Essay

Gay Marriage; a few more notes

III

The primitive ways we have understood marriage over the centuries has affected how we think of it today; how could it not. The way we have thought about many things over the last millennium that persist in our discourse affects how we think about them today. Just what the implications were for women in marriage when framed by the language of the past has left its imprint on how segments of our society define marriage today, and even residually refer to women in that institution. It certainly affects how we argue against gay marriage, and it has even left its mark on how supporters of gay mariage confound their own defense. We actually hear gay men using the term husband and lesbians using the term, wife. This just might have to change after reading this.

Words never lose their original potency, and the effects of language use are not restricted by contemporary connotations of words. More on the etymologies of the words used in the marriage ceremony, or how people talk of marriage, refer to the persons in a marriage, upcoming; but allow me to reiterate that the current absence of any astute, rational and intelligent re-imagining of marriage and the language of the ceremony and the contract, how it is still affected by an archaic world view that was useful to reinforce patriarchy and the continued repression of women, has impeded social progress toward how Gay Marriage could be accepted and thereby permitted; that is, without any attempts through courts or legislation to impede this acceptance.

Gay Marriage is inevitably bound up with Women’s Rights issues, as I have already said. Thus it is bound up with Human Rights issues as well, thus it is part of any discussion concerning the right to choose, which is the rights of self-determination, which is also the unalienable human right of sole proprietorship over body, which extends to a woman’s right to choose an abortion, as it also does to a gay man when he chooses who he loves or even just fucks; all this true for lesbians in their choices.

Perhaps Gay Marriage does not make sense to many people because they still imagine, by some collective unconscious framing, that marriage is primarily man shackling woman; that is, marriage remains a social contract between men and women whereby women give up certain rights over their bodies for the privilege (understand this in its traditional meaning) of “being taken care of” materially and monetarily, which is why both the Romantics and the Modernists later equated marriage with a form of prostitution. (Privileges are offered in place of rights that are not respected by law or are violated by custom..)

Regardless of how much this thinking has changed, regardless of how we have modified or qualified our roles in marriage, much of the traditional views and expectations remain residual, and this is not a nod in the direction of maintaining an etymological fallacy, but how the customs of language do not and often cannot erase the history of words and their cumulative semantic values. Of course we have evidence to the contrary in our contemporaneity for this view that marriage is bound in an archaic way of seeing men and women and their roles determined by gender, which is just the point I am making. We have already been in the process of revising our thoughts on marriage, tailoring our actions accordingly; however, we still remain confused when asked to define and articulate what we mean by the institution of marriage, and this has left us unprepared to deal with the issue of Gay Marriage. But then most of what we need to say, need to articulate, define, in the matter and manner of our freedom escapes too many of us, and I am talking about the educated who should be able to do so, at least those who need to support the idea that we should do so.

The lack of any articulate examination of the history of marriage may run parallel with our continued absence of a healthy historical consciousness concerning everything that happens in our lives, but the way marriage has been maintained over time—that is, culturally, interpersonally, customarily and legally— has forestalled how Gay Marriage could be–should be–included in our definition of marriage today, one apart from contractual agreements on the part of woman to be a breeder. This absent consciousness of our traditions and our language has prevented us from seeing how Gay Marriage as a variegation of the accepted norm could even liberate marriage as a social institution for everyone, particularly in how the role of women could be altered from the one framed by the narrow parameters of traditional marriage, itself informed by agrarian animal husbandry. Marriage is bound to change more positively for women with an acceptance of Gay Marriage as marriage, simply and forthrightly.

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