9th Place: "Marriage, Households, and States:
Rebecca Perez of Lewiston, Idaho
SquareTwo, Vol. 2 No. 3 (Fall 2009)
The term “marriage” has a surprisingly fluid definition. Marriage has been practiced since the beginning of time, yet it is rarely operationalized. Originally seen as a union of man and woman, marriage has become open to the possibilities of man and man, woman and woman, or other options that are also corruptions of the original idea. In addition, marriage is increasingly seen as unnecessary, a hassle, or something that is just “not for me.” The idea of mere “partnership” rather than any sort of formal union has pervaded society. With these ideas, what, then, becomes the best interest of the state? What types of unions or marriages, if any, does the state have an interest or perhaps even obligation to pursue? Religion can give an explanation which I touch on briefly, but there is a rational argument aside from any religious view. This will be the focus of my argument.
Different religions all promote differing stories of the creation. The exact details of the story of Adam and Eve remain somewhat fuzzy in the world’s view, but for my purposes the minute aspects of the story are not important. What I want to focus on is general idea: God created Adam and Eve, or man and woman. This idea is not unique to any religion; even if God is not the specified creator, there is the idea that some higher being created the earth and a man and woman to populate it. Through analyzing this first and original relationship, the nature of male-female relations appears.
The world did not begin with a man and a man, or a woman and a woman, but with a man and a woman. The physical characteristics of each are such that reproduction becomes possible. Man possesses chromosomes that make him a man; female possesses chromosomes that make her female. Those chromosomes lay out physical features and abilities of each. LDS doctrine teaches that these forms are in the image of God, that is, Heavenly Mother and Heavenly Father. The figure of male and female are not the same, and rightly so. The differences are to be celebrated and honored, each distinct and yet equal. Is it any question why the two sexes were made to be so compatible? The answer is because they were meant to be together in marriage.
Marriage is a physical, emotional, spiritual, and often legal union of a man and a woman. The purpose and intent of marriage becomes essential to understanding why a state should or should not emphasize its practice. The purpose of marriage is not to have children. The purpose of marriage is not sex. The purpose of marriage is not uniting in some common goal, or service and compassion toward the partner, or even developing financial or emotional security, although these things often do come with marriage. The purpose is to create a marriage defined by equality toward one another. This includes an equal division of responsibilities so that the two people in the marriage essentially become one unit; different, and yet equal. Thus, marriage is the highest form of partnership within society. Children are good, but not essential to forming this marriage. Equality becomes the highest achievement of marriage.
The state has no interest in a marriage of any other form. These other forms include heterosexual monogamous marriages that do not practice equality. Because equality is the real basis of my argument, I will focus on that for some time. The household is the unit of interaction within a state. It is where children are socialized and the values of society are taught. The opinions, feelings, ways of expressing emotions, political views, and moral standards of society are first learned within the household. These ideas may change throughout life, but the household lays the foundation for all of society. Suppose a marriage is unequal; a husband is dominant and even physically abusive to his wife. There are two consequences of this to society. First, the way males interact with females within marriage is the way they will act outside of marriage. If the husband sees no problem with physical dominance over his wife, these ideas will transfer to all of his interactions in the world. He will look upon women as weak, helpless, dependent, and necessary to dominate. This cannot lead to normal or healthy working relationships. He will be unable to see any woman as his equal, even when her place in work or society is greater than his. This dominance is not merely dislike or disgust at the opposite sex; it is superiority over the entire gender. He will see women as inferior beings. The second part of this comes when there are children in the family. Children learn first from their parents. What they see occurring between parents will become the model for all male-female interaction within society. Male children will treat girls on the playground differently than sons whose parents have a better type of marriage. Daughters will think “that is just how it is”, and may be unable to stand up for herself. The ideas spread and become a societal norm. This type of marriage is not only harmful to the wife, but to any children and to humanity as a whole.
Now, a marriage does not have to be abusive to be unequal. Marriages exist that seem happy and loving; that seem to be perfect to any outside observer. However, deep divides can be hidden. A marriage in which the husband’s work is valued more than the wife’s because his work occurs outside the home and generates money while the wife’s work occurs within the home is not equal. A marriage where the husband refuses to participate in housework or to assist in caring for and raising his children is not equal. A marriage where the decisions of the husband are valued more than the wife’s or where the opinions and contributions of the wife are ignored is not equal. There may not be any abuse or physical domination, but the consequences are no less harmful. The husband-wife relationship is still one of domination- emotionally and mentally. The wife remains inferior and subjected to her husband’s demands and opinions. In the work world, the husband will still be unable to see any female as capable of performing a good job or as being his equal or a true member of the team. The wife will still suffer the feelings of helplessness and will lack self-confidence. If there are children, they will again see and apply this model. The marriages of the sons and daughters will likely be in a similar fashion, perpetuating the inequalities within the home and within society.
What exists in the home will exist in the world. A true and correct version of marriage teaches equality and love and respect between a man and a woman. Why would we not want this in society? For centuries, women have been subjected in countless ways; yet, there is no reason. Women are not less intelligent than men. There are individual men who are smarter than individual women, and there are individual women who are smarter than individual men, but either gender as a whole is not superior. Males in general do have greater upper body strength. If a test of true authority was upper body strength, then men would perhaps have a legitimate excuse to rule. Fortunately, however, the world is not run by those who can bench press the most weight. There is no legitimate basis for female suppression. Therefore, anything other than complete equality between men and women is immoral and a rejection of the true nature of the relationship. A heterosexual, monogamous, and equal marriage teaches this concept to children and to the man and woman involved.
It is only with this type of marriage that true equality can occur. Gay marriage changes the definition of family into something where the type of learning and socialization described above cannot be had. If a man and a man are united in marriage, there can be equal treatment, but this is not the sort of equality that is desired. Women are often easy to dominate because they are physically not as strong and society has taught that this physical weakness should transfer into emotional and mental weakness as well. The ability of women to bear children gives them an incredible power, but many men and even women do not see it as such. Pregnancy and breastfeeding can be seen as a weakness, something that ties women to her body, a body which is so often seen as inferior to men. Women are socialized so they believe they must be emotional, caring, compassionate, helpless, and stupid, and easily dominated. Not all of these traits are negative, but when they are assigned to a gender and the gender has no choice how to act, problems occur. And so the challenge becomes how to treat women; how men and women should interact to avoid these societal assignments and create a loving and equal relationship. When a man and a man are joined in marriage, there is no need to learn how to treat each other, or how to create the kind of relationship described above free from societal influences. There are no physical differences that define certain roles, such as pregnancy and breastfeeding. The partners in the marriage can develop their own roles, but the same type of cooperation and learning will not be required. The technology of today does provide ways for this couple to have children, but again, this type of family will simply be an inferior deviation of the real thing. The same holds for a marriage between two women. The learning will not occur, the true equality will not exist, and the values learned in the home will not transfer into society as a whole.
Thus, the state should have a strong interest in promoting heterosexual, monogamous, and equal marriage. This is not merely a domestic political issue that would help families; it is a national security issue that must be addressed if any country is to be powerful or have any sort of influence. Since the household is the model for the state, a sort of practice field for people to learn and grow, the state must seek to pursue the best kind of household. The state needs to have households and families that are strong and which teach its members how to interact with people in an acceptable manner. For all the reasons stated above, this is what occurs in a heterosexual marriage household.
Domestically, the state needs its citizens to treat other citizens well. This may not seem an important political issue, but if the citizenry considers half of the population inferior and weak, the state cannot thrive. Law-abiding men and women must be treated equally and with the same respect. The population must be able to work and interact with all others in a way that allows discussion and collaboration. Domestic policies and laws must be undertaken by both genders in order to accurately represent the interests and needs of the citizenry. Policies formed only by men will not consider the interests of half the population and will thus be inferior; polices formed only by women will suffer the same fate. Collaboration is absolutely essential to forming effective policy and an effective state. This kind of teamwork will be impossible if not taught in the households.
The household becomes important even in international politics. For many of the same reasons as above, men and women must be included in all diplomatic talks or similar situations. The view of women must be included. This holds additional importance when dealing with other states. The United States is not perfect in gender equality, but it is far ahead of many states, especially in regions of Africa and the Middle East. When dealing with areas such as this, women cannot be ignored. The United States must be able to show other states its standards for treatment of women and demand nothing less. Religious and cultural traditions must be respected, but there cannot be any tolerance for violence or otherwise degrading treatment of women. Extensive research has shown nations that participate in these kinds of actions are more likely to go to war. The real basis of international and domestic violence can be found in the household. The United States must be sure to set the example of equality of women, but also not to lose any ground in the equality of women by allowing other types of marriages and households to exist within its borders. The equality formed in the home through marriage will be influential to the entire globe.
What I stated above bears repeating: what exists in the home will exist in society. The equality or lack thereof that is formed within marriage will spread and permeate every single nation and state in the world. The state must emphasize heterosexual, monogamous marriage that is formed with equality as a basis if the state hopes to become domestically and internationally secure.
Full Citation for This Article: Perez, Rebecca M. (2009) "Marriages, Households, and States: What Kinds of Unions Should We Promote?," SquareTwo, Vol. 2 No. (Fall), http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticlePerezMarriage.html, accessed [give access date].
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