June 26, 2009

Sustainable Marriage & Family Rights

There's a certain irony in the gay marriage movement for feminists like my younger self who viewed marriage as a suspicious patriarchal trap. And truthfully, I wonder if the GMM has fallen into a trap - the nuclear family ideology.
Let's step back and ask ourselves: What is marriage for? Is it a romantic ideal or an economic institution? In fact, both functions are inevitable and desirable, though tricky to reconcile, as we see on Jerry Springer. (And those who doth protest too much the sanctity of marriage really ought to just take a deep breath; dictionary definitions have long since included partners which were nonhuman, even inanimate.)
So let's make it easier on ourselves by pulling them apart and creating two institutions. Let the couple institution carry the romance and let the family institution carry the household welfare. Both forms should be legal institutions, each with its proper rights and responsibilities.
The rights and responsibilities of the family would be focused on the welfare of its members, particularly children. A couple who conceive a child would have the responsibility of designating a family that would raise the child, either by the couple entering into a family contract or by selecting an existing and mutually agreeable family.
Thus, a family could contain any number of singles and couples, which would address the problem that the nuclear family is just too small (unless you're rich) to do everything everyone (especially the religious right) wants it to do. And both romantic couples and family members would have the same rights of hospital visitation, inheritance, and so forth.
Another reason for restructuring family in this way is for better consumption efficiency. Currently, big corporations' only criteria is production efficiency, and their size and organization enables them to attain legal and financial powers that now overwhelm nuclear families. But families of up to a dozen adults could get a far better consumption capacity factor by buying fewer appliances and other domestic capital investments, as opposed to one per person or two living apart.
As for sex, we should really just take Miss Manner's advice and not presume to inquire into and pass judgement on the private affairs of others. After all, very few adults wish to conduct their affairs in public. And I know of no one who would benefit more by examining the speck in his neighbor's eye rather than the beam in his own.
Expecting straight sex to provide a strong foundation for all of society is a red herring that distracts us from actually constructing such a foundation. Is that an abomination or what?

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