Yesterday we hashed and rehashed the Salon.com article I keep meaning to get back to and this morning we talked about the Republicans making another effort to let gay people know that they’re really, really unwelcome in Tennessee.
And I just want to put this question and answer from Rodriguez along side of the House Republicans’ website:
You said recently the real issue behind the anti-gay marriage movement is the crisis in the family. What do you mean?
American families are under a great deal of stress. The divorce rate isn’t declining, it’s increasing. And the majority of American women are now living alone. We are raising children in America without fathers. I think of Michael Phelps at the Olympics with his mother in the stands. His father was completely absent. He was negligible; no one refers to him, no one noticed his absence.
The possibility that a whole new generation of American males is being raised by women without men is very challenging for the churches. I think they want to reassert some sort of male authority over the order of things. I think the pro-Proposition 8 movement was really galvanized by an insecurity that churches are feeling now with the rise of women.
Monotheistic religions feel threatened by the rise of feminism and the insistence, in many communities, that women take a bigger role in the church. At the same time that women are claiming more responsibility for their religious life, they are also moving out of traditional roles as wife and mother. This is why abortion is so threatening to many religious people — it represents some rejection of the traditional role of mother.
In such a world, we need to identify the relationship between feminism and homosexuality. These movements began, in some sense, to achieve visibility alongside one another. I know a lot of black churches take offense when gay activists say that the gay movement is somehow analogous to the black civil rights movement. And while there is some relationship between the persecution of gays and the anti-miscegenation laws in the United States, I think the true analogy is to the women’s movement. What we represent as gays in America is an alternative to the traditional male-structured society. The possibility that we can form ourselves sexually — even form our sense of what a sex is — sets us apart from the traditional roles we were given by our fathers.
Now look at the things on the Republicans’ lists to promote “strong families and communities”–reinforcing the community power of the church, reinscribing the traditional gender roles of marriage participants, and limiting women’s rights to control what happens to our own bodies. They’re exactly the things that Rodriguez points to as being the tenents of the male-structured society. (Woo hoo! Yes, I’m going to say it–the Patriarcy!!!!)
What I wonder, and I’m wondering from my own specific position, is when it occurs to the Patriarchy that it has sown the seeds of its own destruction. How many of us have heard our fathers say, “It’s my way or the highway?” And how many of us have seen the traditional male-structured society say something similar to women of all sexual persuasions and gay men–“it’s my way or the highway.”? Look even at what the Tennessee Republicans are up to here–“If you’re not going to hook up with someone from the group of people we tell you to hook up with and under the circumstances we tell you to do it, you can’t do it at all.”
And what’s happened?
Did we meekly return to the kitchen or the closet? Yeah, some of us, but a great many of us hit the highway. And we didn’t fall apart without the “traditional” men. Would we have rather they come along with us? Yes, of course. Who wants to leave behind the people they love?
But you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do and if that means leaving behind the folks who kicked you out in the first place? Well, there you go.
So, what we see is that women of all stripes and gay people have been working to find something other than traditional roles that they might fit in. And we see the Republicans continuing to insist that the only acceptable roles are those traditional roles.
The Republicans will lose this particular war, eventually, though. They’re already losing it. Because it’s not about gay marriage or women killing babies or whatever. Rodriguez is right. It’s exactly about anxiety over changing gender roles.
And yes, the world changes quickly and the dramatic changes can be alarming. But even Republicans want in on some of those changes. Dolores Gresham, Beth Harwell, Susan Lynn, Debra Maggart, and Donna Rowland aren’t at home raising children or helping raise grandchildren. In what universe of “traditional gender roles” does the woman pack up and head to the state capitol to make laws?!
And yet, there go those Republican women, defenders of traditional values, flaunting the fact that some of those values aren’t good enough for them. Ha, ha, ha.
It’s an old play that this generation of GOP women are running. Feminists a century ago wrote that playbook. Progressive Era women called what they were doing “municipal housekeeping.” They reframed the Statehouse and society as an extension of their home and characterized what they were doing as “tidying up.”
Ha, well, then, I was wrong to claim they weren’t keeping it traditional! Clearly, they are. But “feminist traditional” so I’ll take it!
Also! Could I use any more exclamation points?! I don’t think so!
B., I like that you touch on a key point of this cultural war over ‘traditional’ gender roles. One of the first things you’ll hear the fundies recite when they look to shore up their support for ‘traditional’ gender relations is the Biblical hierarchy of God-Christ-human male-everyone else. It seems to me that all too often (I daresay in the vast majority of relevant situations) men (including those who claim to embrace the Biblical way of life) are woefully inadequate when it comes to following the example of Christ. In other words, if more men were more Christ-like, the traditional gender roles might be appealing to more women. And if more self-identified Christians were as enthusiastic about emulating Christ’s behavior as they are about cherry-picking Biblical taboos, then they’d have less time and energy to spend on trying to get the State to codify their fears and bigotries.
I highly recommend Nancy Polikoff’s book Beyond Straight and Gay Marriage: Valuing All Families under the Law. It’s not dealing with Rodriguez’s question of “why,” but it deals with the “hows” of changing marriage law, and how that benefits all of us, very comprehensively.
CS, for some reason I first thought you had written “cherry-picking Biblical tattoos,” which I kind of like.
This crap about “traditional gender roles” pisses me off on a very personal level. Mainly because “those” people would like to pat me on the head for being a good little wifey and a good little mommy. They would approve of me for one reason only: as a stay-at-home mom, I appear to conform to their rules of the world as it should be.
But I don’t, really! I stay home now for two reasons:
1) my views on the rights of children and the fact that pesimst has more earning potential than I. I believe fairly strongly in having a single primary caregiver in the first two years or so (which is my own personal hang-up, I readily admit), and I can’t make enough to replace his salary.
2) as a part-time freelance writer, where the hell else am I going to spend the day? And, if it involves feeding a toddler and tickle fights, who am I to complain?
Someday, when the littlest is bigger, I will either redevote myself to full-time writing or go back to school and actually finish that librarian degree.
Either way, it’ll give me more ammunition to tell the “approving” Right exactly what I think of their approval…
Ya know, Pixie, I think you’re in a pretty good position to tell them what you think right now. I mean, who better to challenge their assumptions than someone who appears, superficially, to conform to them?
And Pixie, let’s not forget, too, how even what a “traditional” stay-at-home mom means has changed pretty profoundly over the last or even 50 years.
In my grandma’s day–and she was a pretty typical stay-at-home mom sixty years ago, having been displaced by returning WWII vets from her job–stay at home moms did not stay at home. They ran the PTA and the Church and had all kinds of community involvement.
This idea that stay-at-home moms should not only not have outside jobs, but also should not really even go outside the home (and I see, in some cases, even the push to homeschool being about keeping the women busy in the house rather than being a benefit to the children). That’s not how it worked for my grandmother or my mom (when she was not teaching), but it’s somehow become the “Traditional” ideal for women, even though there’s nothing traditional about it.
I find that deeply suspicious–this cultural pressure not just for someone to stay home with the kids, but for them to STAY IN THEIR HOUSE.
Cutting people off from the outside world is always troubling to me.
Nm, perhaps it is time to start writing more subversive stay-at-home feminist propaganda again ;) (and I mean that literally, not quite as flippantly as it sounded)
Aunt B, that does weird me out. I had a friend once who went that route. She was all about the subjegation of wives and such bull. She told me exactly what she thought of me for leaving my first husband (it wasn’t up to me to end my marriage. God or my husband should have decided that, my dignity, my peace of mind and my personal freedoms be damned!). And I haven’t seen her since. Rather than being angry about it, it just makes me sad.
She homeschooled, but her husband picked the curiculum. He had her kitchen remodeled for her, but he picked the decor. He was into some things that bothered her, but she needed to learn forgiveness. because she was a woman, she got the shat end. And it was all okay, because it’s what God “wants” from women.
To me, traditional roles should simply mean playing to strengths. In general, woman and men have different advantages, and, when we work them together, everyone is better off. And I don’t mean “seperate but equal” here anymore than in anything else (granted, I did tell pesimst that, until he could gestate and lactate, I was willing to concede to a certain amount of unequal “women’s work”).
And maybe that’s part of it all around. If women birth ’em and feed ’em, men should control women to be bosses of the kids. If men can pair up or women can pair up and even, God forbid, raise children and be families, who is “in charge?” Has anyone ever told “the establishment” that most people don’t need any boss but themselves, and that most people SHOULDN’T boss anyone but themselves?
The Republicans will lose this particular war, eventually, though.
No, they will lose this battle, but never lose the war (because the war will continue for as long as humans roam the earth). Conservatives being born today will, 50 years from now, lament how we’ve lost the traditional values they had growing up in their childhoods (which will be different from the one the conservatives of their parents’ generation had), and so on forever.
The “traditional values” conservatives cling to are changing just as rapidly as the “progressive values” liberals pursue. The only difference is the direction one is facing.
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