Friday, December 25, 2009

Book Club Book Review: What is Marriage For?

Before first delving into my review of this book, I must admit, I am both a liberal academic and a scientist, which may bias my review of this book just a bit. Altogether, I would give this book a positive review. Graff is a lesbian and lays out her reasoning for a allowing gay marriage, arguing that all of the things heterosexual marriage is for (money, sex, children, kin, order, heart - her chapters) are the same things homosexual marriage is for. She also argues that, as society has changed, so has marriage, reflecting our views as society. I found this book to be interesting in it's historical tidbits, but honestly, pretty hard to get through. The author, while understandably passionate about the subject, tends to ramble on about historical situations or studies which hammer home her point, but at a certain cost. The reader must slog through brief explanations of such studies, attempting to pull out the relevant information. For example, while I found it interesting that gender of a parent did not seem to have an effect on children, as long as the parent is loving, the studies she cited were so small as to cause me to wonder why she cited them at all. I am mostly curious how the studies would look today, with ten years time in between.
I found the language to be a bit insulting - using the term "preggers" more than once, or the term "babies" for children (that may be my elitist academic in me) and I'm still not sure to whom the book was written. As the political situation had played out, it seems to be mostly right wing conservative Christians who have the biggest problem with gay marriage. I understand it's hard to address issues of religion with reason, and I assume this book was not written for them. It seems to be written for logical, reasonable individuals who have an interest in human rights and equality, but are on the fence about allowing gay marriage, for whatever reason. At this point in time, I think most of those people have been convinced that legalization of homosexual marriage is the next logical step, perhaps making this book a little dated.
However, I do understand this book set a precedent and has been quoted and used in arguments and discussions of same sex marriage over the last few years. I also understand that this was the first book to look at same sex marriage from the woman's perspective, which is indeed intriguing. I commend the author for her work in this field, and being brave enough to be the first one to logically lay out the reasoning for legalization of gay marriage.
On the personal front, I was appalled and outraged at the blatant discrimination carried out by voters when Prop 8 passed in California last year. I grew up with an unrelated gay uncle whom I will always fiercely defend. I really feel this is a constitutional issue for the Federal Government, one that must be interpreted by both the right for equality (separate is not equal) and the separation of Church & State (in that, the government cannot force a church to marry people it does not want to marry). I am hopeful this political nightmare will play out in a rational and justified way (and am astonished that Iowa is leading the way!). Ultimately, I think Graff's book should be read by anyone interested in marriage itself (whether gay or straight) as well as people interested in the arguments for gay marriage.
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