I fear that David, in his response to my first post on Family Scholars, has gotten a bit ahead of me. In my first post, my purpose wasn’t to engage David or other opponents of SSM in debate, or to engage the arguments of SSM opponents. I just wanted to present my view of how two sweeping historic changes have made SSM possible in Western culture.
First of all, we’ve moved, as a culture, very far towards acceptance of lesbians, bisexuals, and gay men (“lesbigays” for short). This doesn’t mean that anti-gay bigotry has been eliminated (far from it, alas). It does mean that open expressions of disgust or moral condemnation of homosexuality are increasingly unacceptable in mainstream discourse.
Hence Rick Santorum, famous for anti-gay rhetoric, is mouthing live-and-let-live rhetoric (“I have no problem from a public policy point of view with homosexuality… There are things that people do that I think are good, there are things that are bad, that really doesn’t matter much.”) now that he’s preparing to run for President.
There was little disagreement with me about this point.
Secondly, we’ve moved away from separate spheres ideology — the belief that women and men are so vastly different we could almost be two different species. Doctors no longer argue that too much intellectual stimulation will make women infertile; laws no longer make wives subservient to husbands.
At the height of separate sphere ideology, no respectable person could have argued that a same-sex could raise a family as well as an opposite-sex couple; it would have been like arguing that a carriage and carriage could travel as far and fast as a horse and carriage.
There was a lot of argument about “separate spheres” ideology, but little or none of it actually disagreed with my point (a sign, no doubt, that I did a poor job presenting my point).
David misunderstood me to be suggesting that he or other present-day SSM opponents argue that women belong in the home and men in the public sphere; once I assured him this was not the case, and I was only talking about historic trends leading to SSM, he replied:
…if we are in fact searching for those recent historical changes in the marriage institution that make it today more possible to consider SSM, I don’t think that “the decline of separate spheres ideology” would even makes the top ten.
In fact, David’s own account contradicts this. David makes it clear that he’s run into the argument that the decline of separate spheres matters again and again: he refers to “all this talk from SSM advocates regarding the decline of separate spheres” and says “I keep hearing so much historical esoterica about ‘the decline of separate spheres ideology.’”
Obviously, if David has heard separate spheres discussed in the context of SSM so much, then there must be a significant number of people who do find it relevant.
I think nearly everyone’s top ten list, for example, would include: the divorce revolution; the out-of-wedlock childbearing revolution; and the general shift in society’s understanding of marriage, from a structured institution with defined public purposes to the name that we give to privately ordered love relationships.
David, with all due respect, that looks more like the top ten list according to those intellectuals who oppose SSM. That’s not “nearly everyone” by any reasonable measure. (Although if it were, so what? Appealing to the majority is a logical fallacy.)
I promise, Barry, I’m not trying to put words in your mouth, but honestly, wouldn’t it be better just to cut through all the thick sociologese
“Thick sociologese”? Oy vey, David. May I gently suggest that residents of glass towers shouldn’t chuck bricks? A phrase like “a structured institution with defined public purposes” ain’t exactly jargon-free.
and say: “Gay marriage makes sense today because men and women are less different than they used to be”? For it seems to me that that’s really the point that you and others are making. And it’s a true enough point, in as far as it goes.
Well, I agree with you. But in my post, I wanted to talk not just about what is different today, but also the larger historic trends behind those differences.
And there’s where you’re right, David; I screwed up by using the term “separate spheres” so much. The end of separate spheres was a change, but it wasn’t the larger historic trend. What I should have talked about, instead, is feminism.
Feminism completely changed our understanding of sex roles. Starting from a “separate spheres” conception of sex roles — in which men and women were incapable of performing each other’s roles, and so marriage only made sense between a woman and a man — feminism brought us a modern understanding of sex roles. In that understanding, many or most people agree that women can earn a living, and men can nurture children. It thus makes much less sense to say that a marriage must consist of a woman and a man.
So here’s the rephrasing: “Same-sex marriage is possible today because feminism changed the way we think of men, women, and sex roles.”
I hope you like that better.
And that’s enough history for me. My forthcoming posts on SSM will address the current debate over same-sex marriage. Up next: The much-maligned “B” word.