With its inherent sexism, bigotry, marriage is far from ideal

Next month I will turn 23, and the month after that I will become a college graduate if all goes as planned. I have entered the period of my life when some of my friends and family expect me to be thinking about marriage, and it’s not rare for an overly inquisitive co-worker to ask if my boyfriend and I are thinking about tying the knot. In fact, pressure has even been exerted from this very space, in a column that claimed I should either work on getting a ring on my finger or not date anyone at all.

It’s one thing when my mom makes a joke about me in a frilly white dress, but I resent being told by strangers that for my relationship and my life in general to be worthwhile, I have to be filling up a hope chest and trying to catch a man.

Marriage is not one of my goals, and I don’t understand why this fact is such a concern for other people.

There are many valid reasons to avoid marriage, though I admit there are some financial and insurance benefits that can coerce people into enduring wedded bliss for the sake of a doctor’s appointment or a mortgage payment. Whether this is a good thing depends on whom you ask; I’m inclined to say that there’s something wrong with a society that offers benefits to married people that should already be available for everyone.

Many feminists, male and female, would rather not get married simply because of the sexism that is historically inherent in the institution. Others have problems with the way weddings and marriages have been commercialized. Watching a show like “Say Yes to the Dress” makes it easy to see why the idea of a wedding can be unappealing to someone with distaste for unbridled consumerism.

I realize there is a difference between a wedding and a marriage, and that couples can opt out of the elements of a wedding that they personally disagree with. I have been to lovely weddings that have been in no way offensive, and I have seen couples happily married in beautiful, alternative ways. To some people, however, marriage just isn’t worthwhile.

It is possible to see marriage as a social construct without any intrinsic value. Some people aren’t religious, and to them, a marriage license is not a magical piece of paper that changes the moral acceptability of certain sexual acts or lifestyles.

These people don’t think of the institution as a prerequisite for a loving commitment, and they may not even see a loving commitment as the goal of their lives, believe it or not. They don’t see it as a necessary condition for becoming parents, and they could make the argument that it is society’s harsh judgment of families with unwed parents, and not the lack of a wedding video that makes things difficult for a child with parents who choose to remain unmarried.

It is perhaps most important to mention the people that are excluded from the institution by homophobic lawmakers and bigoted social mores. Doesn’t it seem a bit cruel to opine that a relationship that won’t end in marriage is a waste of time when there are couples in love that would jump at a chance to be legally married, but are kept from it? I have friends who are in relationships with people that they love and will probably spend the rest of their lives with but who don’t have the option of getting married or enjoying the legal and financial benefits that our society heaps on married couples for no fair reason.

For me, the fact that the institution is presently a heterosexist exclusive one is enough reason to not participate. I’m sure that people who are married or just hell-bent on becoming that way have their reasons as well, and to them I say congratulations.

If they want to see more happily married couples, they should spend the time that they’re not engaged in wedded bliss working to make their favorite institution legally available to all consenting adults, not just heterosexual ones. Hopefully then they’ll be too busy to try to push their choices on the rest of us.

Kathryn Hogg is an English and women’s studies senior. E-mail

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