until 1920. Contraception was outlawed in many states, and it wasn't until 1965 that the Supreme Court found that there was a right to contraception. It was legal for a man to rape his wife, because she belonged to him and owed him sex. Of course, this is all tangled up with property and power too, because of inheritance.

But as we've changed those explicitly gendered roles in marriage, and as we've decoupled it from procreation (by allowing the elderly and infertile to marry, and the willingly childless as well), the arguments against same sex marriage can't hold up.

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

Well observed, IT. It is this "decoupling" (if I can use the term!) that I think terrifies those who at the depths of their being think that sex (gender) needs significance. It isn't enough just to let people be who they are -- they must be, and be seen to be, enacting some kind of myth. Few would dare, today, to apply this same logic to any other reality of human life (such as race) and indeed the "protectors" of sex (gender) as an inviolate category are quick to reject any such comparison.

I'm still working on finishing up a piece on one source of this problem: reading the "male and female" of Genesis as categories or adjectives, when in fact they are nouns (better translated as "a male and a female") and the source of Jesus' teaching on monogamy (not complementarity!) as echoed in other documents contemproary with him (Zadokite fragment, Damascus Document). Not that scholarship will have much impact on such a deep cultural misunderstanding...

Tobias Stanislas Haller said...

ps re Coontz: I would argue that the notions of "companionate" marriage go back much further than 2 centuries, though I agree that was not the dominant model. Genesis 2, however, as opposed to Genesis 1, is clearly about companionship rather than progeny -- and no progeny arise till after the Fall.