I finished reading Men Explain Things To Me by Rebecca Solnit last night and have begun reading All The Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation by Rebecca Traister.
I plan on reflecting on Solnit’s collection of essays in a little more depth later, but only 30 pages in to Traister’s book, I was struck by an idea shared by both books. Conservatives weren’t/aren’t against marriage equality (aka same sex marriage) simply because of homophobia. They oppose marriage equality because it threatens how “traditional marriage” has functioned…there are no traditional gender roles that two men or women must conform to. They can create their own power dynamic, and hopefully one with mutual respect, compromise and equality.
It’s easy for me to forget just how dependent a wife was on her husband before the advances made by 2nd Wave Feminism. Before 1965, birth control was illegal for married couples in the US. Single women didn’t have law-backed access to contraceptives until 1972. The landmark Roe v. Wade decision happened one year later. THEN (and this is what surprised me while reading Traister), the Equal Credit Opportunity Act wasn’t passed until 1974. Until 6 years before I was born, it was still legal to discriminate against and deny access to a credit card, bank loan or mortgage to a woman. A wife still needed her husband’s consent to get a credit card, even if she made more money.
With all of the social and economic hurdles women had (and still face), it’s not surprising how many saw marriage as their only option, even though the very institution was structured to also control women. It is heartening to think how quickly society’s ideas around credit opportunity have changed even as we are facing serious backlash over the regulation of female bodies.
Case in point, this article published by Fox News on February 8, 2017 reads like something from a self help book for housewives in the 1950s. The author, a woman, states that strong women are unable to love; that the wife must be the beta to her husband’s alpha. “Every relationship requires a masculine and a feminine energy to thrive. If women want to find their peace with men, they must find their feminine–that is where their real power lies.” I know several relationships, both heterosexual and same-sex, that completely disprove this statement regarding the necessity of the masc/femme binary. My hope is that on the momentum of the strength and speed of the marriage equality movement, the idea of an unequal power dynamic in a marriage will be one of those concepts that advance and change as quickly as the laws have.
The struggle isn’t because the oppressor is actually losing anything. It’s because they cannot envision a world of equality, only one with an oppressor and the oppressed. The old ways don’t work. We need new models. Only through equality, free from oppression, can an individual reach their full potential.