Sunday, January 13, 2013

Homogenizing the Gender Polarity

In an article I wrote for the Colson Center, titled "How Gay 'Marriage' Became Plausible", I explored some of the issues that are upstream of the same-sex marriage debate. What are the plausibility structures that have led to a state of affairs whereby people are even willing to discuss something as absurd as changing the legal definition of marriage?

In my article I suggest that one key factor in bringing us to this state of affairs has been the persistent erosion of the gender polarity that occurred throughout the 20th century. Throughout the last century feminist writers kept telling us that gender is irrelevant in man-woman relationships, including the relationship of marriage. What happens if you consider gender to be a functional irrelevancy long enough is that suddenly same-sex marriage, in which gender is a formal irrelevancy, starts to seem a lot more plausible.

Back in the 18th and 19thcentury many female thinkers believed they were defending their sex precisely through maintaining gender distinctions. While they would sometimes offer appropriate challenges to our picture of what constituted conventional “feminine” virtues and roles, most took it for granted that there was a significant difference between being masculine and being feminine. Moreover, these differences were seen to be central to the very the glory of being a woman or being a man. For example, the Victorian writer Elizabeth Wordsworth once noted that “In an ideal state of society we never lose sight of the womanliness of women…why should it be considered a compliment to any woman to be told she writes, paints, sings, talks, or even thinks, like a man?”
 
By contrast, 20th-century feminist writers begin to see themselves as defending women precisely through their attempts to homogenize the gender polarity. No longer is it uplifting to emphasize the womanliness of women, as Elizabeth Wordsworth had done; but neither is it uplifting to explicitly praise women for being like men. Rather, under the feminist androgyny and egalitarianism of the 20th century, the greatest gift we can give to women is to question the very category of womanliness. (See my article at the Salvo blog, 'Too Feminine?')
 
As feminists continually downplayed the significance that gender had within society, reducing it to an irrelevancy like the color of a person’s eyes, it was inevitable that we would reach a point where gender is seen to be irrelevant in marriage too. As the significance of gender was gradually evaporated from the outworking of marriage, it was inevitable that we would reach a point where it no longer seemed so strange for it to also be evaporated from the definition of marriage itself.
  
What started with feminism attempting to empty marriage of all gender roles, ends up with the homosexual community attempting to empty marriage of any necessary relation to gender whatsoever. Suddenly the notion of same-sex 'marriage' no longer seems so strange.

To read my entire article about this, click on the following link:


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