Below is a twitter conversation I recently had with someone advocating for the redefinition of marriage, where ‘marriage’ is proposed to mean something along the lines of “a long term, (monogamous?) relationship between two consenting adults”, as opposed to the usual “long term, monogamous relationship between two consenting adults of which one is male and the other female”. It became clear from this conversation that people have different reasons for wanting to have relationships defined as ‘marriage’. My position is not so much concerned with the word ‘marriage’ itself but rather with the fact that it distinguishes a specific relationship format from others in recognition of the very nature and potential of that format with relation to the development of society. The focus is therefore on the role that specific relationship format is expected to play within any given society. My conversation partner/opponent felt relationships ought to be defined as marriage in order to grant certain ‘rights’ to those parties engaging in those relationships. The role of the relationship is thus secondary, or even irrelevant, to the rights extended to those parties engaging in this relationship.
The ‘advocate’ pushes for what is commonly referred to as ‘same-sex marriage’ and often in the news as many nations are considering the redefinition of marriage as defined and recognised by their governments. The ‘advocate’ shared a few links and papers for me to consider, while taking a general tone which may suggest that I am not one who has been exposed to much literature myself while herself, on the other hand, has access to a ‘vault of truth and enlightenment’ or something? I felt she did miss the point at times though, suggesting that because definitions/words change we ought to seriously consider redefining marriage? In South Africa we call traffic lights ‘robots’. A guy from England once told me that when someone told him to turn left at the ‘robot’, he kept picturing a mechanical, human-like figure next to the road which would serve as indication that he needs to turn left. The multiple definitions of ‘robot’ of course does not influence our ability to use the word robot properly for the sake of communicating messages to help us achieve wished outcomes and therefore I have no fear of tripping over ‘marriage’ when trying to have a conversation around relationship formats and the purposes they could serve. (I hope you’re following because the advocate did not seem to get it, initially at least, or did not want to get it, initially at least)
As far as I’m concerned, the only proper reason she proposed to redefine the definition of marriage is if there is truly no real difference between ‘man’ and ‘woman’ and ‘father’ and ‘mother’ but then, as I mentioned, it’s not a gay/straight issue but a gender debate which needs to be had.
I will leave you to read through our conversation below and add your own thoughts about the matter in the comments section below. (I left the twitter conversation as it was, with spelling mistakes and word abbreviations, in order to indicate also how we may have misunderstood one another even; it is presented as chronologically accurate as possible)
Me: If that is so, you shouldn’t campaign to redefine marriage but rather for state to not define it in any manner whatsoever.
Advocate: is a legal document, useful for property rights and migration purposes. Anything BEYOND the paper is NOT state’s concern.
Me: The reason for marriage as an institution was never property rights and migration though, was it?
Advocate: Actually, it was. Marriage was a result of securing the inheritance of property. Read: The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State link provided
Me: I’ll have a read.Not in favour of that as sign. reason myself, for it as recogn. foundation of fam. as foundation of society
Advocate: two gay men who are responsible and educated make a BETTER family than two under-educated redneck republicans.
Me: Some single people would be better parents than many other combinations of others but that’s no reason to redefine marriage.
Advocate: It ALL comes down to power. u do NOT have the authority to grant words their materiality. You have a heterosexual privilege acknowledge it.
Me: The word was/should be defined for a purpose, if redefinition defeats purpose I’ll oppose redefinition.
Advocate: EVERYTHING gets re-defined all the time. The term “man” and “woman,” religions, politics, you name is. LANGUAGE is fluid. You have absolutely no authority as to how to “define” family. Islamic polygamy is also “family.” Please study your bias. And stop limiting OTHERS from defining THEIR relationships as THEY seem fit.
Me: But you do? How come you’re allowed to define family and I’m not? What was the previous definition of ‘man’ and ‘woman’?
Me: Do you think when marriage was defined ‘one man, one woman, for life’ it was specifically an anti-gay conspiracy?
Advocate: No but in religious terms, there is explicit homophobia in scriptures. You need to study gender anthropology
Me: Does religion need to be brought into it though? It serves as scapegoat for your agenda but can’t argue free from religion?
Advocate: Again: Any concept which you prefix with “divine will” becomes stagnant in time. It is the best way to coerce obedience. The abjection of homosexuals, when “divinely sanctioned,” has consequences.
You define YOUR family. I define MINE. DO NOT intrude in another person’s personal unit. “man” and “woman” are identities that are socially constructed. I have said this 1000 times. This Bible/white-centered approach “Your definition is wrong bcz it doesn’t conform to my Western standards” = Imperialism. It is this thinking which served the basis of colonization. You have no right to colonize someone else’s body or home
Me: So it’s not gay issue then but gender one – we define gender differently? Do you also draw no distinction btw father/mother?
Advocate: Not discursively, no. A parent is a parent. Their expressions are not related to their genitalia. When fathers/men engage more with younger children, studies show that the testosterone level drops. Read up on #biopower.
Me: I don’t see how distinguishing btw same-sex and opposite-sex relationships=colonisation. In your case ‘sex’=irrelevant term?
Advocate: That’s bc u dont understand body politics. Y do we assign sex to things,practices, & objects IF sex is penis & vagina only? Obviously “sex” the idea is NOT just limited to the body parts. When I say DOG, you THINK of a certain thing. This materiality of language comes in2existence by”citationality.”Which is nothing more than the socio-cultural reiteration
Me: I’d expect you to admit then that any/all ‘rights’ are socially constructed too and not absolutely obligatory to adhere to?
Advocate: Sure, if you WANT to be an asshole… But before that, research a little about “social animals” other than humans. Empathy is an important evolutionary tool. I recommend reading “The Selfish Gene” for starters.
Me: Is sexual attraction socially constr. as well then? Why some people only attracted to one type of socially constr. gender?
Advocate: Ohhh, you’d be surprised 🙂 Which is why you *always* get “deviations”.
Me: Summary:’d ya say primary reason for gov defining certain relationship formats as marriage:to grant rights to individuals?
Me: It seems you keep meanings of words fluid up to point where it serves your purpose,divorced from reality it aims to portray?
Advocate: ….u clearly don’t understand the evolution of language. Language IS fluid. The meaning of words is dependent on cultures. Along with everything else that I have recommended you to look into, this is also a great resource: link provided
Me: I agree, but then we must accept that together with evolution of word, purpose of initial definition might go lost. Agree?
Advocate: If u can state the *original* purpose,that is. &if we get rid of the old concepts 4 a better& just practice,whats the prob?
Me: Prob is we view life differently,therefore have different opinions on what is *better&just*. Open public sq. best I hope for
Advocate: Which is why u need to read so u can enhance your understanding. Equality & inclusiveness= Better & Just. Disagree? Too bad
Me: We all need to read yes. I try my best to read what I can. ‘ll do my best.Hitting long road for Easter w/end now.’ll use our dialogue anonomously to generate further disc. via my blog (what you’re reading now)
Advocate: All I am asking is: Stop colonizing the discursive regimes of body politics & acknowledge your heterosexual male privilege.
Me: I will, and would also ask that you have understanding for fact that I aim to remain true to the truth as I see it.