Friday, November 30, 2012

"Positively Amish"

Is it "positively Amish" to get married at 25? How Amish was I, getting married at 27? Reform Amish, or Conservative?

Anyway, I thought it had long been established that same-sex marriage doesn't mean gay couples now must make things official, only that they might do so. That a man has the option of "my husband" if that's who his partner is, same as a woman does. Yes, we may bring out the tiny violins for the gay adults whose families now pressure them to tie the knot, but at least now (ideally) the pressure is to marry someone of one's own desired sex, not to enter a union bound to make everyone miserable. Yes, I understand that there's a contingent nostalgic for the time when "gay" meant "not bourgeois," but you still can be gay and not bourgeois. Anyway indeed.

But I do wonder - with June Thomas here, with Dan Savage elsewhere - what precisely we're supposed to make of female fertility. Social construction is, the woman does the cooking and cleaning. Biology is, if you're 45, no matter what your sexual orientation, it's gonna be kind of tough to bear a child. It's not terribly radical to point out that adoption and IVF are more complicated than the usual way, and that artificial insemination is bound to work better the more fertile the mother. Of course not all women want children, not all are physically capable of having them even at 25. But if we're talking societal norms, why should we want to get to a place where it's controversial to marry before 35?

6 comments:

caryatis said...

Didn't I read somewhere that 26 was the average age of first marriage for women? That Amish comment was silly. But I understand where the Slate writer is coming from. I don't think (heterosexual) marriage is good for women--relationships change when people get married and you end up doing a lot more housework. At the same time, though, I feel that my um partner will never really be mine unless we get married. I've been brainwashed by society, I guess.

Phoebe said...

I don't know - the married aren't so much different kinds of people from the otherwise-coupled as older. And with age comes responsibility, housework. I don't believe anything automatic occurs in this regard, such that a couple with a 50-50-type arrangement changes upon marrying. Perhaps stats say otherwise, but this might be more relevant for people who date a bit then marry, than for those who cohabit for a long time and then make things official.

Britta said...

I read a stat that among people who cohabit before marriage, chore distribution is more equal before rather than after marriage, but my guess is that it would relate to childrearing rather than any sort of idea that marriage changes gender roles. I hear having a baby really does mess up housework/chore equilibrium, especially when the woman is the primary caregiver in the family.

caryatis said...

Okay, I guess I'm not sure that there is any observed effect of marriage besides the kids and cohabitation that often come with marriage.

Phoebe said...

Re: all of this - I think what often happens, maybe not in serious studies, but in conversation, is, people assume that The Married and The Unmarried are different kinds of people, as opposed to the same people at different ages. We really do need to control for age. It's one thing to compare two 45-year-old couples with kids, one married, one not. But as a rule, unmarried just means younger, not a more bohemian personality.

caryatis said...

But there is anecdotal evidence that people *feel* different right after getting married--even in the first few months or years, before they've had children or gotten much older. I mean, I would assume that's part of why they do get married. But the greater commitment and social acceptance of the relationship which marrying people want might also drag the relationship towards a more traditional structure. Speculation, but it certainly sounds plausible to me.