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“We Don’t Want Another Piece of the Pie… We Want a Whole New Pie” April 13, 2009

Posted by Onely in "Against Love"...?, Heteronormativity, Just Saying., Singled Out.
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Winona LaDuke, a Native American political activist, is credited with the potd_pi-piewords that I’m borrowing for the title of this post. I don’t know all that much about LaDuke, but I’ve heard her words (slightly altered) before in a different context. About a year ago, I had what turned out to be a very significant conversation with one of my favorite professors, who explained to me why she, as a lesbian, had no interest in promoting the cause of gay marriage. “I don’t want a piece of that pie,” she said — meaning the institution of marriage — “because it doesn’t solve the problem of equality for all…. Hell, I don’t even like pie!”

This proved to be a major “Ah-ha!” moment for me: My older brother is gay, and so I have always felt passionate about supporting gay rights. For a long time, this implicitly meant I supported gay marriage. But since that conversation with my professor – and especially since Christina and I started blogging – I have begun to understand that, although legalizing gay marriage extends much-needed rights to some, it does not solve the problem of social inequality perpetuated systemically by the legal and cultural institution of marriage writ large.

Over the last two weeks, proponents of gay marriage have been celebrating, having won important legal victories in Iowa and Vermont, as well as a small victory in Washington, D.C. Christina and I – as well as other singles advocates like Therese at Unmarried Estate and Nancy at Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage – will, unfortunately, be bringing sour grapes to the party: Legalizing marriage for all doesn’t solve the problem. Nor can a shift in language (a possibility in the state of California) alter the power structure embedded in the legal and social systems that reward people solely on account of their relationship status.

If we want true equality, we need a new damn pie.

— Lisa

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Comments»

1. Lauri - April 13, 2009

Your story about your professor reminds me of these hilarious Onion pieces from 2005 when gay marriage was legalized in Massachusetts:

http://www.theonion.com/content/news/gay_couple_feels_pressured_to

http://www.theonion.com/content/node/30475

onely - April 13, 2009

OMG — these are EXCELLENT links, Lauri — thank you for sharing…!!!!

My fave is: “Even people who previously objected to the women’s sexual orientation are suggesting marriage. Burton reports that her aunt, Eleanor Davis, recently said, “If Laura and Kristin have to be gay, and are going to be living together, then they should at least be married.”

How excellent.

— L

2. Singlutionary - April 13, 2009

Hmmmm. Judith Butler. Is that a name that sounds like a theorist of one kind or another? Yes. I just googled:

http://www.thenation.com/doc/20040705/forum2/4

http://www.hartza.com/butler2.pdf

These are very thick theory articles but the 2nd link is the first thing I ever read on this topic during my first attempt at grad school (I’ve had two and I’m gearing up for a third).

Basically, what I remember from reading Judith Butler is that she points out that “kinship” comes in many forms many of which can not or have not been validated by our laws or culture. Gay Marriage (and marriage in general) validate a very specific type of kinship but neglect to validate the myriad other kinship relationships which exist in society.

I think she even offers up a solution to this situation but I can’t remember that part. Actually, she might offer up several. I am not up for reading the article again right now but if you have a couple hours and a lot of brain energy its really worth it. And by the time you’re done you’ll feel like a super nerd.

Anyways, I LOVED what she said because I have always had kinship relationships which were never acknowledged by society or by law and I always struggled to have them accepted.

I mentored a young woman from the time she was 13 until the time she was 20. I refer to her as my “sister” and consider her such but we have no legal ties to each other. For a large portion of her life, I was more involved in her upbringing than was her own parents or her own biological sister.

On the other side of things, I have a biological half-sister with whom I have almost no contact. If I were to die without a will (and was actually worth something after my death) my stuff would first go to my parents. Then it would go to the half sister. The real kinship sister would get nothing.

I know that was kinda off topic but I get excited about this stuff.

Still, gay marriage is a symbolic victory to folks who very often face prejudice and may still not be accepted by their families.

onely - April 13, 2009

Singlutionary — Butler is central to the reading I’m doing for one of my Ph.D. exams, which will be focused on feminist and queer theory. I am so happy that you linked to her work and brought her up (she also happens to be the intellectual idol of the professor I mention in the post above)!

In fact, I’m sure I’ll bombard everyone on this blog with really nerdy posts that attempt to apply these kinds of theoretical ideas to issues faced by single people over the next six months — so brace yourself! … Maybe I’ll begin with your link #2.

And I absolutely agree that the legalization of gay marriage is a much-needed “symbolic” move toward equality and acceptance for a social group that has been historically oppressed and marginalized, much more so than single people.

Thanks for the thoughtful post.

— Lisa

3. Singlutionary - April 14, 2009

Oh Lisa! May I continue to live vicariously through your nerdiness! I gave up on being an academic but I love reminders of that part of me! If I had finished grad school, Butler would have been someone I would have focused on. I think I read her in Literary Theory class. Sigh. How I miss theory of all kinds! Thanks for brining this up (and jogging my dusty memory).


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