In the comments to my most recent post rationalizing marriage (I've got a few of them, see here and here as well), I was needled a little by commenter brooke about why, exactly, I got married. I gave some explanation for my desire to play out the social ritual, but brooke was also curious about why I went ahead and tied the knot legally. She even brought up the sentiment that many have expressed (most recently, Brad Pitt) that straight people can't ethically get married until everyone has the right to get married.
I've heard the sentiment before, though I didn't until after I'd gotten married. I think it's nice and an honorable thing to do, but there are a lot of legal benefits/safeguards to marriage that are hard to pass up. When we got engaged, my husband had just graduated from college and was looking for a job (2003 was not a good year for new job seekers) and we weren't sure when we'd see employment or any kind of health insurance. As it turns out, we're both employed now, but at that time we were pretty pessimistic about our future. And, in retrospect, given the health problems we've both had in the past, I don't feel like making a probably not well-noted political statement would have been worth putting our health on the line. Is that selfish? Certainly, though we all make our selfish decisions. I work in local politics and talk to people and hope that I can help change the world around me, just like I throw away pounds of plastic every day at work but commute by bus or bike.
As I wrote in my previous post entitled "Litmus tests," we all choose what stands we'll take and what ones we won't, but using one or two of them as the definition of what makes a person liberal, conservative, or in this case a conspirator with patriarchy and heteronormativity - it doesn't work. Perhaps to brooke, my getting married signals my capitulation to everything that is not feminist and not equality-seeking, but for the reasons I've written in earlier posts, I don't think that's true.