Thursday, July 21, 2011

Marriage Dilemmas

Last week I received the following series of questions from the news editor of the London based DIVA magazine:
--Suddenly, gay women have a lot of choice which mirrors conventional straight society. Naturally, choice is a good thing,but as a result, are lesbians now expected to have-it-all? If so, why? If not, why not?

--What is your experience of this?

--People like Sarah Schulman have said that lesbians having children is ultra-conservative, partly because it fulfills the expectations placed on women. She also argues that their motivation is to get approval from parents. How do you feel about this?

--If gay woman genuinely want to have kids and a family, what's the difference between innocently wanting this and being indoctrinated to want it? How can women tell the difference?

--Is resisting traditional female roles the future of the lesbian movement--or the end of it?

--What advice would you give to young gay women who might be experiencing have-all-pressure?

I was taken back by how quickly we had moved to the realities behind a set of questions like this. Here is my run-on sentence, run-on paragraph immediate answer. I think I was a little annoyed.

Dear P.,
I may have missed your deadline, but here is how I would answer. First I am amazed that in my life time that the dilemma of some lesbians has gone from how to survive on the margins to a sense of too much will be expected of us, we have too many choices, we will have to be super mom lesbians. Having just returned from speaking with the lesbian communities of the Balkan region, their every day struggles for survival, I find this concern too affluent Western centric. In all our cities, in London, and New York and Paris, there are poor lesbians just trying to find or hold on to a job and a place to live. This number will grow. Affluent lesbians with nannies, all the trappings of busy lives that get lived with the help of women who need the money--yes, some will have to think about what feminism means, it its relevant in their normalized lesbian lives---[perhaps class is the more meaningful category now] Perhaps their political concerns will shift to the need for daycare centers, to street safety, to the dangers of internet sex. I read your questions to my 58 year old lover of 12 years--remember I am 71, never married and childless--she was harsher then I was. "Why would any woman want to get married," she fumed. "We fought for so many years to get the state out of our sex lives, to get our lives out of the control of the state and now we are rushing with open arms right into its fold."  [She left the table in a huff as I tried to explain how I could understand lesbian couples who had come out in the 50s were tired of life times lived as a freak and this could be a healing embrace--the younger ones I had a harder time with. Then I started musing on it all]: Will there now be peer pressure on lesbians to marry, a little like what some butches have reported back about being told their gender lives were not serious enough if they did not go the whole way and transition? Will we finally have real lesbian spinsters, lesbians who do not want to marry. I can laugh about some of this but we are not clear yet and will not be for a long time how far this new world for some of us has delivered us into the arms of the state, states not known for their doing good in the world or for their own citizens of need. You know, for hundreds of years, there have been lesbians with children and throughout the 20th century and even before, lesbians were living as man and wife. Queers have been an inventive people. We have had to be. Perhaps another way to put the question, does motherhood and marriage dequeer lesbians? This is what Sarah is saying. I am sure for some who never wanted the burden of queer it does, but I am not comfortable with sweeping generalizations, often growing out of our own emotional deprivations,  used to condemn the desires of others. Have children, get married, call yourselves whatever you want and then look around and see where the inequities lie, see what is threatening life itself--unfettered capitalism and nationalisms based on exceptionalisms, fundamentalisms that make dissent an act of treason--these are to me now very queer issues. Add worries about health care, education, housing. P. look at your own phrasings, "innocent" longings, "indoctrination," these old charges of false consciousness [I had my stomach full of them during the sex wars in the 80s]--all the language of betrayals and exiles. All these words, "marriage," "lesbian," "woman," "citizen" are changing before our eyes in conjunction with all around us--technologies, economies, systems of power of all kinds. I know live in a country where "de facto" is even more sexy then "marriage." Maybe straight women will be the ones to truly rebel against state and religious rituals such as marriage as we rush in to fill the gaps and become such good citizens of the capitalist state; the business opportunities are revving up in the US as we speak--honeymoon travel, wedding dresses and suits, bridal parties, lawyers. All the consumer delights that go with known and predictable social behaviour. In a while, all of this delight in being a respectable lesbian will die down and then, my young gay friend can look around and see who has been left out of the newly realized promised land of social inclusion and wonder what does a 21st century American or British lesbian-gay-queer-same sex attracted-no-identified radical politic look like? What is a relationship to the state that I can live with and tell my children about?

[   ]= thoughts added for this entry

Now you know what raw Nestle thinking looks like. Good night, my friends.

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