Sunday, January 18, 2009

How a Feminist Got Married: A Radical Manifesta

I've spent almost three years of my online life searching for my feminism. I spent the first year trying to understand blogging and feminist online activism/communication/communities. I spent the second year throwing myself into media. And this third year, I am sick of "working on" anything and just want to be me, a voice of a Womyn who is unafraid to say that I don't and can't know everything about politics, repro rights, or global current events. I am not the greatest or most updated blog when it comes to transgender violence. Or eating disorders or conference news. My worst posts have been where I try to understand and write about an issue for which I cannot fully comprehend.

I'm finished with blogging about things for which I cannot do justice. Others, with their specialization and expertise, will always be highlighted here, but I am finished in trying to "cover" issues which I cannot fully give myself toward. I'd like to think that is the most generous thing I can do at this point: develop the voice I do have in the areas for which I am passionate and knowledgeable and ally with those around me. Mostly, I think I now understand the difference between naively trying to take on the pain and oppression of others (and how utterly futile that is) and how to be an ally in my own skin, bringing fire to both my voice and for those with whom I am in community.

Which leaves me with the question: what do I do with My Ecdysis?

(How many times have I asked myself that?)

Last Thursday, Adonis and I agreed to do a presentation on marriage together.

We've been married for about three years and, although great partners in many areas of life, have never presented together on anything.

The preparation for Thursday was intense. It brought all the different ways we work together to the front.

I was nervous. After all, how does a feminist get married?

It was something I had been struggling to articulate for the past four years, since I became engaged and an area in which I had decidedly been quiet. Marriage, a decision and choice I made in love and awareness, is not a one or even two sided road.

Marriage is one of those six stop intersections with traffic lights in all directions; pedestrians walking during the "Do Not Walk," light and left turn signals that don't work. You wait seemingly forever to get to the center only to find people breaking the rules and confused as to which direction to move. People honk for you to go through it and urge you to figure it out later if you mess up while those in the car with you advise you to slow down and take your time. There are a million signs giving you directions and mirrors that reflect your genuine sense of disorientation.

It's messy and there multiple ways to arrive. There are plenty of accidents, a great spot for rage and carelessness, and it's often avoided by those who do not believe in getting caught in the fray. (Those people are so smart.) With all the metaphors out there, this is the best one for me: marriage is one big traffic intersection.

With all that's going on, it's so easy to forget the most important fact, the one thing that truly matters: you're the one, the only one, in the driver's seat.

It's completely your call.

Today, the politics and art of marriage are hardly a quiet topic. From GLBTQ issues, to global and cultural practices, to gender and feminist issues, marriage is one of the most, if not the most, contentious and exhausting topics to tackle as a feminist and as a writer.

So, why am I writing a manifesta on marriage?

Because there needs to be a beam of light on the goods of marriage right now. There needs to be another side of the story told beyond the politics of coupledom, Rick Warren's beliefs, or the extreme lefts and rights of D.C. I wanted to begin writing a story, a glimpse into the real life of a feminist who chose to get married, that is flawed, painful, but real. Mine is the only story I know.

January is a month of delusions. Most people, myself included, delude themselves into thoughts of who and what they "can be" versus who they truly are. There's always room for self-improvement, but I took the first 18 days of January to contemplate where I am taking this blog, where I am taking my writing.

This blog has been my baby and work of art. And it is what I have always truly wanted it to be: a feminist memoir. As I write How a Feminist Got Married: A Radical Manifesta, I hope you engage with me in this timeless topic of kyriarchy, equality, and love.

5 comments:

  1. I really look forward to reading mujer. Given all your writings thus far, I am sure that it will be an amazing look at marriage.

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  2. I too look forward to reading. This will be interesting, and I support you going in the direction that works for you. I'm glad you are able to make decisions and changes that are best for you, and I will enjoy watching the growth and changes you share.

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  3. What a great idea.

    I have a feeling your manifesta will probably inspire me to write one of my own. I've talked about marriage before on my blog, but in a more general way, and not specifically about my OWN marriage; with all the struggles and joy that entails.

    Looking forward to reading!

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  4. Sounds like it'll be an interesting manifesta. I wrote this on another blog, but I think it is applicable here as well. I think that the experience of feeling conflict over marriage is, in some way, an example of the personal being political. Since there is now an entire subset of feminists (and women, in general) who struggle with this issue (oversimplified: to marry and "sell out" or not to marry and lose privilege/legitimacy), but don't know what exactly to do with the conflict between the theoretical and the actual. It's the existential struggle of "am I still a 'good' feminist if I...", which is something that many of us feel in trying to come to terms with our "authentic" self-- a self that is by nature one that is both determined by us and by the perception of us by others, which is all too wrapped up in their own self-perception as well. My point is that the sentiment of the personal being political was initially used to move women's experiences from a place of individualism toward one of collectivity, and that was/is helpful in establishing this thing we now call "women's issues". Somewhat ironically, the third wave started flipping this idea on it's head, saying that one person's individual and self-defined action of resistance has an impact on the group. So if Action X feels gratifying to that one person then it is, by extension, also empowering for women, as a whole. This rationale is fraught with problems, and the conflict that feminists feel about "buying into patriarchal institutions", like marriage, is but one example. There is (and should be) a distinction between an individual and the collective, and somewhere in the last 20 or so years, that distinction has become less and less visible. To further complicate things, marriage itself isn't cut and dried. It's a privilege to be able to marry (for obvious reasons), but it's also a privilege to be able to choose NOT to marry. The ability to eschew the privileges that marriage provides a couple (particularly as they related to citizenship and/or visa status, hospital visitation, inheritance, etc.) is a (mostly class) privilege. So, for some, it's a double bind. And there are tons of political rationalizations that can be made in defense of marriage. For example, I was told that since I'm queer, my getting married to my male partner would actually be undermining marriage or changing the institution from within. But, for me, that feels like bullshit--first because the radical feminist in me tends toward overthrowing and creating alternatives, and second, because I don't walk around with a big visible "QUEER" tattoo, which means that people who don't know me read my relationship as heterosexual. So I don't think my singular actions are really undermining an institution. This is a subject that has been on my mind lately so forgive me for blathering on about it.

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  5. For us, marriage was the only solution to be physically/geographically together. Borders would otherwise keep us apart, and taking part in that privilege in order to be together is a decision still fraught with mixed emotions. There is very much a need for a discussion about how feminist marriage can exist (or how for some, it almost has to for the relationship to survive). I'm so glad you're writing this.

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