SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW: THE SYMBOLIC VALUES OF MARRIAGE IN CONTEMPORARY AME RICAN CULTURE by PIETER HARMON TOLSMA B.S., Colorado State University, 2007 A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Social Sciences Humanity and Social Sciences Program 2014
ii This thesis for the Masters of Social Science degre e by Pieter Harmon Tolsma has been approved for the Humanities and Social Sciences Program by Omar Swartz, Chair Candan Duran-Aydintug Marjorie Levine-Clark December 4, 2014
iii Tolsma, Pieter Harmon (MSS, Social Science) Something old, something new: The symbolic values o f marriage in contemporary American culture Thesis directed by Director of Social Science Omar Swartz ABSTRACT Marriage is both a social experience and a legal a rrangement and is not static in terms of its social valuation; but rather, it is as signed values according to the milieu of the time. These values are symbolic and often based on expectations, rather than lived experience. This thesis identifies the current arra ngement in the contemporary United States to include: expectations of economic stabili ty or advantage, moral virtue or purity, nationalist or patriotic identity, and socially-san ctioned sexual intercourse and approved gender identity. I show these values to be largely intangible and socially constructed and dependent on the fluctuation in both social mores a s well as economic demands for relevance and enforcement. I begin with World War I I and the economic boom and continue to the present day with a consideration of the debate over same-sex marriage. I show that marriage in the United States is linked t o heterosexual values and norms and the inclusion of same-sex marriage causes a ripple effect that is expressed in all four of the valuation categories. I take an assimilationist point and argue that the bond of marriage is flexible and can been modified to accom modate the inclusion of same-sex couple couples. This form and content of this abstract are approved I recommend its publication. Approved: Omar Swartz
TABLE OF CONTENTS CHAPTER I. INTRODUCTION ................................... ................................................... ................................. 1 II. ECONOMIC STABILITY ............................ ................................................... ........................ 11 Post-World War II Boom and the Nuclear Family Arran gement ............................................ 12 Changing Expectations for Women through Economic In dependence .................................... 17 Current Expectation of Economic Stability within Ma rriage............................................. ....... 21 III. MORAL VIRTUE ................................. ................................................... .............................. 28 Marriage as a Focus of Moral Investment ........... ................................................... ................... 30 Fluidity in the Assigned Moral Values of Marriage ................................................... ............. 37 Same-Sex Marriage as a Contemporary Challenge...... ................................................... .......... 40 IV. NATIONALISTIC IDENTITY ........................ ................................................... ................... 48 Nuclear Family as the National Engine.............. ................................................... .................... 50 The Homogenous Family ............................. ................................................... .......................... 55 Marriage Equality as a Nationalist Symbol of Freedo m ................................................. .......... 61 V. SEXUAL INTERCOURSE AND GENDER IDENTITY ......... .............................................. 66 Marriage as a Guard against Sexual Impropriety .... ................................................... ............... 68 Marriage as the Behavior of the Properly Gendered P erson ............................................. ........ 73 Marriage as Sanctioned Sex and the Challenge of Sam e-Sex Unions ...................................... 81
VI. CONCLUSION..................................... ................................................... ............................... 87 REFERENCES ........................................ ................................................... .................................. 91
CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION Holmes and Rahe (1967) created a list of the greate st sources of potential anxiety and the top three sources were death of a spouse, d ivorce and marital separation. While their intent was not to make marriage an example of anxiety, their research shows how far reaching and personal marriage is. Marriage is so prevalent and widely accepted that the top three most personally impacting and stress inducing activities one can experience are explicitly related to it. For many, the entranc e into the marital state represents an important moment in their lives. Potential brides a nd grooms take tremendous effort to make sure the ceremony is executed perfectly and th e role of husband or wife becomes a defining attribute of their personal identities. Wh ile the legal state of marriage itself is little more than a document connecting individuals and transferring legal rights and responsibilities, the social and cultural weight of the status reaches much further into the lives of the participants than the document itself. The decision to marry is ultimately personal and th e individual decides for him or herself to wed as well as what the reasons for marr ying are to be. While the choice to marry may be personal, societyÂ’s response and role in the marriage is public. Modell (1980) explains that, Â“Marriage is a community gear ed event, attended by a more or less public ritual, and a recipient of social support va rying in form and quantity according to the process by which the marriage was contractedÂ” ( p. 212). For Modell, marriage involves much more than the two individuals who are performing a ritual of dedication to each other. He indicates that the institution invol ves the entire community weighing in on the marriage and witnessing the entrants speaking t heir vows. Modell notes that the
community may not necessarily support the bond, but rather grants or withholds its Â“blessingÂ” on the couple depending on the process a nd circumstance of the marriage. The public ceremony of marriage is also factored into t he experience of the bond, primarily as a venue through which the community is called upon to participate in the ceremony, but also, according to Modell, in the marriage itself. Marriage then, requires public involvement to grant it legitimacy. Modell also men tions that marriage is a Â“community geared eventÂ” by which he is suggesting that the pe rformance is not for the benefit of the couple but, rather, outward focused with the promis e that a properly negotiated bond would garner the requisite social Â“buy-in.Â” Kipnis (1998) mirrors this idea of marriage as a socially performed arrangement when she states th at the United States government has an interest in encouraging Â“good marital citizenshi pÂ” (p. 299). Government involvement ensures fidelity in marriage through social policin g, thereby expressing the social buy-in and expectation of investment of the community in i ndividual marriages. Cherlin (2004) speaks about the value of marriage w hen he says, Â“Marriage is a form of social bragging about the quality of the co upleÂ’s relationship, a powerfully symbolic way of elevating oneÂ’s relationship above others in the communityÂ” (p. 855). According to Cherlin, the choice to marry makes a s tatement to the community and expresses that the couple has obtained something th at sets it apart. Marriage carries values that extend beyond the two individuals who t ake the marriage vows. It is enmeshed in complex social and cultural values that are greater than the mere expressed legal requirements, and these values extend out int o a host of socio-economic expectations on the part of both parties committing to marriage. The social categories of husband and wife (up until very recently reserved f or heterosexual couples) have
traditionally carried tremendous pressures to confo rm to established norms, as well as benefits to be reaped that were unavailable to thos e individuals who chose to abstain from marriage or selected a non-traditional form of rela tional intimacy. As Modell and Kipnis suggest, marriage is an experience performed in the public eye and, as such, has become entangled with socio-economic expectations that ext end far beyond the scope of the language of the marriage document. The point of my research has been to discover and explore the anticipations and expectations of men a nd women with regard to the marriage bond. My thesis concerns explicating the symbolic values attached to marriage as they lend texture and meaning to the contemporary marria ge status in the United States. By Â“symbolic valuesÂ” I mean those characteristics of t he marriage bond that are not necessarily tied to a physical or material good, bu t rather, exist only (or primarily) in the inter-subjective space of American culture and soci ety. It is important to distinguish these values as symbolic rather than tangible or material results such as lodging or money. Symbolic values are the basis of the expectations o f marriage and, while not legally bound into the contract of marriage, they are the s ocially created reality of marriage. This thesis explores the socially constructed expectatio n of marriage as it exists in contemporary lives of those who live in the United States. I argue that the symbolic values of heterosexual ma rriage at the present moment in United StatesÂ’ culture are not static or fixed, but, rather, are the latest arrangement in a long process of transition. I will show that these values are fluid and culturally relative rather than static and universally fixed through a historical consideration of the evolution of the marriage bond since the World War II-era. Th e goal of this study is to place the
current turmoil over marriage values in perspective and elucidate the social category of marriage as being both privileged and highly mallea ble at the whims of larger social movements. The end result places the current discus sion of marriage equality and the inclusion of same-sex couples into this socially, c ulturally, and economically privileged (and historically heterosexual) category, and give it perspective as merely one of the many reconsiderations in the history of the bond. T he ascent of same-sex couples into legal marriage marks their inclusion into the privi leged category of marriage but it does not aid those who are denied rights because of thei r choice not to legally wed. The expansion of marriage to include same-sex couples o nly marginalizes those individuals further by reducing their number and thus decreasin g their voice. My assessment of the symbolic values attached to ma rriage is based on a literature analysis of significant cultural, econom ic, and military events that have taken place from the 1940s through the present day. Event s I consider include World War II and its following economic boom, the womenÂ’s rights movement of the 1960Â’s and 1970Â’s, the deterioration of the single-income fami ly, as well as the current marriage equality movement. I selected the events surroundin g WWII and the womenÂ’s rights movements because of the amount of scholarly critiq ue these experiences carry, and how those experiences have crossed into multiple facets of study. These events have been documented from economic, social, moral, etc. persp ectives, allowing for a balanced consideration. More recent events were selected bas ed on the current volume of dialogue surrounding the issues. How and which marriage valu es the public embraces at any given time fluctuates continuously which destabilizes the system of marriage as a larger cultural
institution. I show that this flexibility allows fo r the inclusion of same-sex couples who desire to enter and receive the benefits associated with the bond. Due to the dramatic and rapid changes in the public preference and embrace of certain marriage values over others, I strive to us e contemporary examples to provide the clearest perspective on a very large and complex is sue. I also understand that marriage in various forms has a long history going back far bey ond the time frame and theoretical scope of this thesis. I have limited the scope here because the values associated with marriage are highly transitional. Additionally, I f ound it best to limit the material to primarily the history associated with the World War II era and following due to the relevance of the material to a contemporary audienc e. I analyze marriage as a legal recognition of the co nnection between two individuals. Legally-recognized marriage possesses symbolic values, but the ability to access legal marriage itself is laden with signific ance. Some couples have embraced a non-legal, purely emotional form of marriage in lie u of a legally binding marriage due to personal preference. Groups, such as Unmarried Equa lity, are fighting to defend nonmarried partnerships as being as socially valid a b ond as married ones. Their mission statement states that they Â“believe that marriage i s only one of many acceptable family forms, and that society should recognize and suppor t healthy relationships in all their diversityÂ” (Unmarried Equality, 2014). I take a mar riage assimilationist stance, meaning that I argue that marriage can, and should be, modi fied to encompass the needs and desires of all who want to marry. This position is in opposition of groups such as the aforementioned Unmarried Equality who believe that marriage should not be championed over other types of companionate caring. I believe that the assimilationist stance is best
because marriage is an important social experience and source of meaning for many as well as highly malleable in the values it embraces. These factors mean it is culturally accessible and allow it to be modified to encompass a greater portion of society. This approach is pragmatic as it takes advantage of the current structure while allowing more participants. However, I acknowledge that this posi tion has shortcomings in that some individuals will choose not to marry and thus lose access to the benefits of the bond, despite their devotion to their partner. Additional ly, those who do not commit to marriage will be further marginalized by the growing majorit y as it is strengthened by the inclusion of same-sex marriages. Marriage and family are two distinct entities and I address both extensively. While I am careful not to conflate the two, histori cally the two have been bound together in social, legal and political perceptions if not a lso in practice. My focus is first and foremost on marriage as it exists between two indiv iduals. To understand the place and importance of marriage, it often must be viewed as part of the familial bond, specifically by including progeny. Historically, family presuppo sed children and a married couple (Cott, 2000); although some trends I will discuss s how that this may be changing (Copen, Daniels, & Mosher, 2013). The impression I am seeki ng to make here is that although the concepts of a marriage and a family are two distinc t experiences and entities, it is difficult, if not impossible, to consider the state of marriage in contemporary culture without also addressing the idea of the family and how the two have been historically bound. I address multiple issues regarding marriage equali ty, although most often I address the issue of equality as it relates to the struggle for access to marriage between
two members of the same gender. I use the terms Â“sa me-sex marriageÂ” and Â“gay marriageÂ” interchangeably and understand these term s express a legal connection between gay men and lesbian women. I understand the terms Â“gayÂ” and Â“lesbianÂ” as socially constructed terms that refer to those indi viduals who identify themselves as such based on their gender and the physical attraction t hey possess toward the same gender, though this too varies historically. This is differ ent than using the term Â“homosexualÂ” which I use to refer to sexual acts between people of the same gender. The difference here is that a focus on homosexuality and homosexua l acts places emphasis solely on the physical expression of the intimacy between partner s (or the preference for this same-sex intimacy). This is important because the use of the word Â“homosexualÂ” to describe marriage and meaningful relationships strips away t he meaning and value of these bonds. It essentializes them down to physical acts. This i s akin to referring to marriage between couples of different genders as being Â“heterosexual marriageÂ” which focuses the attention on the gender and sexual activities of the particip ants. The gender and sexual intimacy of marriage are only two elements of this thesis and t hus the terms Â“same-sex marriageÂ” or Â“gay marriageÂ” will be used throughout to describe the legal bond and the terms Â“gayÂ” and Â“lesbianÂ” to describe the socially constructed identities. The term Â“homosexualÂ” will be used to describe the physical act of intercourse between people of the same gender, regardless of how they identify: gay, straight or o therwise. These terms hold different meanings depending on author and use. For the sake of this thesis, I have chosen to use them in the aforementioned manner for clarity, and to create distinction between social identity and sexual behavior.
Economics and the role of class exert significant i nfluence on the role and meaning of marriage. I use examples that pertain to economic pressures that possess differencing amounts of influence depending on soci oeconomic class. While an in-depth study of the effects of the economic pressures on d ifferent socioeconomic classes and how these relate to valuation of marriage would be useful, it falls outside my scope here. I primarily restrict myself to focus on the white, middle-class experience of marriage in the United States paying special attention to the s ocioeconomic place of women. I begin by first addressing the role economic press ures take in complicating and valuating the dynamics within marriage. The pressur es to seek economic stability and security foster the perception that marriage is clo sely tied to economic achievement and, once attained, that married life will provide the s tructure and economic support necessary for the Â“idealÂ” life. I will begin by demonstrating how the boom period following World War II expanded and further solidified the uneven d omestic power relationships between men and women and how marriage represented economic dependence to women and greater economic freedom to men. I will then addres s the United States economy and how it changed, pulling women into the workplace, a nd the economic independence that this movement brought. I specifically discuss how t he move toward greater economic equality reformulated the purpose and dynamics of m arriage in such a way that it no longer represented the only viable economic outlet to middle-class women. The alterations in the economy changed the perception o f a standard fit family structure, and thus I will finish by addressing the difference bet ween single and dual-income homes and how the same-sex couple household fits into the cur rent economic model. I will address how this change alters the perception of marriage a s an avenue to economic stability
further by showing how modern perceptions of marrie d life no longer necessarily conflate marriage and material success. While economic wants and needs are powerful motivat ors, they are not the only force at work on marriage values. Research into the idea of morality and moral uprightness in marriage revealed an abundance of in formation on the role of marriage as a test of morality in society. This idea of moral v irtue is difficult to separate from outright religious devotion or embrace of a religion. I make effort to clarify the difference between principles of religious devotion and those values that dictate the behaviors of individuals on a day-to-day basis that are not nece ssarily rooted in any specific religious tradition. I begin by delving into marriage and exp laining what invests it with moralistic weight. After explaining why marriage is invested w ith such powerful moral meaning, I will address the fluid and transitional nature of m oral codes that have been assigned to marriage as well as some of the changes that have o ccurred even in relatively recent history. Finally, by showing that the moral values assigned to marriage are fluid, I address same-sex marriage as a challenge to certain concepts within contemporary morality structures. Marriage is by no means unique to the United States ; however, the state of marriage has, at times, been coopted by the United States government to serve its purposes. To elucidate the role of the United State s government in the commodification of marriage, I will discuss in the first place the governmentÂ’s attempts to define the family (specifically as the gender-role specific nu clear family). I follow the discussion of the standardized packaging of marriage by examining the role of the government in limiting who can marry in an attempt to show the Am erican family as ethnically
homogenous. Finally, I address the possibility that the embrace of same-sex marriage can have at establishing the United States as being ded icated to equality and freedom and the benefits that it can reap from this posturing. Marriage in the United States is steeped with its o wn ideas of appropriate gender and sexual behavior. The interpretation of these va lues is at the forefront of the discussion about marriage specifically concerning i ssues of single-parent families and same-sex marriage. For some, marriage is a bond tha t is to serve as a wall around sexual intimacy, limiting intercourse to those who are dee med suitable to enter and receive the blessing of society. I will address the impropriety of extra-marital intercourse by dissecting the concept of marriage as a bastion of appropriate sexual behavior and gender identity. While sex outside of marriage bears heavy public sanction, the idea of appropriate gender expression, both public and priv ate, goes beyond mere intercourse taboo adherence to form a potent personal role in c ontemporary marriage. Both historically and contemporarily, social pressures d ictate the presentation of oneÂ’s gender. Keeping that in mind, I will address how both men a nd women as spouses, or potential spouses, were and are expected to conform to the so cially accepted role and behavior of marriage. Finally, I will discuss the concept of so cially sanctioned intercourse and the seal of approval that society places on heterosexua l intimacy. I show that society rejects forms of sexual behavior that it deems aberrant and explain how some of the fierce opposition to same-sex marriage is based on the per ceived illegitimacy of same-sex intercourse making it unworthy of the social bond o f marriage.
CHAPTER II ECONOMIC STABILITY The American Dream is based on the idea that the pu rsuit of economic success and the pursuit of wealth is a national tradition ( The Library of Congress, 2014). Day-today actions of the citizens of the United States ar e powered by the desire to possess the basic elements necessary for life and survival, as well as a vast series of wants. The influence of economics, however, goes far beyond th e mere satisfaction of oneÂ’s most elemental needs. While at the most basic level indi vidual people strive to care for themselves, this process is far more complex, espec ially when the bond of marriage is considered. When two individuals choose to bind the mselves in marriage they often choose co-habitation and begin to pool resources; t his decision complicates the economic exchange. The division of home labor and the differ ence in earning between spouses, and perhaps most of all, the pressure from society at l arge to conform to external values, increases the complexity of exchange and ownership. Historically, the bond of marriage has not been an egalitarian one. Often times, one p arty, usually the female in heterosexual marriages, has suffered with limited legal and cult ural agency, although both parties have been subjected to the influence of social pressure. Men and women are expected to adhere to economic roles and behaviors tied to dome stic or public spheres. The end result of this leaves the bond of marriage steeped with ec onomic symbolic values, which are wrapped up in individual expectations as well as la rger social norms that vary tremendously depending on the gender of the party i nvolved, as well as the time period of the marriage.
First, I will discuss how the pursuit of economic s tability has molded the institution of marriage since World War II. The boo m period following World War II and the economic system further solidified stilted dome stic power relationships between men and women and the bond represented different things to either partner. Next, I will show how the change in the economy that pulled middle-cl ass women into the workplace in the 1970s and 1980s brought economic independence and g reater economic equality, and changed the purpose and dynamics of marriage. Final ly, I will address the disparity between single and dual-income homes, and how the c urrent economic model adjusts to include the same-sex couple household. Post-World War II Boom and the Nuclear Family Arran gement Resource sharing is one of the factors that add com plexity to married life. Marriage and married life has taken its place as a unique economic experience as two individuals are legally bound and often choose to m ingle assets. The mingling of these assets has made it financially feasible to raise ch ildren. The marriage-based nuclear family has been considered to be the cornerstone of the U.S. economy since the 1920Â’s (Cott, 2000, p. 157). As such, marriage has represe nted a source of stability and income not easily achievable elsewhere, particularly for w omen, who have historically possessed a far lower earning capacity than men (Cott, 2000, p. 167; Coontz, 2005, p. 225). For men, however, entering into marriage has brought th e potential of increased rates of pay, or Â“family wage,Â” as well as other benefits, which I will address shortly, but also the burden of supporting a family.
The boom of the post-World War II period resulted in marriages and domestic standards that modified the family habitation and e arning structure. Middle-class families moved out of cities to the suburbs, and some women took a purely domestic role; although, minorities such as people of color, the s ocioeconomically disadvantaged, and immigrants, were routinely excluded from the reapin g the same economic advantages as their white, middle-class counterparts. Men were ex pected to be husbands and bread winners and women were expected to stay in the home and perform unpaid labor; thus, stability for the wife was tied to being married an d laboring in the home (Celello, 2009, p. 76). Celello explains that many of these women h ad assumed jobs during World War II and had grown accustomed to working outside the hom e. These women were pushed out of the workforce to make room for the men returning from war and were stripped of their economic earning potential and relegated to non-ear ning positions in the home. Celello (2009) does note that this model was class and race specific as Â“racial discrimination throughout the nation blocked African Americans fro m participating in the postwar economy and housing boomÂ” (p. 76). Hill (2012) stat es that the American government itself was to blame for the structural inequality e xperienced by black Americans. She explains that the policies put into place after Wor ld War II involved restrictive lending in a time when white men were able to secure funding f or housing. These policies kept the minorities from easily moving into the middle-class
Figure 1. SheÂ’s ready, too This poster was created in 1942 by the United Sta tes Treasury Department The idealized wife role during the World War II per iod conformed nicely to the perceived needs of the economy. Work outside the ho me was within the realms of acceptable femininity when the economic demands of World War II called for it; however, when the economic need waned, the expectat ions of femininity meant women returning to the home (Kessler-Harris, 2001, p. 187 ). The loyal and self-sacrificing husband and wife were portrayed on World War II bon d materials. Figure 1 shows a war bond advertisement that was specifically aimed to w omen and calls on women to support the war effort. The image includes a silhouette of a soldier behind the woman, perhaps as a reminder to women of whom they need to support. C alls for women to join the work force and men to join the military flooded the nati on. Cultural values of that time period also glamorized the concept of the young man and wo man who were separated by war but still remained devoted to each other and either quickly married before deployment or planned to do so just as soon as the war ended (eve n though the reality of these speedy marriages was quite troubled). The glut of wartime marriages resulted in a significant statistical spike in the number of divorces in the years following World War II. Even the
government eventually weighed in to warn against th e tide of war marriages, though the effort was minimal (Celello, 2009). Figure 2. Show her itÂ’s a manÂ’s world. This advertisement by Philips-Jones from 1951 was for menÂ’s dress clothing. A woman in the post-war boom had very limited possi bilities in the workforce in the case of divorce or permanent singlehood. The jo b market in post-World War II United States was geared against the inclusion of w omen; thus, women who experienced singleness, through divorce or otherwise, suffered outside the paradigm of the ideal
economic model of marital stability. The advertisem ent above is for Van Heusen, a brand of menÂ’s dress clothing. The image shows a man, pro fessionally dressed in shirt and tie being served a meal in bed by a woman on her knees. The text states, Â“Show her itÂ’s a manÂ’s worldÂ” and Â“brand new, man-talking power-pack ed patterns, tell her that it is a manÂ’s world and make her so happy that it is [sic]. Â” The manÂ’s posture with his arms confidently raised behind his head in this image st ands in sharp contrast to the subservient position of the woman. The man is also properly dressed for the demands of the world, while the woman, is ill-prepared to leav e the home as she wears a robe and slippers. The text supports this dramatic differenc e in roles as well, declaring that women need to know that the world belongs to men and that they should be pleased about it. Clothing, specifically a dynamic necktie, is the ha llmark of potency and action with the man possessing colorful and bold patterns, while th e woman is adorned in unassuming pink (although her hair is coifed). While the man i s dressed and declared dominant and potent, the woman is the one who is active. This im age illustrates the socially expressed divide between the expectations for middle-class wo men and men. Women were expected to be home and not venture into the wage-e arning world. Davis (2010), like other feminists critical of this time period, speak s to this fear for women when she says, Â“critics viewed marriage as a delusional preoccupat ion that tempted women unable to resist promises of husbandsÂ’ protection and careÂ” ( p. 183). The husband, according to Davis, represented stability in an economic atmosph ere that fostered very few options for the single or married women who sought financial in dependence. The lure of marriage was more than simple companionship for the wife or an altruistic desire to create a
familyÂ— it was economic necessity. The image also s upports the idea that a man who possesses the power and potency of the workplace mu st also possess a wife. Changing Expectations for Women through Economic In dependence Women in the late 1970s and 1980s dealt with simila r pressures as those women in the home immediately following World War II. As Davis states, women were concerned that they might not be able to provide fo r themselves without a husband and sought marriage for the promise of economic stabili ty. Some found that the expectation of economic stability did not translate to actual e conomic stability. Women during this period sought work outside the home, in addition to their labors in the home, to offset the accelerating financial demands of family life as th e post-war boom faded. The economic recession of the early 1970s lasted until the early 1980s and incentivized middle-class womenÂ’s return to the world place to help support t heir families. Greater economic opportunities for women also meant women were bette r suited to economically provide for themselves, according to Coontz (2005). She exp lains, however, that women who opted to divorce, or were left by their husbands, w ere still ill-prepared for the challenges that awaited them in the job market as much of thei r previous experiences with labor were non-paid in the form of domestic work (Coontz, 2005). Coontz argues that marriage roles relaxed as the visibility of middle-class wom en working increased and normalized and this was in part due to the economic benefits o f a second income in the home. Marriage still represented economic stability at th is time as it granted women access to more resources, despite their need to contribute fi nancially. The earning potential for middle-class women at this time was improving over the previous post-World War II era,
but it was still significantly lower than menÂ’s (an d that continues up to the present with statistics placing it around 77%) (AAUW, 2014). Mar riage may have lost some of its symbolic economic stability appeal as women were ne eded in the workplace and in the home, but the bond still maintained much of its pot ency due to the challenges of the economic solitude for single middle-class women. The breadwinner/homemaker model was reliant on the post-World War II boom and its absence modified the economics of the home. According to Hill, gender roles have been significantly modified as the economic de mands of the post-industrial service economy necessitated women in the labor force to of fset the reduced recession earnings (as previously stated). Hill (2012) says, Â“[a]mong dual-earner, middle-class families, negotiating gender roles and dealing with the compe ting demands of work and family have become major issuesÂ” (p. 72). The reformatting of the home due to both spouses working meant a change in gender roles around unpai d home labor as well as questioning the idea of the husband as sole breadwinner. The ge nder roles created and normed by the economic boom were altered and supplanted by new, m ore egalitarian values, thus Â“making marriage more optional and fragileÂ” (Hill, 2012, p. 72) due to the unfamiliarity of this new territory for middle-class families. The federal government has played a role in attemp ting to ensure the economic stability of marriage as well. Kessler-Harris (2001 ) explains that tax structures were brought into place following World War II that allo wed men who were married to use their wivesÂ’ lack of earning to buoy their own into a lower tax bracket (p. 184). Additionally, significant tax breaks were given to the married couple that were not offered to unmarried individuals or to non-legally married couples. These tax breaks still
exist today and are focused on making the single in come, married family more financially feasible. The opportunity was created for a high-ea rning individual to pay significantly lower taxes by marrying. This tax break achieves it s greatest benefit when the spouse with the highest earnings potential is the one work ing and the lower potential does not earn an income. Statistically speaking, this is the man, as men still make consistently higher wages than women (AAUW, 2014). Marriage, as a bond, still represents an amount of economic advantage, as a high-wage earner can lower the amount of taxes to be paid and the low-wage earner (especially if he o r she is a non-earner) gains the benefit of economic support. According to Kessler-Harris, t his is the federal governmentÂ’s attempt at driving individuals to marry through fin ancial incentive. Stanley (2012) explains that during the post-war b oom married men expected to receive higher compensation by their places of empl oyment as well as be retained in employment longer because of the assumption of thei r position as breadwinner for a family. He points out that marriage and the assumpt ion of children, and thus a family, represented a greater amount of cache and social pu ll with employers as to ensure that the husband could provide. Kessler-Harris (2001) points out that this wage did not apply to women regardless of whether they were supporting fa milies of their own or not, and compounds it by saying that Â“[u]nattached men felt entitled to it even when they were not supporting anyone elseÂ” (p. 7). The point that she is making here is that based solely on the social position ascribed to their gender, for m en, a Â“family wageÂ” was expected because of the assumption that they would be father s and husbands. For women then, family wage was unnecessary as the expectation was that children should only be born in wedlock and that meant a husband was available to p rovide. Kessler-Harris also
expresses that some men took advantage of the myopi a of society and conflated the extra income with a right based on their gender rather th an the assumption of their being a husband and father. The assumption of marriage as a cultural requirement in this case allows for the economic advantage of men but also t he economic disadvantage of women. Weldon and Targ address the transition from the Â“f amily wageÂ” that KesslerHarris mentions, to a Â“living wage,Â” which would su pport only the needs of one individual. They state that the economy has moved a way from one that factors in the need for workers to provide for families in addition to themselves. The difference, according to Weldon and Targ (2004), is that the economy has tra nsitioned away from the concepts of family wages by Â“focusing only on setting a single, hourly wageÂ” (p. 71), a change they contend is due to a lack of government oversight an d lack governmental controls over business. The effect of this, according to the auth ors, is that single-parent families suffer higher rates of poverty and that dual-income famili es are better prepared to avoid this poverty. While this does not guarantee that these d ual-income families contain a married versus an unmarried couple, there are tax benefits available to incentivize marriage over co-habitation. The living wage jobs also tend to pa y poorly by comparison and thus tend to be occupied by people who are living near the po verty line. Any tax incentive potentially accrued by married couples is minimized as both partners earn little and the buoying effect is marginal. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released its most recent family growth report survey which s howed that 23% of births occurred in situations of unmarried co-habitation and that thes e families showed significantly higher rates of poverty (Copen, Daniels, & Mosher, 2013). This suggests that marriage is increasingly more limited to the middle and upper e arners in the population while the
lower segments put off marrying due to economic har dship. Cherlin (2004) agrees with this assessment and posits that the symbolic values of marriage have changed, and now the decision to marry for the middle and working cl asses has come to represent achieved economic possession rather than the intent to earn economic achievement. That is to stay, one marries to signify that they have already achie ved economic stability rather than marrying and then seeking economic stability as was more the norm during the immediate post-war boom. Current Expectation of Economic Stability within Ma rriage Marriage has changed dramatically between the curr ent day and the World War II-era. The dual-income home has become the norm wi th both spouses engaged in the labor force (Copen, Daniels, & Mosher, 2013). Marri age itself has also dipped in popularity as the percentage of unmarried cohabitat ing couples has risen and the ease of no-fault divorce (divorce that does not require pro of of wrong-doing by either party) makes separation a viable option. The 2010 census s howed that unmarried cohabitating couples made up 13% of all coupled households. Thes e couples choose not to marry despite the fact they often have produced children (Lundberg & Pollak, 2007, p. 4). Lungberg and Pollak (2007) explain that the U.S. ec onomy grew to a point where it needed women in the labor force and this altered th e dynamics of marriage and flattened the Â“intense gender specializationÂ” (p. 2) of the p ost-World War II era. Becker (1991) states, with regard to the changing structure of th e American family, Â“that the major cause of these changes is the growth in the earning power of women as the American economy developedÂ” (p. 350). This greater equality minimized the economic need for
women to be married as they could potentially provi de for themselves (albeit they still earn less than their male counterparts today as the n). Additionally, the buoying tax incentive of marriage was lost when both spouses ma de similar amounts of earned income as the averaging of incomes to achieve a low er tax bracket becomes moot. Education has also challenged the idea that marria ge is a hallmark of economic success. Lundberg and Pollak (2007) point out that marriage has diversified tremendously and no longer possesses the symbolic association wi th economic stability it once had. They explain that Â“family trajectories of college g raduates have deviated little from the family trajectories of the mid-century: almost all children are born within legal marriages, and these marriages are relatively stableÂ” (p. 8). This stands in opposition to those who do not possess the educational benefits, and accoun ts for a disproportionately high level of unsuccessful marriages or cohabitations. The arg ument is that economic viability as an assumed attribute of marriage no longer exists as a solitary assured quality; rather, economic success becomes more visibly reliant on ot her factors such as education. The impression is that education is the more powerful m ark of economic stability, rather than simply marriage, although the two are by no means m utually exclusive. To clarify, education has become a hallmark of affluence and ec onomic stability and those who are educated and enter into marriage have successful, m ore stable, longer lasting, more affluent marriages (Lundberg & Pollak, 2007). Those who are not educated also marry but do not experience the same economic stability. Economic viability becomes invested in education rather than marriage. The Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARR I), a conservative Christian research think-tank, argues in favor of the economi c benefits associated with marriage
that are not linked to a companionate love standard for marriage. That is to say, they argue that economic viability should be considered before personal attraction. In an article for MARRI, the authors state that unmarried cohabitation is detrimental to the couple, and that Â“the [negative] implications of se xual choices are apparent when comparing family structures across basic economic m easures such as employment, income, net worth, poverty, receipt of welfare, and child economic well-beingÂ” (Fagan, Kidd, & Potrykus, 2011, p. 1). For the authors, the merits of marriage and proof of its superiority to non-married arrangements, is found i n the data that couples in poverty tend to marry less frequently than more affluent couples The argument is taken further when the authors point out that married men are shown to work longer hours. They also quote statistics that show step-families and single famil ies have underperforming fathers who do not earn as much as the intact nuclear family. T he thrust of the discussion is that those who opt for marriage rather than cohabitation do so because of a superior quality of character and that this superior behavior is reflec ted in, and rewarded, with economic gain. This premise stands in stark contrast to Weldon and Targ who credit socioeconomic disadvantage for the reduced rates of marr iage among those who live in poverty rather than quality of character. For Weldo n and Targ, marriage has nothing to do with the moral status of the individual, but is rat her a statement about the economic status of the couple. For Fagan, Kidd, and Potrykus, howev er, economic stability is a very real and relevant benefit of marriage in contemporary U. S. culture. Fagan, Kidd and Potrykus posit a correlation between the trend of women ente ring the workforce and the rise in divorce rates in the 1960s and 1970s and blame wome n for marriageÂ’s failure. For Fagan,
Kidd, and Potrykus, the termination of the single-i ncome home is directly correlated to women leaving the home and entering the workplace. This position does not consider the place of those women outside the middle-class who n ever left the workplace. This also stands in stark opposition to the views of Coontz a nd Kessler-Harris who argue that the economic demands of the time period provided the in centive for women to seek work outside the home again and that this independence g ave women the option of divorce without necessitating poverty. The difference between these two perceptions is pri marily concerned with the issue of the agency and intention on behalf of wome n. The one side portrays these women as unhappy in marriage and thus embracing the ir agency to alter the economy through employment-seeking as a means of escaping t heir married status and securing monetary support. The other presents women as lacki ng in self-determination and helpless against being pulled into employment to su pport themselves and their families. The thrust of the piece by Fagan, Kidd and Potrykus is that marriage, by and large, is the best economic option for both men and women. They s upport a traditionalist, patriachical view of domesticity with women and men occupying ve ry different roles in the home. These positions are supported with statistical evid ence that shows divorce and singleparent families as being economically disadvantaged and the authors establish a standpoint that economic stability is the primary g oal of marriage and that other concerns fall away in comparison. Economic success, accordin g to Fagan, Kidd and Potrykus, should be the primary and most important value of c ontemporary marriage. The economic attributes associated with marriage a re not limited only to those available with filing taxes jointly. Recently, the case of United States v. Windsor (2013)
prompted the consideration of the constitutionality of a federal ban of the recognition of same-sex marriage. Legally recognized marriage carr ies with it numerous benefits, one of which is the exemption to taxes on the inheritance a spouse receives upon the death of the other. In this case, Windsor, a female, was legally married to her partner Spyer, also a female, in the state of New York. When Spyer died, Windsor was ordered to pay federal inheritance taxes on her partnerÂ’s estate that she would not have had to pay if the federal government legally acknowledged her marriage. The o pinion of the Supreme Court was in her favor, finding that the tax had Â“caused real and immediate economic injury to the taxpayerÂ” ( United States v. Windsor 2013, p. 9). The outcome of this case was the removal of federal restrictions on same-sex marriag e that defined marriage as limited to heterosexual pairings. A federal restriction known as the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA was overturned by United States v. Windsor The passing of legislation (DOMA) was based on a congressional response to Baehr v. Lewin (1999), which provided legal grounds for the consideration of same-sex marriage in Hawaii. The congressional push toward the consideration for DOMA in the first plac e was done so explicitly as to deny same-sex couples Â“a whole range of marital benefits Â” (Report 104-664: Defense of Marriage Act, 1996, p. 7). The case that removed an obstacle toward marriage equality was centered on the economic benefits of marriage r ather than focusing on any of the other hundreds of rights and privileges that come w ith federal recognition. This point is expressed in the opinion of the court, as written b y Justice Kennedy, thatÂ“the particular case at hand concerns the estate tax, but DOMA is m ore than a simple determination of what should or should not be allowed as an estate t ax refundÂ” ( United States v. Windsor 2013, p. 26). By this, Kennedy and the Supreme Cour t are explaining that while the
immediate case at hand concerns estate tax, the lar ger issue they are actually addressing is DOMA. The court goes on to note that among the hundreds o f statutes and regulations that DOMA seeks to clarify are laws pertaining to daily aspects of life such as Social Security, housing, and taxes, but also more legalis tic and uncommon rules relating to criminal punishment (spousal privilege in court pro ceedings), military benefits, and matters of inheritance. By noting these issues, the court established that, while the case might technically be on a matter of taxation, the g reater issue of same-sex marriage touches on far wider areas of law and into broader experiences of everyday life. The Supreme Court majorityÂ’s view was that since the st ate of New York (where Windsor resided) recognized the marriage between Windsor an d her partner, to deny her the economic rights and responsibilities of full legal marriage was making her marriage inferior and thereby making Windsor a second-class citizen. The majority detailed how DOMA diminishes the value of same-sex couples in a way that extends beyond the economic and into how t he community and society views same-sex couples. Kennedy, writing for the majority stated that DOMA created a double standard and that the Â“differentiation demeans the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects... and whose rela tionship the State has sought to dignifyÂ” ( United States v. Windsor 2013, p. 22). Here, Kennedy is clarifying that wh ile the occasion for the courtÂ’s decision arose out of the correction of an economic injustice, the effect takes on a moral perspective. According to Justice Kennedy, the ruling that would open up the possibility of federal recognitio n of same-sex marriage (a legal and social issue for many) was based on that of economi c injury. The legal unraveling of
DOMA, as executed by the Supreme Court, corrected t he denial of these marital benefits, and, according to Kennedy, returned the dignity of the same-sex couple as represented symbolically by the return of economic rights. The economic needs following World War II led to a stilted power relationship between men and women in marriage. The bond of marr iage then came to mean different things to either partner with marriage meaning econ omic dependence and unpaid labor for a certain class of women and increased earnings and a family to support for men. Further changes in the American economy pulled wome n out of the home and into the workplace, which created greater economic equality for women and changed the dynamics and expectations of marriage. Single versu s dual-income homes and the advent of the same-sex couple household has altered the pe rceived norms of the family as well as how the right to economic equality, as presented by United States v. Windsor opened the doors to federal recognition of same-sex marria ges.
CHAPTER III MORAL VIRTUE Moral virtue is a difficult idea to separate from o utright religious devotion or the embrace of a religion. Those values that dictate th e behaviors of individuals on a day-today basis are not necessarily rooted in any specifi c religious tradition. For many, the debate over same-sex marriage and marriage equality has made moral virtue the predominant value of marriage. There is a portion o f the population that contests the secularization of marriage or says that marriage co ntains inherent religious connotations (Hillman, 2013); however, the embrace of religion d oes not guarantee a virtuous existence. Both theists and atheists are capable of ethical and non-ethical behaviors alike and thus moral virtue or the absence of such is ava ilable to either grouping. While the exact definition of what morality and eth ics mean for the larger population may be debatable, I use it here to descr ibe the personal rules of conduct that individuals choose to dictate right and wrong and g overn their behavior. It is a common idea that morality and ethics need to be dictated b y religious doctrine or through a connection with a religious institution, although, this assumption is incorrect (Rachels & Rachels, 2011). Theological sources point out that, Â“conceptually and in principle, morality and a religious value system are two disti nct kinds of value systems or action guidesÂ” (Childress & MacQuarrie, 1986, p. 401). The two systems are often conflated colloquially. Religious values are not without a de gree of change and malleability. The Pew Institute released a study of sixteen of the Un ited StatesÂ’ largest churches and religious denominations and where they stood on the issue of gay marriage in 2012. The
results show significant difference between religio ns, and even within religions (Pew Institute, 2014). The point made by PewÂ’s data is t hat there is significant differentiation nationally between the varying religious outlooks a s they are represented by the largest religious denominations; additionally, the data sho ws a trend toward greater inclusion of same-sex couples and acceptance of their bonds. As this thesis focuses on the symbols associated with cultural valuation of marriage, I a ttempt to speak to the broad view of the people rather than the institutional values of reli gious groups (although the Pew data suggests that these values are perhaps positively c orrelated). The scope of morality and moral character as it is used in this thesis is bro ad. I engage a macro perspective on the concept of morality rather than attempt to explore the dogmatic influences of certain religious groups. Morality, ethics, and Â“moral fibe rÂ” in this case are judged based on the actual behaviors and cultural references of United States culture. Â“Natural lawÂ” is a perspective in the marriage equa lity debate that tries to delineate marriage roles by assigned values through static predetermined standards. This viewpoint states that traditional marriage is valid because it allows for the production of children whereas same-sex marriage does not allow f or the two parties to produce children through traditional means (Donatucci, 2013 ). Natural law, in this case, is a response that is not directly religious, but involv es species propagation instead and alleges that same-sex marriage is thereby an Â“unnat uralÂ” act. Exceptions are made in the case of infertile heterosexual couples because whil e they are unable to produce children, they are the appropriate gender to do so. The disti nction here is drawn on the potentiality of traditional conception. In certain cases, some d ifferent-sex couples might not be able to reproduce. These couples still possess a greater potential of reproduction through
sexual intercourse than a same-sex couple. This min dset essentializes the social identities of gay and straight people to nothing more than bre eding and non-breeding sexual pairs. The bond of marriage then, according to proponents of natural law theory, is the social actualization of this essentialism. This sort of Â“n atural lawÂ” argument attempts to lend a moral weight to its opposition of same-sex pairings by asserting that it speaks on behalf of nature. In this way, this argument attempts to s ide-step religiosity as its source of legitimacy and instead argues that there is a sort of rightness or virtue to being in line with their interpretation of nature. In this chapter I address conventional morality and its role in shaping the expectations of marriage. I begin by discussing exa ctly what it is about marriage causes it to be imbued with so much moralistic weight. Next, I will consider the fluid and transitional nature of moral codes that have been a ssigned to marriage and some of the changes that have occurred even in relatively recen t history. Finally, I address same-sex marriage as a challenge to certain concepts within contemporary morality structures. Marriage as a Focus of Moral Investment Brake (2006) speaks to the perception that marriage is intrinsically a moral bond by examining the idea that marriage is a behavior o r process. She explains that marriage alters relationships to make them more ethically or morally sound in an argument that echoes concepts of the Â“natural lawÂ” position as it invests marriage with innate, inalienable qualities. She states that those who be lieve that marriage has specific and enforceable ethical qualities do so because they fe el that Â“marriage is morally transformativeÂ” (p. 244). Brake is pointing out her e that marriage has the power to
improve society through its participants, that is t o say, those who marry increase in virtue simply because they are married. The force behind t he moral code of marriage is to subscribe to what Brake calls Â“virtue ethics,Â” whic h seeks to establish philosophical and social grounds for declaring a certain Â“rightnessÂ” of behavior. According to Brake (2006), Â“virtue ethics pay[s] special attention to institut ions [such as marriage] because of their ability to encourage activities which inculcate vir tueÂ” (p. 244). Marriage possesses considerable social relevance; thus, any messages o r values carried with the bond are more impactful and widely experienced. The author g oes on further to say, [o]nly an institution which imposes a single, inva riable obligation on all who elect to join it can create this public recognition by making clear that the meaning of the individual action is to be found, not in the private desire which prompted it, but in the public custom which gives it form. (Brak e, 2006, p. 244) In this case, Brake represents marriage as a Â“singl e, invariable obligationÂ” and as a monolithic cultural experience that must be underta ken by all (or at least this is the expectation). The implication is that the instituti on of marriage is so broadly experienced among Americans that the concept is familiar and th at custom of the bond can be weighted through moral and ethical codes, achieving a degree of understanding and power. According to Brake, the bond of marriage is stripped of its potential for a deeper meaning, as it becomes a massive shared social inst itution rather than an opportunity for personal expression. She implies that when entrance into marriage is normed, the process itself loses the meaning given by choice. The only place of difference then, and of selfexpression, is the act of not marrying and refusing to commit to the norm.
Brake establishes the idea of the Â“virtue ethicist. Â” She defines the virtue ethicist as one who seeks to lend the idea of religious virtue to secular or non-religious institutions. By doing so, he or she guides the public at large t o a greater embrace of religious moral code. Brake posits that it would be ineffective for virtue ethicists to attempt to invest a social event or experience that is niche or unfamil iar with tremendous moral importance. Marriage as an institution, on the contrary, is com mon and nearly universal in its relevance (if not, at least, in its familiarity). T his relevance is primarily among straight people, which reduces some of the potency it posses ses in the gay community, although this will potentially change as same-sex marriage b ecomes legalized. BrakeÂ’s perception of marriage as a tool of social betterment carries implications in a period of legalized same-sex marriage as well. The inclusion of same-sex couples might seem to some to be a boon for civil rights, b ut Brake would caution that gay and lesbian couples will become subject to the same exp ectations imposed by virtue ethicists as straight couples such as limitations on extramar ital intercourse. Civil unions potentially serve as a marriage substitute in that they avoid the term and associations of Â“marriageÂ” but still provide some the benefits. Bra ke (2006) questions that these relationships could ever be accepted in the same wa y as marriage when she says that Â“formal marriage gives relationships a moral status which non-marital relationships lack, even though unmarried relationships may have valuab le qualities of love, caring and fidelityÂ” (p. 244). The monolithic nature of marria ge as the only widely accepted and recognized system of personal legal binding may wel l be challenged if a nominally different arrangement such as civil unions were to gain popularity amongst straight couples. Barring that these unions become nearly sy nonymous with marriage, BrakeÂ’s
idea of transformative moral change is unreachable. The idea of intentionality and the critique of the couple in choosing a marriage alter native adds further weight to this argument. The couple who chose a marriage alternati ve would intentionally be avoiding the sanctifying moral enrichment of the bond in lie u of the emptiness of a civil union. This type of decision would leave the couple open t o critique of moral failing as they sought to intentionally sidestep the edifying quali ties imbued by married life. Virtue ethicists invest marriage with moral require ments, and while these values have changed over the years, they continue to dicta te the Â“rightnessÂ” of certain activities and behaviors within marriage. For example, accordi ng to Bernstein (2001), unmarried teen pregnancy is an unwanted consequence of unmarr ied teen sexual activity and traditional morality in this case might dictate tha t the pregnant teen is fundamentally flawed. With regards to the importance of marriage, Stanley (2012) explains that the portrayal of those who do not want to bend to the d esires of society is not particularly flattering, and for Stanley, this was expressed thr ough the media. He specifically cites the example of the 1950s television program Leave it to Beaver For instance, Â“spinsters like prim Aunt Martha were sexless harpies; while bachel ors like Andy the alcoholic handyman were layabout bumsÂ” (Stanley, 2012, p. 11) The social judgments associated with these characters were severe, with unmarried w omen being portrayed as withered and bitter, and men as being lazy and wasteful. The timeframe for this television program links it with the same system that valued domestici ty in women and productivity in men during the post-World War II boom. Stanley (2012) p osits the same sort of values prevailed in programs such as The Cosby Show a television program from the 1980s that portrayed a successful, cohesive, nuclear black fam ily in a time when the 68% of black
children were born out of wedlock (p. 11). He expla ins that marriage, in this case, was held up as an ideal of stability and morality in an attempt to engage a change in the population by altering what was perceived to be the norm. Standing opposite to the ideal was the reality unmarried, single-parent home, whic h was closer to the norm during this time period. The Cosby Show was set up to serve as an example for those opted not to marry in an attempt to educate them on proper domes tic behavior. According to Stanley, the families shown on television exhibited values t hat were not representative of actual life but that the representation was to provide a l esson to enrich the target population rather than actually represent it. Figure 3. She deserves a break today. This McDonalds advertis ement dates from 1971. Stanley takes the stance that portrayals of famili es, specifically ones of color, have not necessarily been realistic or based on act ual trends, but used their differences to transmit a moral lesson. The image above is an adve rtisement that possesses much of the same imagery as was used in The Cosby Show but for a different purpose. The image
shows what can be interpreted as a family with well -dressed father and mother and three children gathered around a set table to share a col lective meal in a beautifully furnished room. The text states Â“She deserves a break todayÂ” which implies that the smiling mother regularly labors in the home preparing meals and th at McDonaldsÂ’ food will allow her to take time away from her work to enjoy a meal with t he family. As Stanley stated, this type of black family was not the norm during this t ime period. The premise of a nuclear arrangement with a mother who stays at home and car es for the family was not realistic, but still suggested the idea of a wholesome family experience. McDonalds was attempting to create an outdated familial experienc e possibly due to the feelings of nostalgia it prompted. This was for the purpose of selling its wares and not for the edifying social lessons that Stanley states were wr itten into The Cosby Show Additionally there is a portrayal of affluence and class in the image that was increasingly rare at the time. The recession of the early 1970s drove many middle-class families to secure a second income but women of color laboring outside the home was a norm long before the economic downturn. This advertisement po rtrays a rare family of color that managed to evade that trend, something that the dua l-income family of The Cosby Show did not portray. The portrayals of family are simil ar between this advertisement and that of The Cosby Show in that there is lack of realism, but there is a d ifference in the perceived intent. Stanley states that The Cosby Show had a message of moral value and sought to teach a lesson, while the advertisement s eeks to use nostalgia for that same mythical moral past and uses these feelings, as wel l as associations of class and affluence, to sell its food.
Mass media has taught viewers lessons about accept ance as well. Vice President Joe Biden provided a different take on the role of media as a guide, specifically television and how it imparts moralist lessons, when he addres sed the issues of gay marriage legalization. He stated that the television show Will & Grace (a comedy featuring multiple gay characters in lead roles) Â“did more to educate the American public than almost anything anybodyÂ’s ever done so farÂ”(cited i n Barbaro 2012, p. 1). Both Biden and Stanley, in this case, support the role of tele vision in United States culture as a tool of moral change and edification. Another example of th e role of media as an educational tool for families took place in 1992 when Vice Pres ident Dan Quayle criticized a fictional television character for giving birth outside of we dlock. The character, a female news reporter named Murphy Brown, was the lead in a tele vision comedy program, Murphy Brown In this event, Quayle criticized the fictional ch aracter as Â“glamorizing single motherhoodÂ” (Sternheimer, 2008, p. 44). Sternheimer notes that this critique sparked tremendous debate over the role of popular media an d how it attempts to modify the tenets of common morality and acceptable behavior. The push towards greater social acceptance of nontraditional family structures in t his case occurred with Will and Grace and Murphy Brown but there was a push toward traditional family st ructure with The Cosby Show The connection between all of these disparate mes sages presented by television programming is that marriage is consiste ntly presented as a lesson in morality, whether as an example of appropriate behavior or a cautionary tale of poor decision making.
Fluidity in the Assigned Moral Values of Marriage The connection between marriage and morality is oft en expressed in terms of the inherent Â“rightnessÂ” or properness of certain sexua lized or relational behaviors. These values are socially dependent and historically cont ingent. Moralists contest the idea of fluid morality and claim that ethical or moral stan dards that relate to marriage and family are concrete and not subject to alteration. While s ome might contest that moral virtue remains unchanged, historians have pointed to chang ing attitudes toward divorce and remarriage as well as single-parent homes as being evidence of the flexibility, if not alteration, of social mores (Bernstein, 2001, p. 36 8; Cott, 2000, p. 207; Coontz, 1992, p. 249). While perceptions of social morality might se em flexible with certain issues, it does not mean that acceptance or even tolerance is felt on all social issues or that formerly accepted situations will not experience a conservat ive backlash. Those familiar with the debate over abortion and womenÂ’s reproductive right s are familiar with the rapid change in rights and privileges as values and concepts of morality change and rights are gained, challenged, and lost (Kliff, 2014). Much of the concern about changing standards of mo ral virtue as a value of marriage portrays the general progression of the st ate of marriage as being a slump downward away from an idealized past. This percepti on of marriage is spurred on by statistics that show significant change in the stru cture of the family, such as a rise in the number of unmarried, cohabitating partners (Copen, Daniels, & Mosher, 2013). Championing issues such as this, the Institute for American Values (a self-described think-tank on marriage and family values) celebrate s a drop in the number of sexually active teens and divorce by saying, Â“after more tha n three decades of relentless advance,
the family structure revolution in the U.S. may be overÂ” (Blankenhorn, 2001, p. 10). Historically, the so-called Â“deteriorationÂ” of the family included individuals whose activities fell outside the norms of marriage such as pre-marital pregnancy and interracial marriage (which will be addressed in the next chapt er). Bernstein considers the moral standing of unmarried mothers in the 1960Â’s and cal ls into question the wellness of a woman who would choose to be pregnant and unmarried Bernstein (2001) argues that Â“it is understandable that we should incline toward a t heory of underlying pathology as the cause for unmarried motherhoodÂ” (p. 370). Bernstein uses a medical lens to pathologize pregnancy outside of marriage and frame it as an il lness or degenerate behavior. She goes on to state that women who choose to become pregnan t and break the moral code do so because they are damaged and ill fit for marriage, and posits that their pregnancy is an attempt to find the attention they crave in a partn er. She clarifies her point with apparent concern for the unmarried mother by offering a sugg estion to medical workers, Â“to do this [care] we need to be readyÂ…to de-emphasize the unmarried, socially-deviant aspect of her experienceÂ” (Bernstein, 2001, p. 370). Berns tein is suggesting that reducing the focus on the morally questionable aspects of the mo therÂ’s choices will aid caring professionals in assisting her, perhaps for fear th at the overriding stigma against her unmarried status would prevent her from obtaining r easonable healthcare. The point made by Bernstein here contains elements of the arg ument made earlier by Brake: the woman who chooses to become pregnant and the couple that chooses not to wed are both marked as social deviants by their avoidance of mar riage and on a larger social level this activity speaks to the inferior moral caliber of th eir characters.
Not all of the perceptions of relational morality are aimed at guiding individuals to the bond of marriage. The discussion of marriage equality has set the stage for reviving the discussion of who should be allowed into the st ate of marriage. The United States system has not always urged couples to wed but at t imes created a barrier to prevent certain types of marriage that were viewed to be mo rally inappropriate, such as in the case of Loving v. Virginia (1969), a watershed case that struck down legal pr ecedent for laws that banned the marriage of white people to no n-white people. One of the reasons why this case is so relevant to this discussion is that it ended state government attempts to keep individuals from having their interracial marr iages legally recognized because they were deemed to be unworthy or otherwise socially in appropriate. The impact went far beyond only that, especially with regard to cases s uch as United States v. Windsor (2013) which clarified the rights of marriage further. In recent years the objections raised by opponents of same-sex marriage have taken an overt, religious view of marriage as a def ensive stance against the inclusion of same-sex couples. As Poirer (2008) explains, Â“samesex marriage appears to traditionalists to be a misappropriation that threa tens to degrade, destabilize or dilute a central cultural institutionÂ” (p. 351). Poirer buil ds on BrakeÂ’s concept of an intentionally morally invested public ritual of marriage and poin ts out this ritual establishes a standard for entry for the marriage bond that bars access to same-sex couples. The effort is necessarily two-pronged, according to Poirer, becau se it involves building up the image of traditional marriage while simultaneously tearin g down the legitimacy of nonconforming relationships. The moralist line speaks to nothing beyond the gender of the participants, that is to say, the veracity and mora l quality of straight couples, and falls
short of engaging the actual moral lives and day-to -day behaviors of all the participants in the marriage contract. It arbitrarily focuses on th e singular life event of marriage. Poirer and Brake establish that the bond of marriage is li mited traditionally to different-sex pairings and the justification for this is that of the bond is invested with moralistic weight that justifies the exclusion of certain pairings. T his type of morally weighted bond lacks any tests for moral character beyond heterosexualit y. This litmus test makes room for accusations of hypocrisy as marriage is set up as a highly moral bond that speaks to the morality of its participants that in actuality neit her requires nor guarantees any sort of moral behavior. Same-Sex Marriage as a Contemporary Challenge The contemporary debate about same-sex marriage ma kes inferences about the nature and value of the marriage bond and its parti cipants by means of establishing a dichotomy between same-sex and different-sex marria ge. The term Â“gay marriageÂ” or Â“same-sex marriageÂ” marks the bond as being a quali fied or non-normative arrangement. The debate concerning the validity of homosexuality and the moral fortitude (or lack thereof) of gays and lesbians requires a comparison to the straight community. In this instance it is difficult to avoid mentioning specif ic religious arguments that question the moral character of gays and lesbians. While these a rguments are not unfamiliar or new in any way, the clamor for marriage equality has broug ht it to the fore in the public consciousness and thus forced a discussion concerni ng the suitability for gays and lesbians with regard to marriage. The difficulty of a discussion concerning the suitability of the participants of marriage requires a codified standard; a system that does not exist in
the United States. Conservatives attempt to appeal to a religious codified standard for grounds to exclude same-sex couples based on the in feriority of their moral character as witnessed by their homosexuality (Hillman, 2013). T he implication made by this comparison sets up the straight person and his or h er different-sex marriage as being morally upright and worthy. Different-sex marriage becomes invested with moral qualities that are not intrinsic to the bond. The e ntrants to this bond then carry the expectations. An example of the attempt to invest m arriage with a form of moral quality in a legally binding way can be found in covenant m arriage. Covenant marriage is a voluntarily restrictive form of marriage that is cu rrently available in Arizona, Arkansas, and Louisiana that mandates pre-marital counseling and requires a fault-based divorce (Cade, 2010). Cade notes that multiple states have begun legislation to recognize covenant marriage but only three have successfully completed the process. While limited in availability, covenant marriage attempts to rais e the barrier for entry and exit to discourage those who might not be fully committed; however, this premise promises something additional in value to participants, the requirement does little to assure any sort of moral superiority to the participants. The moralistic perspective of marriage takes issue s with the stamp of approval that legal marriage places on same-sex marriage and homosexual behavior in general. The debate over same-sex marriage has seen conserva tive speakers invest the secular bond of marriage, which is inherently only a legal arrangement, with religious and moral qualities (Hillman, 2013). For some, the marriage b ond then becomes socially loaded with values that were constructed with hopes of usi ng them against the gay and lesbian community with the intent of keeping them from lega l marriage; for example, the
elevation of natural childbirth over all relationsh ip types and norm of having both a father and mother in the home. This standard for marriage isolates not only same-sex partner families, but all sorts of non-traditional family s tructures as well. The government has also taken a position concernin g the moral virtues associated with the bond of marriage. Johnson provides the cas e of Adams v. Howerton (1982) where a man sought a U.S. Visa for his male partner who was a non-citizen. The case, which eventually denied the Visa application, inclu ded a report from the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which stated their refusal to issue a Visa was based on the principle that the man Â“failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggotsÂ” (as cited in Johnson, 2004, p. 147). The case then hinged on the plaintiffÂ’s perceived inability to be able to creat e a marital bond due to his inherent shortcomings as a gay man. This view is not differe nt from the perception of straight nonmarried persons as were described by Bernstein and Stanley earlier. The unmarried mothers and unmarried straight couples were conside red inherently flawed, or else they would have married already. The gay men were inhere ntly lacking as well and unworthy of entering the bond. There is also a question made regarding straight c ouples that choose to remain devoted to each other but decide against entering t he bond of marriage, and instead opt for entry into civil unions or other forms of legal partnership that are not traditional legal marriage. This, according to Unmarried Equality, is a growing trend. By choosing an alternative to marriage, straight couples free them selves of the assumptions and values associated with traditional marriage. This sort of occurrence is taking place in ever growing numbers among young families where the econ omic incentive to marry does not
exist. In these circumstances, the incentive to avo id legal marriage is strong because government support for unmarried parents living tog ether but filing for support as single parents outweighs the tax benefits of marrying and losing the tax and government programmatic support afforded to single parents (Co pen, Daniels, & Mosher, 2013). The question remains then as to what this occurrence sa ys about the morality of these individuals as compared to those who opt to marry r egardless of the economic harm. Common law marriage, while legally antiquated now, emerged out of economic and moral need as couples were unable to legally marry due to distance from court and legal facilities (Legal Dictionary, 2014). Neither the bo nd nor the commitment requires formal legal recognition, but the problem is that so many other important life elements such as property, child custody, health insurance, etc., de pend on the legal state of the union. Marriage is normalized and institutionalized around the presumption that it is inevitable because institutional norms and bureaucracy have bu ilt up around it. Those that have marriage available to them, but opt not to take par t, are viewed as morally suspect as they refuse to commit to the norm. Avila (2010) states a trend among straight couples where both marriage and civil unions are available. He po ints that some straight couples select a civil union as a short-term substitute for marriage These couples are not ready for the larger social statement that marriage makes about t heir relationship but feel compelled to achieve a level of commitment and would like legal protection and thus choose civil unions as a compromise. Civil unions do not possess the social weight and sense of value and importance that traditional marriage possesses and are suitable as a stepping stone for couples who are not yet ready for full marriage.
There is a growing trend regarding enshrining the idea of Â“caringÂ” and devotion as being the central element of marriage in such a way as to eliminate the gender requirements and sexual connotations around the bon d. Brake (2006) explains that marriage is used as an institution to force limitat ions of fidelity and devotion on couples rather than letting these ideas spring out of a nat ural expression between individuals. She posits that, in time, instead of focusing on marria ge as being a sexualized bond with the trappings of mandatory devotion and fidelity, that it would be stripped down to a bond that is centered on caring and mutual support that could be shared between any two people. This concept would fundamentally alter the image of marriage and prize caring and support as the central values. Brake (2006) des cribes marriage as a Â“morally valuable institution that must be constrained by justiceÂ” (p 253). The point she makes is that marriage is an institution that is purely social in its origins and, over time, has grown to become foundational in the construction of our soci al identity. It has developed far beyond a simple connection between two individuals to become inextricably woven into the fabric of life. It plays an important role in t he guidance and moderation of social life. This bond is too important to be simply concerned w ith legal purposes alone as so much of emotional and social aspects of life are affecte d as well, and that equal access is imperative. She states that Â“the unhappiness caused to homosexuals by their exclusion seems more problematic, because [it is] unjust, tha n the unhappiness caused by same-sex marriage to those who oppose itÂ” (Brake, 2006, p. 2 53). The weight of marriage as a bond that transmits caring and compassion within society is of such central importance that it demands equal access to all parties for it to be co nsidered just.
The legally recognized state of same-sex marriage is one that is granted by the government and, in recent years, has achieved accep tance on a state-by-state basis across the United States. This initial legalization of sam e-sex marriage has provoked a backlash in some communities. There is a legislative movemen t to allow individuals and businesses to refuse service to people who identify as gay or lesbian (Associated Press, 2014). This legislative effort springs from the exp erience of venders refusing service to couples who want wedding ceremonies. The contention is based on the gender of the partners, as in the case of Elane Photography v. Willock (2013). In this case, a photographer in Arizona specifically cited her righ t to religious opposition to the idea of same-sex marriage and thus classifies her use of di scrimination as an example of freedom of speech (Liptak, 2013). The case sparked other ca ses of individuals and businesses expressing their disagreement with the legalization of same-sex marriage. Other states are attempting to legislate the right to refuse service on the grounds of religious disapproval (Liptak, 2013). It is tempting to write off this re sponse as homophobic backlash, however that would mean ignoring the catalyst for the discu ssion. While the heart of the issue may be a deeply held derogatory view of homosexuality, and gays and lesbians at large, the case itself was specifically made to Â“allow busines s owners to cite religious beliefs as a legal justification for denying service to same-sex couplesÂ” (Paulson & Santos, 2014, p. A1). At the heart of the movement is the perception that same-sex marriage is not in line with the moral requirements of the bond of marriage The business owners in these cases base their decisions on their own deep-seated moral opposition to the existence of samesex marriage. This movement points out the gap that exists between legal recognition of marriage and the social acceptance of the morality of gay and lesbian couples.
The outcome of United States v. Windsor (2013) also addresses the idea of public concepts of morality as they are tied to the instit ution of marriage. Kennedy, writing the majority opinion, speaks concerning DOMA when he st ates that the: federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpo se overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the St ate, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity. By see king to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages l ess respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendm ent. ( United States v. Windsor 2013, pp. 25-26) By this Kennedy states that the role of the governm ent is to protect and uphold the efforts of the states as they try to protect those who seek to enrich their lives with the dignified bond of marriage. His reference to the 5th Amendment, which guarantees equitable treatment before the law, seeks to raise the valuat ion of gay marriage to a position of equal footing as traditional marriage. Kennedy expl icitly expresses the position that the state itself assigns a moral quality to those who s eek to marry. He states that the intent of the government with marriage law is to Â“protect per sonhood and dignityÂ” thereby positing that marriage is an honorable institution. This ruling is an official view of the federal government concerning its perception of the bond of marriage. This opinion portrays marriage as moral and virtuous and states that these values can be ascribed to gays and lesbians as well. Marriage is one of the most widely recognized soci al unions. This popularity and ease of recognition are the reasons why it has been intentionally saturated with expectations concerning the ethical nature of its p articipants. The lack of a cohesive
standardized measure of morality among participants and the inability to adjudicate these standards, resulted in fluidity in the morals commo nly associated with marriage. Proponents of same-sex marriage have taken advantag e of these flexible standards and appealed to the legal system for recognition. United States v. Windsor recognized the valuation of the legal bond of marriage as inclusiv e of same-sex couples, thereby proving the elasticity of a bond that had for decades denie d the moral legitimacy of gays and lesbians.
CHAPTER IV NATIONALISTIC IDENTITY Marriage in the United States serves as a legal bon d which is nationally recognized, with the notable exception of same-sex marriage which is federally recognized but left to individual states whether it will be accepted locally. This precedent is commonly referred to as the domestic relations e xception in federal jurisdiction, and draws its origins in the case of Barber v. Barber (1858) that dismisses all domestic relations cases from the federal courts system, lea ving them to state courts. Barber v. Barber concerns the topic of divorce and who is responsibl e for mediation of the dissolution of marriage. Since thi s ruling, the federal government has attempted to leave the subject of marriage to the s tates. Several key instances arose in the marriage equality discussion over the years that re ceived federal government intervention, most often executed through the judic ial branch. These instances included the cases of Loving v. Virginia (1967) and the invalidation of the Defense of Marr iage Act as previously mentioned. Largely, however, the federal government has left it up to the individual states to decide the ins-and-outs of marriage, provided that they acknowledge the marriages performed in other states This legal concept is called Â“comityÂ” and, with regards to marriage, means that each state will honor the marriages performed in another state and is drawn from the Fi fth Amendment which says that citizens of each state are entitled to the rights a nd privileges of other states. The federal government may be drawn into the discus sion again soon to mediate the differences in legal recognition of same-sex ma rriages between states to bring consistency and continuity; although, the federal g overnment attempted to settle the
discussion through DOMA which was later invalidated Historically, the federal governmentÂ’s involvement in marriage has been minim al. A notable example is immigration (Canaday, 2011; Johnson, 2004), which l ong sought to control the flow of certain minorities into the United States by limiti ng whether immigrants could marry or bring spouses. These policies were the first attemp ts to codify the national identity and Â“American-nessÂ” of citizenry. United States history bears the marks of attempts to try to sculpt the national image both physically and menta lly. Lantzer (2011) states that the reason behind the forced sterilizations of eugenics in the 1920s and 1930s was to prevent the individual from becoming reliant on the state, and to stop those deemed by state and medical professionals as Â“inferiorÂ” for intellectua l, ethnic, or medical reasons from giving birth to children who might also be Â“inferiorÂ”(p. 2 54). The eugenics also involved the denial of marriage between people who were seen as less than ideal so as to prevent them from creating offspring (Lantzer, 2011). This ran i n tandem with anti-miscegenation laws that assumed that non-white individuals were inferi or and thus were not allowed to mixmarry and create progeny with the Â“superiorÂ” citize ns, although mixed-race children were quite common in reality (Swartz, 2014). In this, an d other ways, the government has had a definite presence in sculpting the perception of the ideal citizen and has historically lent the weight of the symbolic value of national identi ty to the state of marriage. I begin by discussing the governmentÂ’s attempts to define the family as genderrole specific and agency-differentiated. Next, I wi ll consider the role of the government in limiting those who were allowed into marriage in an attempt to show the ideal family to be one of homogenous ethnic background. Finally, I will address the idea of the
idealized family as a national institution and the role that a competitive model could play in the legal recognition of same-sex marriage domes tically. Nuclear Family as the National Engine Moore (1971) suggests that nationalism is, in its o wn way, a religion that competes with other religious structures for domina nce and control of activities. He posits that cultural traditions that are informed b y religion have been coopted by the state to bolster its own policies and ends. This idea com es into play with regard to marriage. Sometimes claimed as an expressly religious occasio n, a wedding often contains overt religious language as standard verbiage without the marrying couple needing to be expressly religious. According to Moore, the religi ous backing to the concept of marriage has fallen away while the motions and symbols of th e bond remain. He asserts that nationalism fashions itself as an ersatz religiosit y and, over time, imposes a nationalist agenda which dictates the mores and values of forme rly religious traditions (Moore, 1971). In the case of marriage, nationalism and nat ionalist identity become responsible for the values associated with the cultural institu tion. This can arise from intentional propaganda on behalf of the government or through a grassroots movement by the people associated with Â“American-ness.Â” Nationalistic valu es are malleable and subject to change to a variety of stimuli such as war and econ omic fluctuations. The situation concerning the different influences p ushing and pulling at the bond of marriage in national culture is summed up by Kip nis (1998) when she writes, the role of the state in protecting dominant intere sts is not exactly neutralÂ— meaning that on those occasions when, for example, federal troops fire on striking
workers, we might not want to describe their return to work as being precisely voluntaryÂ—so too we must mention that in matters of domestic labor, the state makes its compelling interest in promoting good mar ital citizenship quite clear. (p. 299) Kipnis is explaining that the government possesses a vested interest in marriage as it plays a role in the national economic engine. In th is case, the voice of the people and what they want are not considered; rather, the term Â“marital citizenshipÂ” is used and the impression is less that marriage is an individual b ond but rather that it incorporates the couple into the norms of the whole. The collective of married persons are merely part of the economic and political machine as opposed to se rving the purpose of individual enrichment for the participants although individual s do gain the confirmation and acceptance of the whole. Kipnis goes on to say that historically the laws pertaining to adultery are a key factor when attempting to dissol ve a marriage. These laws were set up in such a way that spouses police each other for th e good of the system, which is to the economic benefit of society (Kipnis, 1998, p. 300). The impression is that the state has a vested interest in the stability of the family unit and this interest is so enmeshed in the success of the family that, infidelity makes you an infidel to the law, for whi ch your spouse becomes an emblem, the hinge between the privacy of your desir es and the power of the state installed right there in your master bedroom. We ma y always already be legal subjects, with divorce court, property settlements, and custody arrangements entreating faithfulness should will and vows alone not do the trick, but keeping
those promises means at least not inviting the law to make its presence any more felt than necessary in your life. (Kipnis, 1998, p. 300) Here she impresses the importance of the marriage b ond to the state and the ramifications of its failure in the form of divorce, where the st ate takes it upon itself to expose the intimacies of married life through divorce proceedi ngs. Divorce proceedings are the stateÂ’s way of protecting its investment in marriag e. Historically, until the advent of the no-fault divorce, states needed to assign fault and publicly designate a member of the couple as the guilty party responsible for the fail ing of the marriage. Parties also had the option of petitioning state legislature for a divor ce, which involved the government further and was considerably more public and involv ed one party being designated as at fault (Celello, 2009, p. 18). These efforts only fu rther propagated the public performance idea of marriage, as well as support KipnisÂ’ point that oneÂ’s failure in marriage is punishable by the government in the most public of ways to ensure the fidelity of the participants. Marriage, according to Kipnis, is bes t defined as a means of nationalist participation as a small piece of the larger econom ic and sociopolitical machine. Marriage in its capacity as legal bond between two people is not unique to the United States, although, it has been held up as (or correlated to) an element of patriotic and nationalistic idealism. Cott (2000) explains th at the federal government exercises little control over the day-to-day activities of is suing marriage licenses, with the states, and at times, the communities or individuals themse lves controlling the activity (p. 4). She goes on to explain that a concerted effort to c reate a cohesive value within marriage did not arise until bureaucracy was in place to sup port it in the early 20th century. While the government did attempt to influence these value s directly through tax incentives and
propaganda, an amount of influence was also exerted through conservative social movements driven by the effects of war. Figure 4. More security for the American family. This poster was created by the United States government in 1935. According to Cott, the connection between governmen t and the notion of citizenship and marriage has its roots in the mirro ring of the relationship between government and citizen, and the relationship betwee n husband and wife or parents and children. The dynamic was one of patriarchy with th e husband/government controlling and guiding the wife/citizens for their own benefit This idea has taken several forms over the years. For instance, during the Great Depressio n the government promoted marriage as a means of coping with the depression through ta x incentives and social support programs that were based on the family structure ra ther than the individual. Figure 4 is an example of government-sponsored propaganda for the Social Security Department, which
focused on retirement benefits for workers, portray ing the families of workers as the incentives for involvement. Through programs such a s Social Security, the federal government presented itself as more willing to mani pulate the economy, and viewing the nuclear family as the basis for economic growth. Th is advertisement carries an expectation of marriage for men through the referen ce of wife and children. Marriage came to be viewed as patriotic as it was tied to th e creation of a family and to the hopes and goals of economic recovery; much like the worke r who earned to support his country and his family was viewed to be a better husband an d citizen (Cott, 2000). The entry of the United States into World War II c hanged the social and economic circumstances for many citizens as men were drafted and taken abroad and women and families stayed behind. The war created conflict on several fronts and monogamous marriage provided a response to many of these chall enges. Celello explains that the performance of Â“war marriagesÂ” was viewed as both a threat, and strength, of the war effort. The concern was that those who married quic kly before the husband could be shipped off to war were less soundly planned than m ore traditional marriages. The general perception, however, was that marriage was good for the war effort and therefore patriotic. Celello (2009) supports this when she st ates that Â“war marriages probably wonÂ’t work as well as ordinary marriages but they certain ly will work better than no marriagesÂ” (p. 51). The reason why a war marriage was preferab le to no marriage was because it was assumed that men who had a wife at home felt they h ad something to fight for, and loyalty to oneÂ’s wife might minimize sexual contact with prostitutes and the contracting of venereal diseases, which was a constant source o f trouble for the military (Cott, 2000). For women at home, a military husband meant dedicat ion to the war effort, as well as an
incentive to persevere through rationing and shorta ges. Women also felt a duty to marry the men that were sacrificing themselves for their country: Â“The servicemen were giving everything for their countryÂ—arms, legs, eyesight, his blood, his life. The least you can do was give yourself to this man.Â” (Celello, 2009, p. 53). The married individuals, despite their geographic separation, were set up as a symbo l of the ideal citizens who were working for their country. The Homogenous Family Historically, the United States government has use d marriage as a tool to control what types of immigrants were allowed to obtain cit izenship. Cott explains how laws barring interracial marriage (miscegenation) went i nto effect to deny a pathway to citizenship for certain groups of people. These mis cegenation laws date back to before the Civil War (Coontz, 2005). The case for immigrat ion through marriage has not always been guaranteed. Johnson (2004) points out those ma le citizens who had been born in China were often restricted from bringing their wiv es into the United States (p. 129). He explains that efforts to curtail certain types of i mmigration were put into place for the purpose of Â“helping keep America AmericanÂ” (Johnson 2004, p. 23). Canaday speaks of repeated efforts that the United States government has made to limit the intermarrying of different ethnic groups. She states that immigratio n policies traditionally have been put into place that limited the immigration of certain groups in an attempt to preserve what was considered to be a more Â“AmericanÂ” populace. Sh e specifically cites the example of the Chinese immigration to California, which grante d entry to men but not women which was paired with the legal blocking of intermarriage between the Chinese and other ethnic
groups, effectively strangling the inclusion of Chi nese participation on national life and culture (Canaday, 2011). Mackenzie v. Hare (1915) further elucidated the federal governmentÂ’s stance with regard to the nationalist role of marriage. Court p roceedings determined that a female citizen who married a foreign national would lose h er citizenship. The position of the court was that Â“marriage of an American woman with a foreigner is tantamount to voluntary expatriationÂ” ( Mackenzie v. Hare 1915, p. 239). The impression was that a womanÂ’s nationalist duty was to marry a fellow citi zen (or assume the alternative course, remain single), and the punishment for violation of this duty was expulsion. Male citizens were free to marry whomever they wished, foreigner or citizen. The court defended its position by saying, Â“As a government, the United St ates is invested with all the attributes of sovereignty, and has the character and powers of nationality, especially those concerning relations and intercourse with foreign p owersÂ” ( Mackenzie v. Hare 1915, p. 239). There was an overtone to this language that s poke to the governmentÂ’s perspective on the sexual relations of marriage as well. The id ea of Â“relations and intercourse with foreign powersÂ” sought to portray the female citize n as a traitor to the national cause through her physical intimacies with foreign powers as expressed in sex with her noncitizen husband. The husband who took a foreign wif e conquered her sexually and bought her into the national fold and thus she was accepta ble. For all citizens then, marriage and the intercourse associated with it, was a tool of c onquest on behalf of the nation. Marriage and family was embraced as a nationalist symbol during peacetime as well, though with different levels of success. Cele llo argues that concern over the high divorce rate following World War II was heralded as a breaking down of values and the
collapse of the country. Throughout the following d ecades, as the Cold War raged, families with married, cohabitating parents, althou gh becoming less common, were held up as the pinnacle of national traditions and value s. Coontz explains that the government embraced these values, but by the late 1970Â’s the v iew of single parents and divorce had changed in conjunction with changing social reality outmoding the governmentÂ’s position. Cultural and national forces used marriage as a too l in times of conflict and war to differentiate the lifestyle of the United States fr om various others throughout the world. The government idealized the family in the 1950Â’s a s being stable and unique in opposition to families in the Soviet Union. Accordi ng to Celello, the government showed family in the United States to be the nuclear ideal with stratified domestic and public relationships. The government portrayed the Soviet family unit as oppositional, while in practice it may not have been much different. This period was marked by the Cold War, and the United States government sought any opportu nity possible to set itself apart as urbane and advanced, when compared to the Soviet Un ion. Scholarly journals of the time spoke of vast differences by portraying the Soviet home as Â“being man-dominated in the most brutal sense of the wordÂ” (Schlesinger, 1952, p. 61) and the Soviet people as so backward that the governmentÂ’s attempt to modernize them meant that Â“[l]arge sections of the penal codes dealt with paying bride-price, a bducting women, polygamy, marriage of minors and similar offences originating from tri bal customsÂ” (Schlesinger, 1952, p. 62). The language attempts to portray the Soviet li fe as being so underdeveloped and brutal that the legal system was forced to parse ou t justice on issues that civilized people never experience. Issues such as purchasing a bride and the marrying off of children were
guaranteed to shock and disgust secure in their familiar nuclear families. These so rts of ideas were a foil domestic families, which were shown as stable and contrary, was barbarous and grasping for tenuous co ntrol of its savage people. Figure 5. This is AmericaÂ…where the family is a sacred instit ution. was created by the United States government and rel eased in 1944. Figure 5 dates from the World War II and the post example of the conflation of concepts of The image c onsists of a nuclear around a table for a meal. The tone struck by this image is intense as the room is simple and stark. The family is together having a meal but no one is smiling and only the mother appe ars to be attempting eye overlays the picture in such a way that it appears to be more a label than a declarative guaranteed to shock and disgust domestic readers and cause them to feel confident and secure in their familiar nuclear families. These so rts of ideas were a foil to the image of which were shown as stable and known while the Soviet Union, on the contrary, was barbarous and grasping for tenuous co ntrol of its savage people. This is AmericaÂ…where the family is a sacred instit ution. was created by the United States government and rel eased in 1944. Figure 5 dates from the World War II and the post war boom era, and gives an example of the conflation of concepts of nationalist identity, marriage, and the family. onsists of a nuclear type family with two parents and children gathered around a table for a meal. The tone struck by this image is intense as the room is simple and stark. The family is together having a meal but no one is smiling and only the mother ars to be attempting eye contact, albeit unsuccessfully The phrase Â“This is AmericaÂ” overlays the picture in such a way that it appears to be more a label than a declarative readers and cause them to feel confident and to the image of while the Soviet Union, on the contrary, was barbarous and grasping for tenuous co ntrol of its savage people. This is AmericaÂ…where the family is a sacred instit ution. This piece was created by the United States government and rel eased in 1944. war boom era, and gives an identity, marriage, and the family. type family with two parents and children gathered around a table for a meal. The tone struck by this image is intense as the room is simple and stark. The family is together having a meal but no one is smiling and only the mother The phrase Â“This is AmericaÂ” overlays the picture in such a way that it appears to be more a label than a declarative
statement. The text below the images declares that Â“family is a sacred institutionÂ” and Â“a manÂ’s home is his castle.Â” Through the use of the w ord Â“sacredÂ” the image and the text speak directly to the idea of morality as a value a ssociated with family and home. The gravity of this message is driven home through the soberness of the scene which is lacking in any whimsy or warmth. The text of the im age also posits the idea that the freedom of the American way of life is being challe nged. Perhaps this is why the family seeks privacy by drawing the curtains. The text als o explicitly names the husband and father as the unquestioned head of the household, a n idea I will address in the next chapter. The image includes a concept of economic s tability expressed in the mention of the family and home, both of which are economic ass ets. This suggests a certain class associated with the idealized home through home own ership and children. Gray (2006) states that this image in particular (dubbed Â“This is AmericaÂ”) was part of a larger series and used to posit the idea of a unified, classless society and drive economic advantage during war-time and the time following. He ties the idea of economic benefit to that of marriage and family, as previously explained in the economic stability chapter. Gray (2006) states that Â“the American government used po ster campaigns extensively as propaganda toolsÂ” (p. 7). Part of a popular series, this poster was one of more than a dozen used in a campaign that was successful enough to last nearly a decade. The legalization of same-sex marriage in countries like Canada, the Netherlands, and Sweden also impacts domestic perceptions of mar riage values in a way that isolates and defines what a patriotic marriage should look l ike and entail. Those opposed to samesex marriage in the United States have held up trad itional marriage as the ideal and claimed greater marriage equality would devalue the institution(Hillman, 2013; Poirer,
2008). As same-sex marriage grows more visible, thi s argument becomes more common though it has been refuted in studies that same-sex marriage has shown an impact on marriage among the Dutch which polled no change in public valuation of marriage or marriage rates among straight couples (Trandafir, 2 013). With regard to culture in the United States, does t he culture around marriage--that is to say the encouragement of marriage (or sequent ial marriages) -become more acceptable because it stands apart from the standar d of the typical Western European norm? Data shows little difference between the premarital sexual behaviors of either region. Studies have shown that among United States citizens, Â“almost all individuals of both sexes have intercourse before marrying, and th e proportion has been roughly similar for the past 40 yearsÂ” (Finer, 2007, p. 76). Anothe r poll shows that 37% of United States citizens believe that sex should be saved for marri age. That figure according to Gallup is shrinking (Wilke & Saad, 2013) as the older generat ion gradually becomes more accepting of unmarried physical intimacy or simply pass away. A study in the United Kingdom has shown that Â“70% of the 300 people polle d had no objection to pre-marital sexÂ” (BBC News, 2008). There is a difference howeve r, in the embrace of gay and lesbian relationships. This difference would also b e lent weight by the legalization of same-sex coupling among numerous countries in Weste rn Europe with Denmark being the first to recognize partnerships in 1989 followe d by Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands (Takacs & Szalma, 2011, p. 357). The pu sh to legally recognize same-sex relations in the United States has struggled to fin d traction after decades of effort up until recently. On this point, it is possible that nation al identity finds a certain dynamic or
oppositional quality as it postures itself as count er to contemporary Western European norms. Marriage Equality as a Nationalist Symbol of Freedo m The cases of Loving v. Virginia (1967) and Brown v. Board of Education (1954) have opened the doors toward greater integration by legalizing intermarriage and school integration respectively. Dudziak states, however, that the governmentÂ’s push in the 1960s toward greater integration and civil rights w as not just because of the grassroots drive of the people at the time or the inherent jus tness of the cause. She states that, Â“[a]lthough seemingly at odds with the restrictive approach to individual rights in other contexts, the U.S. governmentÂ’s participation in th e desegregation cases during the McCarthy era was no anomalyÂ” (Dudziak, 1988, p. 62) Rather, she posits, the move was highly intentional and had less to do with correcti ng a social ill as much as base national posturing. She goes on to say that the United State s was wrapped up in the Cold War and was attempting to Â“sellÂ” the idea of its style of d emocracy to the world. At this time, Â“the U.S. hoped to reshape the postwar world in its own imageÂ” and to do so they had to address civil rights domestically because Â“the inte rnational attention given to racial segregation was troublesome and embarrassingÂ” (Dudz iak, 1988, p. 62). Foreign and domestic media, according to Dudziak, spoke at leng th concerning the civil rights inequality amongst United States citizens. The stat e of racial inequality was considered shameful and an embarrassment that threatened to de rail the effort to promote the United StatesÂ’ government-style to the world. Dudziak make s an effort to express that this push toward desegregation and greater equality did not j ust arise as a result of pressure applied
by the people but also from the federal government. This movement represents a bold and obvious move by the federal government to sculpt th e nationalistic identity of the Â“true AmericanÂ” to include racial equality, although not for the sake of its citizens, but for use as propaganda. The United States is not alone in its efforts to ma ke large public gestures in an attempt to form a national identity around a certai n issue. The 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, provided a platform from wh ich Russia could speak. Media coverage brought international attention to the gam es over the few years preceding the Olympics. The Russian government made a variety of political maneuvers that included the restriction of adoptions to countries where mar riage equality existed, as well as a highly controversial, highly visible (and nebulous) ban on Â“homosexual propagandaÂ” conveniently timed during the Olympic games (Fierst ein, 2013). While Russia is not alone in having anti-gay stances (many countries in the Middle East and Africa do as well) it is perhaps the most vocal, using the Olymp ic Games coverage as a pulpit to announce its policies to the world. The United Stat es could have seized the opportunity to posture itself in opposition to Russian by publical ly embracing gay and lesbian relationships. This move, and possibly moves like i t in the future on the part of the federal government, would be a clear power play to attempt to sway world opinion by making a highly visible public gesture that, in tur n, would reify the desired concept of nationalist identity, a tactic which is shown not t o be unusual on the world stage. As the question of the legitimacy of same-sex marri age (or simply Â“gay rightsÂ” in general) arises not only on a national level but al so on a global scale, the possibility of using the issue of Â“character-buildingÂ” of the nati onal identity is obvious. Same-sex
marriage rights are still contentious domestically, and outside of an island of tolerance in Western Europe and a few select spots around the wo rld, many countries have made a stand nationally that strongly opposes same-sex mar riage (Rupar, 2014). The family and, with it, marriage, has repeatedly been stereotyped and held up as the quintessential form with regards to freedom and Â“the way it should be.Â” This is done in part by federal agencies seeking to drive the economy, or bolster t he national spirit during times of war. Russia and the Middle East are current and historic points of comparison and contrast for United States domestic identity. The criminal and s taunchly anti-homosexual rights situation in these areas (Rupar, 2014) creates the opportunity to show the connection between equality and same-sex marriage. Same-sex ma rriage, a highly visible aspect of gay rights, creates an obvious comparison between t he United States and those countries of the world where homosexual activities are consid ered a criminal act and gays and lesbians are actively pursued by the state. There i s an important distinction to be made here. While being gay or lesbian may not be necessa rily illegal, activities such as engaging in same-sex intercourse and attempting to marry a same-sex partner are afoul of the law. The focus on freedom, free expression, and the Â“American WayÂ” as being the heart of the national experience, provides ample ba cking to set the United States as an example of liberty. The point of this move on the p art of the government is to once again foster a unique, socially responsible identity. There are benefits of a public embrace of marriage equality on a national level that extend beyond mere posturing. The image of a w elcoming and inclusive community is sought after, specifically by the business world Concerning the city of Cincinnati, Ohio, Greenblatt states that the city struggled wit h issues of discrimination against the
gay and lesbian community in the past as well as wi th economic stagnation. He posits that only when the city shed its policies of discri mination against the gay community did things start to turn around. Greenblatt (2014) goes on to say that Â“[t]he city's emphasis on inclusion and economic development have gone hand i n hand.Â” The city itself achieved economic benefits by altering its culture and laws to becoming more inclusive and the United States could do the same. By establishing it self as a welcoming and diverse country through a public embrace of marriage equali ty, the United States can benefit economically. The idea of national posturing that benefits the ca use of gays and lesbians is not unusual. The United States government has, at times granted asylum to those caught performing homosexual acts who were mistreated at t he hands of their compatriots on their native soil (Johnson, 2004, p. 150). In the c ase Pitcherskaia v. INS (1997), a Russian woman was granted asylum because Â“as a Â‘suspectedÂ’ lesbianÂ” she was subjected to Â“medical treatment that was egregious enough to qua lify as persecutionÂ” (Johnson, 2004, p. 150). This woman was granted asylum on the basis of her mistreatment because she was a suspected to be lesbian, and by granting asyl um the United States set itself apart from Russia which took a harsh stance toward gays a nd lesbians and homosexual behavior. The step toward national individuation th rough the embrace of marriage equality is not a difficult step to take. Other cou ntries have established themselves as being anti-gay marriage through highly visible poli tical maneuvers (as in the case of Russia) or through violent anti-gay marriage demons trations, as was the occasion in Morocco in 2007 when a non-legal same-sex marriage ceremony was raided and attendees were beaten by an angry mob (Dubai, 2007) Situations such as these provide
the opportunity for the United States to set itself up as being different from oppressive communities and thereby join the ranks of more prog ressive countries such as Canada, Norway and Spain which welcome gay and lesbian unio ns (Rupar, 2014). While the United States government has nominally le ft the matter of marriage to individual states to dictate, it has not shied away from using marriage as a tool towards its own ends. This involvement took the shape of the pr opagation of certain familial structures and ethnicities in an attempt to drive t he economy or shore up support during war time. The United States government has an oppor tunity to once again use marriage to bolster itself internationally by embracing same-se x marriage and reaping the economic benefits of presenting a welcoming face to the worl d.
CHAPTER V SEXUAL INTERCOURSE AND GENDER IDENTITY Sexual intercourse and marriage are by no means mut ually inclusive; however, the existence of the adolescent purity ball speaks to the level of dedication that interested parties have invested in trying to raise children t o see them as such. These events, which are for fathers and their young daughters, include a ceremony where fathers swear Â“before God to cover my daughter as her authority a nd protection in the area of purityÂ” (Generations of Light, 2014). This movement, hardly anomalous as it exists in 48 states, is focused on reinforcing what the group sees as a dwindling social policy of sexual behavior being constrained to marriage. This group seeks to reestablish the sexual norms of the past that limited sexual intercourse to marr iage through taboos on pre-marital sex and same-sex relationships as well as a focus on se xual abstinence. Sanctioned sexual behaviors may not be listed outri ght in the certificate of marriage; however, that has not kept the appropriat eness of certain sexual behaviors from being discussed and adjudicated. The marriage certi ficate itself is very limited in its scope and does not speak about the sexual rights and resp onsibilities explicitly. The court system has added layers of distinction concerning t he sexual responsibilities of spouses. People v. Liberta (1984) reinforced the precedent that a husband rapi ng his wife was legal provided that they were cohabitating at the t ime, though the law has since changed. The case stated that a wife grants Â“matrimonial con sentÂ” to her husband, and that this grants him unrestricted access to sex with her, reg ardless of whether she consents to sex at the time. Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) involved the court striking down a law that barred the use of contraceptives by married couples Deciding this case, the courtÂ’s
opinion stated that this law was particularly incor rect because marriage is Â“intimate to the degree of being sacredÂ” ( Griswold v. Connecticut 1965, p. 486) and the state was attempting to violate that sanctum. Lawrence v. Texas (1993) overturned the anti-sodomy laws of fourteen states. It is important to note in this situation that while the case featured a same-sex couple, the laws in several of these sta tes banned sodomy as a consensual act regardless of the gender of the participants. Social pressures have embraced or penalized certain behaviors for men while those same behaviors for women to the reverse stand ard. These behaviors are incorporated into marriage expectations and ideals. As Butler (1991) states, Â“gender is a kind of imitation for which there is no originalÂ” ( p. 88) and by this she posits that gender norms are completely fabricated and that there is n ormative Â“rightÂ” and Â“wrongÂ” performance of gender. These behaviors, and their c omparative differences, form the heart of the social roles that men and women have o ccupied and continue to occupy to this day. These roles and their differences, while often deeply borne, are not to be confused as innate or naturally arising out of the sexual identity of the individual. The constructed roles of gender are invested with value s, associated with certain behaviors, and incorporated into marriage expectations as thou gh they were innate. There have been occasions where legal proceedings h ave assessed the legitimacy of marital sexual relations as well as dictated the importance of gender in the execution of oneÂ’s marital role. One of the primary occasions of legal involvement concerns extramarital intercourse and the pressure on both men an d women concerning its impropriety. The contentious matter of appropriate sexual behavi or goes beyond physical intimacy as appropriate gender expression becomes divided betwe en a public and a private sphere.
Both males and females, historically and contempora rily, as spouses or potential spouses were, and are, expected to conform to the establish ed social ideals of their gender. Heterosexual intercourse within the confines of mar riage receives societyÂ’s seal of approval, which in turn is denied to forms of sexua l behavior considered aberrant. I show some of the fierceness of the opposition to same-se x marriage as based on an opposition to same-sex intercourse and the legitimacy granted to that intimacy in the social bond of marriage. Marriage as a Guard against Sexual Impropriety There is no legal mandate to marry, although, the c ultural and social pressure to do so is backed up by a variety of consequences for those who did not conform. These consequences vary according to the symbolic values that hold sway at the time. With regards to sexual behavior, society assigns stigma to sexual congress outside the bonds of marriage in addition to certain types of sexual beh aviors within the bond of marriage. The symbolic value of appropriate sexual behavior is ti ed to the idea of socially sanctioned intercourse that takes place between sexually welladjusted heterosexuals for the purpose of procreation. Marriage did not always possess a concept of romant ic love and sex based on mutual attraction. The love-based, sexual component of marriage became a focus after older concepts of marriage, as an institution that focused on wealth transfer and lineage, were altered to include the idea that spouses shoul d marry for love (Celello, 2009, p. 17). While sex was needed to assure the continuation of the family, the inclusion of Â“companionate loveÂ” spoke to the increased potentia l and importance of the physical
expression of love through sex. Before the turn of the century, according to Celello, there was a greater focus on the economic benefits behind marriage whereas contemporarily, the idea of love and physical attraction received g reater attention. Tyrer, an Anglican minister writing a marriage manual in the 1950s, go es to lengths to explain the necessity of physical intimacy in marriage. He states, Â“This is ideal marriage. It involves mutual love, respect and admiration, lifelong companionshi pÂ…mutual consideration always of each otherÂ’s every need, physical, mental and emoti onalÂ” (Tyrer, 1961, p. xvii). Marriage, according to Tyrer, is first and foremost an emotional and physical bond with a member of the opposite sex. He goes on to detail th e importance of regular, heterosexual, monogamous intimacy, which clearly illustrates his belief in the importance of companionate marriage. This important aspect of intimate life was a point of contention in the past because of prejudices against racial mixing. Prior to Loving v. Virginia (1967), which struck down anti-miscegenation laws as unconstitutional, interr acial marriage was treated differently on a state-to-state basis. In certain states, inter racial sex and the resulting multi-racial children were viewed by some to be undesirable and limitations were set up to discourage them. Davis (2010) explains that under the current norm of companionate marriage Â“sex was the main courseÂ” (p. 39). Sexually active inter racial couples were inevitably going to produce multiracial offspring, which flew in the fa ce of the spirit of miscegenation laws. Marriage, as the only socially acceptable framework for sexual congress, was the focus of laws to prevent racial commingling. Marriage laws o ften reflected a race-based bias as a means of controlling sex and thereby controlling re production.
Pasco explains that the early marriage equality debates in the 1970s emerged from a push for broader sexual equality, noting tha t the court system had ruled against same-sex marriage with the following rationale: Â“Wh y should we [the courts] condone a spirit of what is accepted as perverted lust?Â” (Pas coe, 2000, p. 93). This speaks to the public perception of the sex in a straight marriage as an expression of Â“loveÂ” and sex within a same-sex relationship as Â“lust.Â” The court clearly explains that the bond of marriage is limited to straight couples because the ir sex is deemed worthy, but the similar physical act of gay and lesbians is denied the conf irmation of the loving companionship bond. Dubinsky (1999) speaks to the importance of sex wit hin marriage by exploring the ritual of the honeymoon as a celebration of thi s bond. She explains that Niagara Falls, a common honeymoon location, was Â“a place you went when you had your sexual Â‘papersÂ’ [marriage license], a place that welcomed the only officially sanctioned form of sexual expression, that which took place between tw o married heterosexualsÂ” (Dubinsky, 1999, p. 13). Tyrer (1961), writing in the 1950s, s peaks of the honeymoon intercourse as being fundamental to the marriage. He states, The marriage night and the honeymoon may well be th e beginning of life-long happiness, a happiness deepening as the years roll by, or they may end in the disappointment and aversion that will be hidden, pe rhaps by the outraged bride, but which will find vent in the bitter tears of dis illusionment and disgust, and may affect the balance of life. (Tyrer, 1961, p. 90) Tyrer establishes honeymoon intercourse as the make -or-break moment for happiness in a marriage. He appears to place more pressure on th e husband to perform, saying that
disappointment may result in an Â“outraged brideÂ” wh o may hide her anger initially and vent it by becoming disgusted with her husband in t he future. Tyrer promotes monogamy and asserts the honeymoon should be the first inter course a couple has, but also stresses that failure on these first attempts might doom the marriage. Figure 6. Romantic couple by Niagara Falls. This prints featu res an advertisement for Niagara Falls. Sexual activity has been nominally limited to heter osexual marriage for a considerable amount of time and the honeymoon was t he celebration of this socially sanctioned heterosexual physical intimacy. Dubinsky (1999) explains that in places such as Niagara (advertisement pictured in Figure 6), wh ich in its heyday catered heavily to heterosexual newlyweds, Â“the hegemonic, taken-for-g ranted qualities of heterosexuality are rendered plainly, obviously, visibleÂ” (p. 13). Tourism agencies in Niagara used the image above in an attempt to sell the idea of the h eterosexual sexual excursion that was the honeymoon. According to Dubinsky, the creation of areas that cater specifically to the
punctuation of sanctioned heterosexual intercourse within marriage have fallen away, even as sex outside of marriage became more sociall y accepted. She explains that as sex became less a mark of marriage only, and more a mar k of heterosexuality, it became less important to have such a prominent, visible landmar k to represent it. Sexual intercourse has replaced marriage as the test of heterosexualit y. Figure 7. Newlyweds seated on car. This photograph by Elliot Erwin was taken in 1958. Figure 7 shows a newlywed couple with a sign in the car window saying Â“She got me this morning but Ill get her to night [sic].Â” Th e impression left by the image is that the new husband has bartered for sexual relations with his partner, trading marriage for intercourse. The image, dated 1958, speaks to the i dea of differing values of marriage according to the gender of the participant. The hus band in this case is getting married to secure sexual intimacy, while the wife is trading s exual access for the purpose of securing a husband who can take care of her financially.
Marriage as the Behavior of the Properly Gendered P erson The mark of approval that society has placed on sex within a marriage also speaks to what the public says about the choice husbands a nd wives make by entering the bond. This standard of marriageability also includes judg ment for those who were unable to marry or choose not to marry. This difference creat es a disparity between those individuals who express their gender properly by ma rrying and those who are aberrant. The value associated with the intersection between sex and marriage focuses on the appropriately gendered behavioral status of the hus band and wife as well as the role of acceptable intercourse as it takes place between th em. Dubinsky speaks to the importance of sex inside of marriage and the perceived need fo r societal controls to assure that the marital bed is where sex takes place. Bernstein spe aks of the act of women becoming pregnant outside of marriage and analyzes the resul tant pregnancy but is silent when it comes to considering the intercourse that caused th e pregnancy in the first place. The reason for her silence about intercourse is address ed by Dubinsky who relates this lack of attention to social perceptions of propriety as the y are expressed by sexual relations only in the bond of traditional marriage. BernsteinÂ’s (2 001) perspective plays into the mentality of the time that sexual intercourse was a n outcome of the damaged nature of the individual who had it. She is stating that the single mother was inherently flawed and the pregnancy was only the outcome of that flawed n ature. The reason for this, according to Bernstein, was that sex outside of marriage (and pregnancy from this coitus) was only happening to girls who were fundamentally damaged, because only such a girl would engage in pre-marital relations. Dubinsky states th at during the post-World War II boom and into the 1960Â’s, sex during the honeymoon had t he ability to damage the couple for
the rest of their marriage. She quotes a Â“sex exper tÂ” as saying that Â“more psychological damage can be done on the honeymoon than the balanc e of life can correctÂ” (Dubinsky, 1999, p. 216). Sex was a performance so vital that if it was not Â“up to parÂ” the quality of the marriage going forward could be in jeopardy bec ause a successful honeymoon was the foundation of a successful marriage. This expla ins the lack of mention on the part of Bernstein regarding unwed mothers as the very exist ence of her pregnancy outside of marriage confirms the fundamentally damaged quality of the mother as she has engaged in sex which is dangerous enough within the realm o f wedlock, much less outside it. Sex was too important and too powerful to be expressed freely. It is challenging to overestimate the impression th at marriage has on the behavior and expectations of people who are seeking meaning and value in relationships. Cultural values have long placed pressure to ensure the appr oved gendered behavior for male and females and dictating what types of actions and beh aviors are appropriate for different individuals. In the context of the United States, i t is generally agreed that there are two types of acceptable behavior in which to engage: me n performing masculinity (though there are various forms of masculinity) and women p erforming femininity. These terms come loaded with performance expectations (Kimmel, 2011). Marriage has played a significant role in delineating normative gender ro les, behaviors, and activities. Celello states that marriage historically has been viewed a s essential. Any aberration in the bond would mean one could Â“never reinstate marriage as t he primary source of commitment and caring in the worldÂ” (Celello, 2009, p. 5). The pressure is toward gender conformity so as to not Â“rock the boatÂ” and risk the loss of s uch a potent and foundational intimacy. Marriage was, and is, an important source of interp ersonal value and meaning for
individuals. These relationships are subject to mor e than just the behavioral whims of its participants, as society weighs in and influences t he norms and values associated with gender expression. Marriage, in part, dictates norm s of gender behavior and performance due in part to its dominant role in society and als o because of the influence of its traditional gender requirements. Figure 8. This is AmericaÂ…where every boy can dream. This pos ter was created by the United States government in 1943. Marriage has dictated the appropriateness of certai n actions and behaviors for men and women through social pressure to conform. T he exemption of women from the labor field is part of Â“the doctrine of separate sp heresÂ” (Hill, 2012, p. 73). This idea posits that gender expression dictates which roles men and women are best suited for, with men occupying the public sphere and paid labor, while w omen take the private sphere and the home. Figure 8 was created for the United States go vernment by the Sheldon-Claire Company, and shows a classroom filled with white, m ale students listening and following
along intently. The image, which was funded by the American government, speaks to the concept of separate spheres. The image shows a clas sroom filled with young men engaged in the act of learning. The text states tha t Â“every boy can dream of being PresidentÂ” and then goes on to praise the education system as contributing to making the United States the most Â“decentÂ” country. Any mentio n of females is noticeably absent. The text itself proclaims the place of men and boys to be that of social achievement and national possession. The clearly gendered language of the text precludes the contributions of any women and asserts that Â“the most decent nati on on earthÂ” is Â“built upon the rights of men.Â” The image drives home the idea that academ ia and politics are expressly the place of men with women being marginalized to other unnamed positions. Celello analyzes the transition of marriage in the 1940Â’s as white, middle-class women left (or were forced out of) the wartime posi tions and began a different, more domestic role. She explains that this new norm was not an easy one for anyone. She states that the transition caused Â“anxieties about conform ity, corporate culture, education, youthful rebellion, and enforcing Â‘normalÂ’ gender r oles (to name a few) thus existed side by sideÂ” (Celello, 2009, p. 76). The different valu es prompted by the change from wartime to peacetime involved an alteration in gend ered norms, and for many middleclass women, this included leaving the workforce (f or those who had taken jobs) and the devoting oneself to the domestic sphere. Celello ex plains that this version of appropriate gender behavior was very different from the previou s push for women to assert their own agency by entering the workforce and providing as h ead of household during World War II when male workers were in short supply. Coontz e xplains the need for marriage as a proof of this new expression of femininity. She quo tes a marriage advice column of the
time: Â“if an American woman can find a man she want s to marry, who can support her, a job fades into insignificance behind the vital busi ness of staying at home and raising a familyÂ” (Coontz, 2005, p. 222). This advice column specifically articulates the change in female-appropriate behavior in the transition from paid labor in the factories to unpaid labor in the home. According to the column, the key to personal significance and vitality is marriage and labor in the home. The institution of marriage was used to alter the b ehavior of women by asserting the feminine attributes of unpaid domestic labor. H ill takes this concept further and posits that a Â“cult of true womanhoodÂ” was created that Â“d efine[d] women as having four cardinal virtues that were intrinsic to their natur e: piety, purity, submissiveness and domesticityÂ” (2012, p. 74). According to Hill, this concept essentializes the nature of women in such a way as to set the home and domestic life as the only appropriate option for women. Figure 9 The chef does everything but cook. This advertise ment from Sears Roebuck and Company was created in 1961.
Figure 6 is taken from an advertisement for The Che f, a brand of kitchen mixer. The text states that the product does everything bu t cook, and asserts that the reason it does not cook is because that is the job of the wif e. This advertisement was meant to encourage the purchase of home goods and does so by invoking the idea of separate spheres. It fosters the image of a wife in the home and appeals to the husband as provider to supply the things she needs to create a home for him. The message for wives in this ad is that the expressed purpose of a wife to cook (sh e is conspicuously dressed for the part), but also the implication is that she is not up to t he task. The placement of the husband, dressed for the professional world, is that of resc uer as he provides the device necessary for her to complete the duties of her gender. While discussion of the idealized womanÂ’s place in the home is primarily focused on the role of wife and mother, the role of men was built around the idea of being the economic force outside the home. The idealized masc uline sphere was not marked by the need for sexual reproduction during the 1950Â’s, as it was for the properly gendered female, but rather, revenue creation. Coontz (2005) explains that the response to the economic struggles of the Great Depression and the population boom post-World War II created an idealized male as the sole-provider for a family. While this may have been the ideal, the reaction, especially during periods of e conomic downturn, made achieving this level of masculine perfection challenging. Coontz ( 2005) explains that a man of this era Â“felt like he was more of a man when he was support ing his family on his ownÂ” (p. 217). Those men who needed to accept support from a wife in turn would feel emasculated. Coontz (2005) goes on to say that even when men ach ieved the success of sole economic breadwinning, there may still be disappointment; th ere was trouble for the Â“alienated
breadwinnerÂ” (p. 251) who felt he was forced to con form. Robert Lindner argues that when Â“a man tried to live up to all of societyÂ’s ex pectations at work and at home he became Â‘a slave in mind and bodyÂ’Â” (as cited in Coo ntz, 2005, p. 251). Gilbert (2005) states that masculinity of this era owes its values to the Â“fear of masculine declineÂ” (p. 4). He goes on to say that Â“the effects of conformity, suburban life, and mass culture were pictured as feminizing and debasingÂ” and that the s olution lay in Â“traditional masculine vigor and individualismÂ” (Gilbert, 2005, p. 4). Acc ording to Gilbert, the concern over masculinity and the masculine expression of men, wh o were also husbands, resulted in a clear division of labor and a staunch separation fr om the home and the wife. The reaction about loss of self speaks to the potency of the pre ssure to suppress oneÂ’s own desires while conforming to the expectations of the marital norm.
Figure 10 There is happiness and heartbreak in going steady This image was created by Matt Baker for Lovers Comics in 1957. Not every individual during the post-World War II boom was willing to conform and commit to marriage. Coontz (2005) explains that those who might have been tempted to hold off marrying during the 1950s and 1960s suf fered the judgment of society because Â“marriage was seen as the only culturally a cceptable route to adulthood and independenceÂ” (p. 231). The implication was that so ciety denied the social and cultural privileges to those who opted out of marriage, whet her they were involved in a relationship or not. As such, marriage was a necess ary coming of age experience for both genders. Coontz (2005) states that Â“men who chose t o remain bachelors were branded Â‘narcissistic,Â’ Â‘deviant,Â’ Â‘infantileÂ’ or Â‘patholog icalÂ’Â” (p. 230) or potentially homosexual. The perception of women who did not marry was littl e better, and women of this era
suffered public scrutiny of their marital status. C elello (2009) states that Â“unmarried women as young as twenty or twenty-one thought of t hemselves as old maidsÂ” (p. 77). Figure 10 is from a comic marketed toward girls cal led Â“LoversÂ” and it illustrates a lesson about the pressure for girls (and women) to possess a male romantic partner. The setting is scholastic and the presumption is that t he woman on the left is an instructor who is watching a younger lady being courted by a young man. The teacher is crying while the younger girl is shyly receiving the boyÂ’s pin. The image sets up a contrast between the choices of the two women. The older women chose a career and the younger is currently choosing a romantic partner. The impressi on is that the older women is in tears lamenting her lack of a romantic life as she watche s the younger girl making the choice that she would not make. The focus here is aimed sp ecifically at women and imparts the lesson that it is better to choose the romantic par tner and avoid the specter of Â“become and old maid.Â” While the judgments could be as seve re as those that men endured, men possessed a higher degree of agency with regard to marriage, whereas women were universally considered to desire marriage, and when lacking it, they were seen as broken women who were less than complete (Celello, 2009, p 76). The image of the devoted couple here is set apart as the obvious choice, whi le the alternative is left weeping in the corner. Marriage as Sanctioned Sex and the Challenge of Sam e-Sex Unions The discussion of the marriage of same-sex couples may have been a hot button issue in recent years; however, both the topic and the push for legalization of same-sex marriage have been around for decades. Pascoe discu sses the impact of early legal
challenges for same-sex marriage as they fit into t he discussion of gender inequality. She details the tone of moral failing that is assigned to aberrant forms of marriage by the courts. Her argument addresses what she calls the Â“ inherent heterosexual normativityÂ” ensconced in marriage and the backlash against nontraditional gender expression that erupted as a result of the debate over marriage equ ality. Pascoe refers to arguments made in the 1970s by many radical feminists stating that traditional marriage went against the idea of gender equality. They Â“thought it logical t hat a Supreme Court that found Â‘raceÂ’ an Â‘unsupportableÂ’ basis on which to deny entrance to the civil right of marriage could be persuaded to say the same about sexÂ” (Pascoe, 2000, p. 93). The precedent case in this instance was Loving v. Virginia (1967), which struck down miscegenation laws that prevented white people and non-white people from ma rrying. The perspective was that if race did not apply to marriage law, then the gender of a person should not matter either. Questioning heterosexuality as the only sexual norm for marriage was part of these earlier claims for marriage equality by feminists w ho were posturing for greater rights and equality for women. Pascoe points out that this idea was so jarring at the time that it caused nationwide modifications to the formerly gender-neutral langua ge of the law to ensure marriage remained a heteronormative institution. The concern according to Pascoe, was that attempts to dictate marriage would mean that gender ed behavior (such as resistance to domesticity) could also be dictated legally within marriage and this would be to the detriment of womenÂ’s rights. Those concerned with t he rights of women within marriage would be best served by the legalization of same-se x marriage as it would diminish some of the perceived disparities between genders (Pasco e, 2000).
The cultural and legal debate over same-sex marria ge questions the idea that only the appropriately gendered person is allowed to mar ry; however, the resistance at its core concerns the issue of homosexual sex. Same-sex rela tionships can now transition into legally recognized marriages in certain areas in th e United States. Current thirty six states includingAlaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Mary land, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage. The legalization of same-sex marriage mea ns society has placed its blessing on the sexual behavior that takes place within the bon d of marriage, as it has with differentsex marriage historically. The marriage institution ceases to speak only to the straight individual and rather, speaks to the individual reg ardless of sexual orientation. The presumption here is that well-adjusted individuals more readily form relationships and marry than remain single. The acceptance of non-str aight couples into the marriage area effectively places the stamp of approval on the rel ationship and the appropriateness of the gendered behavior of the participants, although tho se who continue to opt for nonmarriage partnerships grow increasingly marginalize d. The disapproval of same-gender intercourse stands at the heart of the struggle against marriage equality. The Civil Rights movemen t fought anti-miscegenation laws that deprived couples the right to have the legitim ation of interracial sex though the socially sanctioning affect of marriage. The concer n of those opposed at that time was with the act of race mixing through sex and the cre ation of progeny. This same argument
is used in the struggle for the incorporation of sa me-sex marriage rights. The difference in this case is the focus on same-gender intercours e and the sanctioning normality that it achieves through legal marriage. At the heart of th e opposition to same-sex marriage is the concern that society is placing its stamp of ap proval on gay sex through the legalization of gay marriage (Donatucci, 2013). Tho se who oppose homosexuality feel as though they are forced into acceptance as part of t he whole and this plays out in the legal challenges such as the wedding photographer who ins isted on her right to discriminate against same-sex couples in Elane Photography v. Willock (2013). Graham (2004) states that the push for legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States has effectively striped the same-sex couple of its sexual identity. The movement by focusing on economic benefits, caring, respect for same-sex cou ples etc., all the while refusing to address that these couples are physically intimate. Graham (2004) argues that the importance of recognizing that gay and lesbian coup les have sex is tied to the idea of marriage consummation: I do not mean to suggest that marriage as an instit ution is reducible to its role in the regulation of sexuality, but such regulation is an important function of marriage as it is currently enforced. A marriage th at has never been sexually consummated may not be considered a true marriage. (p. 25) Here, Graham is referencing the historic concept of marital sex as the final stamp on the validity of a marriage. While this requirement may no longer hold up as sufficient reason to dissolve a marriage, Graham is also addressing t he social concept of marriage as being a bond that is inherently sexual. The importance he re is that attempting to usher same-sex couples into marriage without acknowledging their d esire for physical intimacy is doing
them a disservice and depriving them of the legitim acy of socially sanctioned sexual intimacy. Graham is also drawing on the difference between sex for reproduction and sex for pleasure. Heterosexual intercourse carries the possibility of pregnancy and child bearing, thus serving a purpose beyond the enjoymen t of the partners. Homosexual intercourse does not have a purpose beyond the plea sure and intimacy of the participants. The advent of birth control makes it possible for w omen to have heterosexual intercourse while minimizing the risk of pregnancy; however, th is has been frowned upon as well historically. Tyrer (1961) states in his marriage m anual that women should use birth control Â“only if there is a good medical reason to object to further pregnancyÂ” (p. 55). Opposition to birth control, specifically womenÂ’s b irth control, is still common to this day (Kliff, 2014). The natural law position also co mes into play here as it states that same-sex relationships are illegitimate because the outcome of sexual intercourse cannot bring about children (Donatucci, 2013). The impress ion made by both positions points to an opposition, both historically and contemporarily to the idea of intercourse purely for pleasure and, on that basis, denying marriage right s to gay and lesbian couples. Society has placed restrictions and expectations o n intercourse and gendered behavior both inside and outside of marriage. Tradi tionally marriage has served as a barrier around sexual behavior with society discour aging and at times pathologizing intercourse outside of marriage, especially with re gard to women. Additionally, the expectations of gender performance have included ma rriage, with marriage being the quintessential activity of the properly gendered in dividual. While marriage has traditionally, and often contemporarily, contained the only physical intimacy of which society approves, the legalization of same-sex marr iage requires social acceptance of
same-sex intercourse. A point of contention for tho se who oppose same-sex marriage is the acceptance that gays and lesbians engage in mea ningful intercourse and that while this behavior may not produce children, it is still deemed worthy of the marriage bond.
CHAPTER VI CONCLUSION Marriage in the United States, as a legal and cultu ral institution, is unique because of the milieu in which we live our day-to-day lives This bond is so influential on the culture that even those who do not want to marry ar e affected and valuated with regard to their position on marriage. Gay and lesbian couples cannot avoid the comparison to straight couples and are forced to live with the ne ar ubiquitous reminder that marriage is something they are not deemed worthy to possess. Wh ile the position of marriage has been shown to change dramatically over the years, i t still holds a place of valuation and importance in the life of United States citizens. The public perception of marriage is dictated by th e ever changing influences of day-to-day life. Large events like war and economic boom and downturn have changed the values assigned to marriage into what we know t oday. The recognition of the need for marriage equality is no different. It is the fruit of a public movement many years in the making that only recently gathered attention and su pport when gays and lesbians achieved a level of social acceptance. The values o f marriage have changed in certain areas to embrace the inclusion of same-sex couples, and the legal bond of marriage to reflect the same. Marriage continues to progress to ward a place of equality for all couples regardless of gender. It is important to recognize the values as being transitional and subject to the revaluation by society without consi deration of the individual bonds. Awareness of this is essential for any group attemp ting to secure marital rights as hard won victories can easily be taken away if economic advantage, social mores, sexual
identity values or nationalistic identity were to s hift influence strongly in a different direction. What then are the symbolic values of the state of m arriage looking ahead? The concept of marriage equality has, in large part, be en fueled by the push of same-sex couples for social acceptance of their relationship While this movement has pushed the symbolic values of moral virtue and sex and gender performance to the fore, as same-sex marriage achieves greater acceptance and becomes th e norm, other values will reemerge and take greater prominence. The term Â“marriage equ alityÂ” has become synonymous with the debate over same-sex marriage, but the term its elf may come to be associated with other issues within marriage that are unequal. Marriage has seen shifts that go beyond the issues of same-sex marriage to address the role of women and the needs of the econ omy. The issue of equal employment for women is still prevalent and ongoing. The shift ing values give a helpful insight as to the future of marriage and its place in our culture The demands of the United States economy will have considerable sway on whether coup les can afford (or are incentivized) to marry as Cherlin suggests. The trend among those who live in poverty (or near poverty) is to cohabitate with the potential of mar rying later and this will continue unless the situation is changed or the economic realities of these groups turns around on a large scale. Cott states marriage has come to represent a loving companionship, and we seem to be warming to the idea that same-sex couples are capable of this sort of meaningful intimacy. With regards to national identity, the wo rld is interconnected via online media, and the United States must foster an identity that establishes itself as a champion of the
values that it nominally ensconces, such as life, l iberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Quotations from Justice Kennedy from United States v. Windsor (2013) concerning the dignity of same-sex couples stand in stark contrast to those made by Russia, during the Sochi Olympics, and from other nation states. Curre ntly the United States hovers in limbo as the world watches as the state of marriage equality is handled on a state-to-state basis. A bold move towards universal marriage equal ity could help the United States set itself apart and reach the economic benefits grante d to more LGBT hospitable countries, such as Norway and Canada. Sexual intercourse and marriage are two facets of t he human experience that are not going to disappear, and using them to define ou r gender expression may not either. These values are by no means mutually inclusive, al though the debate over the relationship between the two has defined much of th e marriage values struggle over the past sixty years. Legalization of same-sex marriage draws same-sex couples into this argument as they too are given the option of drawin g a line between extra-marital and socially sanctioned intercourse. A portion of strai ght couples choose other companionate bonds or simple choose not to marry and experience the associated social ramifications. Gay and lesbian couples are now being called into t hat position and experience the same social pressures to validate their relationship via marriage. The values assigned to marriage are very flexible. Stacey states that United States citizens still invest marriage, and devotion within marriage, with considerable value. She says, Â“Americans disapprove of adultery. They disap prove of it so much that they rank philandering as less morally acceptable than the de ath penalty, cloning humans or suicideÂ” and she goes on to say that Â“only one beha vior came close to the disapproval of
adulteryÂ…polygamyÂ” (2011, p. 122). The visibility o f gays and lesbians and acceptance of their way of life has sparked a consideration of what constitutes socially appropriate gendered behavior. Roles within marriage itself are bound to change as the assumption of a husband or wife role is called into question by t he inclusion of couples who cannot occupy traditional gender roles. Wide acceptance of same-sex couples could shatter the traditional, stilted domestic structure thereby gra nting additional equality to the marriage expectations of straight couples. Perhaps in time t he bond of marriage will cease to become a symbol of socially sanctioned sexual inter course or properly performed gender, but rather, simply represent a bond of devotion.
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