Who loves the craggy Vulcan face? We love the craggy Vulcan face.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Saturday, January 8, 2011
Sunday, January 2, 2011
Guys, we got engaged. (This means my current no-free-time will devolve to no-free-time-until-2012.) My man proposed on December 30th, with a ring that was exactly what I wanted--sterling silver, no rock, an organic free-form design--that he had picked out himself, with his uncanny ability to know what I want before I know.
Marriage is a feminist issue. I'm marrying my man because he understands me and respects my autonomy; he understands that I'm bisexual, he understands that I'm a radical feminist, and he knows that I will always be disappointed that he loves Star Wars more than Star Trek. And most importantly, he's a grown-up: he knows that my choices are mine, his choices are his, we are responsible for our own lives and our own conduct, and we can choose how we orchestrate our lives.
So I'm not looking forward to explaining, over and over again, that I didn't want a rock on my finger or an expensive engagement ring for the simple and sole reason that it reifies the patriarchy. It signifies ownership. It says "keep her in the style to which she has become accustomed."
It's the 21st century, and we get to choose what marriage means to us and how we want to view symbols, but I also don't want to hear that I must not really love my fiance if I don't want a diamond. Or how I must not love my father if I don't want him to walk me down the aisle or do that creepy-ass father-daughter dance. Or how I must not love my fiance since I'm keeping my own name, even though it's the name I was born with and the name I've made all my accomplishments with and the name that's a little complicated so I'm used to saying it all in one breath, my name and how it's spelled. Or how I'm a terrible person if I end up not having children because I value my career and I don't want to have a kid while I'm trying to get into medical school. The notion that it would be anyone's business but mine, anyone's right to judge, the most intimate decisions of my life--love, sex, marriage, child-bearing, child-rearing--flabbergasts me. It is appalling that complete strangers will offer their condemnation. I've already gotten that crap, both for being queer and for being consciously ambivalent as to whether I want to have children; I'm not taking any more of it. Ever. Is life too short to take shit or too short to mind it, the age-old question goes, and I'm a pretty firm believer in not taking any unnecessary shit.
As Alanis says, "I believe that one and one makes two." Marriage matters not because it's the union of two people into one person, but because it's two people choosing to make their lives together. I don't think I need to take his name or wear a ring to show my man I love him. I do that every day, through the small and large decisions I make, as a free and independent woman. Any attempt to pretend otherwise--to pretend that marriage somehow miraculously unites two different people into a single entity with a singular purpose and a singular set of desires--is doomed. And the worst kind of marriage-related lie of all is the lie that women should submit to their husbands, rather than work through to a mutually acceptable compromise. Happiness does not consist of subsuming your identity. It consists of living up to your potential, whatever that potential is; knowing that you do a good day's work; knowing that you treat the people you love with dignity and kindness. Happiness is dependent on owning your identity, not on assuming someone else's.
I wasn't born a radical feminist or even a feminist at all. The day I started to think I didn't want a diamond engagement ring came fairly late in college, when I was sitting in a small-group discussion section with three women, who all started to compare their engagement rings and wedding bands. And then the question came: "What does your husband do?" As I watched them get defensive, create ever-more-elaborate ways to describe their husbands' jobs and elevate their future prospects, discuss loudly how they were unwilling to sacrifice one C for another C in their diamonds, I thought, clear as a bell: I cannot live like that. I cannot and will not live with the ridiculous idea that my husband's career is an indicator of my worth as a human being.
It sounds idiotic to put it into words. It is idiotic. It is an implicit assumption in our society and it needs to be recognized as a load of poppycock.
My man is my man because I love him. C.S. Lewis notes that there is a kind of man who will think of his wife, his dog, and his boots all in the same way. Love and ownership are not the same thing.
I am not looking forward to the conversations I will have with strangers or acquaintances or, at times, family members about my wedding. I am not looking forward to explaining, over and over again, that marrying a man does not invalidate my bisexuality any more than committing to a woman would have. I am not looking forward to getting mercilessly berated by advertising that blares a single, anti-feminist ideal wedding.
What I am looking forward to is marrying, and being married to, the person who has made me laugh, given me a safe place for emotional expression, explored uncharted sexual territory with me, and been a constant, hilarious, thoughtful, brilliant, and generally frakkin' awesome companion while I've been growing into my own skin.
At the end of the day, people who aren't me don't have a lot of room to tell me how to be me. That's what it comes down to. The right of autonomy is the ultimate right, second only to the moral imperative to avoid doing intentional harm. Without it, all the Orwellian horror of a techno-dictatorship comes to bear, even if it's only in the context of one human relationship or one human life. Every human life matters; every self-aware creature, no matter how limited that self-awareness, deserves some respect and compassion. It's a horrifying world in which we still deny people that basic right to self-determination.
So you don't have to agree with me about how to be a feminist. I don't get to tell you how to be a feminist, or what being a feminist means. I get to tell you what it means to me and how I am trying to live in accordance with my principles. But I damn sure hope you agree with me that, as human beings, we all have the fundamental right to autonomy, whether or not our societies, families, or significant others understand and accept that.