Wednesday, 22 October 2014

The One You've Been Waiting for: Rant against Marriage (aka "How to Piss Off Most of Your Friends")

Many of you, my dear friends, are married. 
I am not. 
People in Namibia were hardly subtle about their view on this state of affairs.  A common comment from colleagues at the LAC, for example: “You’re not married”, looking at my hand and the glaring absence of the tell-tale ring.  “You must get married.  Soon.”
Now you’re thinking “sure, but Namibia is a banana republic, this is not how we civilized people think”. WRONG.  Here is, just as a taster,* the Supreme Court of Canada:
[The] ultimate raison d’être [of marriage] is firmly anchored in the biological and social realities that heterosexual couples have the unique ability to procreate, that most children are the product of these relationships, and that they are generally cared for and nurtured by those who live in that relationship.  In this sense, marriage is by nature heterosexual.  It would be possible to legally define marriage to include homosexual couples, but this would not change the biological and social realities that underlie the traditional marriage.”**
Ah, the good old “traditional marriage”.  What the HELL is that?  The “traditional marriage” is about ownership of land and movable property, such as women.  Marriage was the social construct that permitted men to police the sexual conduct of women and in this way try to ensure that the son who would inherit the land was in fact the product of their loins.  

And WHEN did this lovely “traditional marriage” exist? Well, it was prescribed in the Marriage Act of Switzerland UNTIL 1988 that wives had a legal obligation to obey their husbands.***  Nice. 
So the marriage that most of you have entered into, and which is based legally nowadays on the equality of spouses but apparently still tied to popping babies (or at least the theoretical possibility of doing so), and therefore not available to homosexuals, is a fleeting concoction of a few decades.  Before then marriage was something quite different.  Some of this “traditional” stuff still remains.  How many of you ladies were “given away” by your fathers as part of the ceremony?  The symbolism of THAT particular gesture is hardly subtle.
When I make these points in discussion, everyone (married) gets defensive and tells me that all this is nonsense and meaningless to THEIR very special relationship, which they are entitled to define for themselves.  Sure, everyone is indeed entitled to define their relationship as they wish.  But they are not entitled to define their “marriage” as they wish.  You see, the society has made a huge deal of ensuring that homosexuals CANNOT define their very special relationship as a marriage.  So once a (hetero) couple has decided that “marriage” is the relationship they wish to have, they are plunging into a structure that is predefined by law and society.  “[T]he words ‘I do’ bring the most intense private and voluntary commitment into the most public, law-governed and state-regulated domain.”****
Until the institution of marriage changes, becomes truly equal and keeps its nose out of my procreative designs, the society can keep its stinking marriage.  I indeed define my own relationship (well, F has a bit of a say as well…), and “marriage” is a definition I want to steer well clear of.*****
Now PLEASE tell me you were provoked enough to leave some comments.  Rebel! Protest! Tell me that my views suck and you never want to hear them again!
*You REALLY don’t want to get me started on the comments that were made during the debates in the Finnish Parliament when the Marriage Equality Bill was being debated.  It is remarkable how unashamedly regressive supposedly modern people can get when they oppose the human rights of others, but just don’t want to say that this is what they are doing.
**Egan v. Canada, [1995] 2 S.C.R. 513, p. 536 (La Forest, J.).
***A good short introduction to the development of the law on marriage in Switzerland is provided in Baddeley “Le droit de la famille, un droit en constante evolution”, in Chappuis,Foëx and Thévenoz, Le législateur et le droit privé : Colloque en l'honneur du professeur Gilles Petitpierre. (Genève, Schulthess, 2006) pp. 39-56.  Amusing in a painful way.
****Minister of Home Affairs and Another v Fourie and Another (CCT 60/04) [2005] ZACC 19; 2006 (3) BCLR 355 (CC); 2006 (1) SA 524 (CC) (1 December 2005) (Sachs J).
*****Cue in smugness from friends from countries such as Canada (which changed its mind quite quickly after the Egan decision quoted above), France and the UK, where an equal marriage is of course already the reality.  I hereby raise an imaginary toast to C in Canada and T in England on their recent engagements to enter into an equal marriage!

Monday, 13 October 2014

Rant in Defence of Nasty People

For them marriage outside one’s own caste is punishable by death, and too much contact with non-believers is in general polluting, and to be discouraged.  Only men can become chiefs and once they do, they may take several wives.  They believe they are descended only from Adam, not Eve, with her undesirable feminine ways.
If I had been the head of marketing at the murderous terrorist organisation ISIS (an interesting thought experiment…), the above would have featured quite heavily in my recent propaganda.
You see, this is from the Wikipedia description of the Yadizis, the people that ISIS has been genociding in Northern Iraq in recent months and for whom we have all been feeling very sorry as a result.*  Would we have been feeling quite so sorry for them, if we had known that they are not necessarily the nicest people on earth themselves, but have some practices and beliefs that we feminists actually find quite objectionable?
I really hope the answer for everyone is “yes”. 
As I mentioned in my post about LGBT rights some weeks ago, human rights are for everyone, not just nice people.  This is why I don’t get the reaction of the islamophobic trolls that fill the comments sections of any news involving Muslims, for example.  They think that if only they educated me about the fact that women are discriminated against by their menfolk in the Gaza strip, I would – as a feminist – accept the Israeli bombing of them.  How silly.  I’m well aware of some problematic aspects of Islam, and I’m happy to have a conversation about anyone on the Gaza strip about them, but PLEASE STOP BOMBING THEM FIRST.  I am also happy to have this conversation with any Muslim in Finland or Switzerland, but PLEASE STOP DISCRIMINATING AGAINST THEM FIRST. 
In short, someone not being herself or himself an angel is no reason not to grant her or him the same rights as everyone else.  And I should not have to pretend that they are an angel in order to convince everyone that their rights merit protection.
This hit me quite hard last week, when I received some torture campaign material from Amnesty.  Torture is wrong; I hope all of us agree.  So why do they have to only include nice people among their list of examples of torture victims?  One is described as a father and a husband, another as a prisoner of consciousness.  Who cares?  They should not be tortured whether they are saints or terrorists.
As the well-known saying goes: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”**  That should hold true for every right, and for every person.***
*Although not doing much else than feeling sorry but that is another story.
**Often misattributed to Voltaire, but actually the phrase is apparently from Evelyn Beatrice Hall, his biographer.  A woman’s wise words being attributed incorrectly to a man, how surprising.
***Well, maybe not quite the death part, but you get the general sentiment.