Saturday, November 15, 2008

After Reading Way Too Many Political Blogs

...which I am too lazy and short on time to link to here and now, though I might do so later:

The more I think about it, the more I think that same-sex marriage has more in common with the U.S. women's suffrage movement than with the Black Civil Rights movement.

Like women's suffrage, it seeks to remedy not a whole set of discriminatory laws and conditions, but one very specific law that, though it affects an entire class of people, doesn't affect everyone in that class equally. There are many queers who have absolutely no interest in getting married, and don't need to. Same-sex marriage won't help them at all, and might in fact make things harder for them in some ways by covering them with the blanket imperative to marry that has been standard for so long in the heterosexual world (hey, I read "Cathy"!). And the right to vote was in no way a panacaea for sexism, and didn't do much immediate good for the women who were mainly worried about, say, poverty, or an abusive spouse, or lack of decent legal birth control options.

Like women's suffrage, same-sex marriage is an issue that can be--and was, and is--hijacked for racist purposes (one argument for women's suffrage was that giving the vote to the flower of lily-white womanhood was going to cancel out the dangerous and scary votes of newly-enfranchised black men). Like women's suffrage, it's a progressive cause that can benefit or make more viable other decidedly non-progressive (Prohibition, anyone? Or, how about health care benefits that are tied to employment and/or marriage to someone with benefits?) causes.

Like women's suffrage, it can be easily attacked from the left, for being too bourgeois and having leaders who appear to be coming from relative privilege (remember the "Sister Suffragette" scene in Mary Poppins?), and, at the same time, attacked from the right for being too radical and subverting the way God wants things to be and the way things have always been. Like women's suffrage, it is occasioning dire predictions about how society as we know it will never be the same if it succeeds and will, in fact, go to hell in a handbasket.

And like women's suffrage, despite all the messiness, despite all of the imperfections encompassed within the proposed changes, despite its incompleteness and its inadequacies to address so many other injustices, it is the right thing to do.

It's not the only fight or maybe even the most important fight in the greater scheme of things. But it is the fight that is in front of American queers and their/our allies right now.

It won't do everything. It won't solve racism, institutionally or in the individual attitudes of way too many people, queer and straight. It won't do away with poverty and the evils of rampant capitalism. It won't even elimininate homophobia, for that matter.

That just means that after same-sex marriage is enshrined in law all over the United States, there will still be much, much more work to do.

And now I have to go finish cleaning the kitchen floor; the cat just snuck behind the stove again, got his claw caught on a metal edge, and peed all over the floor and himself in his panic.

And legally married or not, it is no fun to cook on a stove that smells like cat pee.


Blogger Susan O said...

of course, given the circumstances, who can blame the cat?

an interesting argument....will have to mull

1:14 PM  
Blogger susan said...

A mighty fine argument from someone who claims to be tired and lazy! Am off to ponder it a bit more myself. (I think the civil rights era is a poor comparison in many ways, and you're making me realize that I've forgotten a lot of what I knew about the history of suffrage. But I bet Politica can catch me up!)

7:31 PM  
Blogger liz said...

I like this analogy very very much.

It's a good one.

10:03 AM  

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