Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Connect The Dots: On Opposition to Abortion and the Defense of Traditional Marriage

Atrios wrote this on Monday (in reference to this Pandagon post):
As I've [stated] before, I get why people oppose abortion but really don't get see any semi-rational reason for spending your time trying to ruin the lives of gay and lesbian people. And, no, the religion reason is no reason, as 'ruining the lives of gay and lesbian people' really isn't too near the top of the Jesus agenda.
I know what he means by that comment, of course. It has to do with the beliefs one has about when independent and separate human life begins. (I myself believe that it begins smack at the moment sperm is created! This is the little homunculus argument well known from history, and should be given the same consideration other beliefs get.)

On the other hand, the literalist Biblical case against abortion is extremely weak.

But instead of further discussing the ways anti-choice and anti-GLBT views might differ, I prefer to discuss what these two have in common.

And that is the way they serve to bolster traditional gender roles inside families.

Think of the shape the ideal marriage takes in the mind of, say, Rick Santorum: The married couple have separate and unequal roles. The husband is the head of the household, the breadwinner and the priest of the family congregation. The wife is the helpmate of the husband, under his dominion. Her task is to have children and to take care of them, possibly including home schooling them. Her own place is at home unless the husband otherwise decrees.

What threatens this traditional marriage? Clearly both reproductive choice for women and same-sex marriage do.

The more control women have over their own bodies, the less they need to depend on the patriarchal arrangements for the sake of survival. The more control women have over the spacing of their pregnancies, the more control women will have over their own education and their own working lives. This gives women more options than the traditional patriarchal marriage arrangement.

Given this, the traditionalists would be predicted to be opposed to not only abortion but also to any contraception that is not in the hands of men. And lo and behold!, that's exactly what the traditionalists are opposed to: The plan B, the contraceptive pill and the intrauterine devices!

Likewise, same-sex marriage threatens the stability of the patriarchal marriage. If men are supposed to be the heads of the families and women the obedient helpmates, the existence of gay and lesbian couples is deeply problematic. It's as if some of these new families have two heads and some have no heads at all!

When these same-sex partnerships are successful and bring up happy and healthy children, the argument for the necessity of the traditional gendered division of labor within the patriarchal families is severely weakened.

No wonder that those who support male supremacy would be as frightened by the movement for GLBT rights as by reproductive rights. Both types of rights threaten something the traditionalists hold dear, something they wish to defend. It's just not marriage itself but a patriarchal marriage.