This is usually a non-political blog but sometimes the soapbox positively nudges itself under my feet, especially when I’ve spent many, many long hours in a car with not much for company but the radio. For non-Australian readers, be advised that the election from hell is nearly upon us. We’ve been listening to political discussions since Julia Gillard announced the election about six months ago. I’m not sure what the Australian people did to deserve such cruel and unusual punishment, but there it is. We’ve been in de facto electioneering mode ever since. With the demise of Julia and and the resurrection of Kev* the rhetoric has picked up in frequency and volume. Like every other Western country, we have our share of problems. Our economic surplus has disappeared in a flurry of spending so that now we owe hundreds of billions, our health care system is creaking at the seams, education needs an overhaul, we should be considering food security instead of selling the farm, the climate is changing… etc etc. All important issues which will impact the lives of future generations. But what is the one issue which just about everybody spouts on about?
Marriage, we are told, is a ‘traditional’ union between a man and a woman. It says so in the Bible so it must be true.
Okay, let’s get down to brass tacks here. Forget about messy emotions like ‘love’, when we talk about ‘traditions’ going back thousands of years marriage is about procreation and ownership. Carrying and raising a human child is an exhausting business which leaves a woman vulnerable, so she needs the assistance of someone to help protect her and provide for her. This person is usually a male, who in return gets to donate his sperm to the embryo in a rather enjoyable way. The same sort of thing happens with gorillas and horses. But a male can’t be expected to care for the offspring of some other male, hence we have a contract, called ‘marriage’, between the man and the woman.
Take it a little further, and children are needed to help run the farm and later, to provide for the parents in their old age. Great economic reasons for such a union. But take it a little further. Women soon became commodities to be bought and sold. Marriage was about strengthening relationships between families and gaining rights to territory. The endless wars between French and English armies after 1066 were the direct result of such unions.
Please don’t imagine the common folk didn’t do the same thing, marrying off their children to the most eligible family. In most all human societies that I can think of, property and inheritance is paternal. To put it another way, who did your mother belong to? Not so long ago, the marriage ceremony exhorted the woman to “love, honour and obey” her new husband before he put that band of ownership on her hand. Excuse me while I puke. Girls of my own generation were encouraged to keep a ‘glory box’, collecting baby things and items for the kitchen etc so they would be well-equipped when the time came for them to move into their ‘traditional’ role of wife/home-maker and mother. As the song says, what’s love got to do with it?
Don’t get me wrong. Love is an enduring, powerful emotion which sometimes helps and sometimes hinders more contrived relationships. After all, even if you are simply a commodity to be traded for power and influence – or maybe the value of your dowry – it’s easier to accept if you quite fancy the fellow. Sure, it’s a two-way street. A man might be expected to marry a woman he doesn’t like, let alone love. Certainly, a loving relationship is more likely to result in monogamy. But men (by dint of not having a womb, and by social acceptance) can get away with a bit on the side, while that release has only recently been an avenue open to women.
These days, love is supposed to be the overriding reason for people to enter the state of marriage. People choose not to have children (raises hand). Marriage is simply a social statement of a relationship, a commitment to another person.
Which brings me to the nub of this rant. Why do we give a flying fuck who marries who?
Why are we wasting our time debating an issue which is nobody’s business but that of the two people concerned? Why should we care if the social commitment (with its attached legal safeguards) is between two men, or two women? Homosexuality is increasingly accepted. This last, old fashioned, repressive bastion is absurd. Just pass the bloody bill and concentrate on things that matter to everybody.
Pant pant pant. Thank you for listening. I’ll get off the soapbox now.
* Kev – Kevin Rudd, Australia’s current prime minister