8th Place: "The State and Marriage"

Rebekah Butterfield of Provo, Utah

SquareTwo, Vol. 2 No. 3 (Fall 2009)






            Short locks of wavy brown hair fell around her petite face. Casually caressing them back into place, this mousy figure made her way back and forth from the café in the front to the stage in the back. As she delivered food to keep the patrons satisfied, her timid air left her nearly unnoticeable. Her course for the evening never varied; back and forth she came and went all night.

           The room found a moment of stillness during one of her deliveries and seizing the temporary silence, this delicate woman shyly shifted her hips dance-like in a subtle tribute to her husband. Too busy and uninterested to notice such a gesture, her husband did not even attempt to acknowledge her; after realizing others were now benefiting from this momentary artistic interlude, she quickly resumed her path. As she left, her face was a petrified mix of frustration and hurt. Sitting there noticing the whole interchange, I instantly felt a surge of understanding and love course through my body for this woman. I knew how she felt. Though I had never met this woman before, I could instantly relate to her plight. In the weeks following this experience, I have reflected often about that sudden surge of love and understanding that came so naturally in that moment. At the time of this exchange, I found myself wanting to scream at the husband for caring so little and disregarding his sweet wife. I identified with her behavior and knew she was trying to gain some reciprocation from who should be her greatest fan. Surely, that dear woman working in the café of her husband’s shop has thought little about that small moment, but the contemplation of this event for me, has revealed a deep understanding of the love that we often feel for those of our own gender.

           Men and women are different. An article in Ms. Magazine relates the polarizing position that many of both genders take regarding the differences between men and women:

If all femicides were recognized as such and accurately counted, if the massive incidence of non-lethal sexual assaults against women and girls were taken into account, if incestuous abuse and battery were recognized as torture (frequently prolonged over years), if the patriarchal home were seen as the inescapable prison it so frequently becomes, if pornography and gorenography were recognized as hate literature, then we in the United States might have to acknowledge that we live in the midst of a reign of sexist terror comparable in magnitude, intensity, and intent to the persecution, torture, and annihilation of European women as witches from the fourteenth to the seventeenth centuries. (Caputi and Russell 1992, para. 32)

           Certainly, the alarmist stance of these authors indicates a divide between men and women that cannot be bridged. The similarities within the genders often leave an impatience for understanding the other. Of course, many have had terrible experiences with a member of the opposite gender on both sides, some perhaps even mentioned above by Caputi and Russell, but this overwhelming intolerance of the other sex is the most destructive force in modern society today. As demonstrated by my anecdote above, I can sympathize with the ease, safety, and attraction of loving someone of the same gender. Similarities are typically the beginnings of most relationships. Identifying commonalities aids the growth and health of most friendships. Clearly, these authors are calling for a radical redefinition of the relations between men and women, and while the focus throughout their article centers on further polarization of the genders, I will argue that marriage between one man and one woman as equal partners will bring about this redefinition without having to further distinguish the incompatibility of the genders. Above, Caputi and Russell express that the patriarchal home is an inescapable prison for women (1992, para. 32). While marital relations between men and women are often fraught with inequity and mistreatment, the solution to that problem is not separating the genders altogether. Real harmony will only come from the two learning to mutually respect one another, and this change can only come when men and women live together in peace and love. As a result, the most expedient way for this change to come is in marriages between one man and one woman, rearing children who mutually respect their mother and their father, establishing homes that begin to change society’s stark separation of the genders.

           The ability that this kind of monogamous heterosexual marriage has to radically change the perception of gender and heal the feuding sexes within society lends a preliminary understanding to the benefits that a state receives from these kinds of unions. It is for this reason as well as two others which will be discussed below, that I argue a state should privilege monogamous heterosexual marriage above all other forms of unions and relationships. The development and definition of gender identities and the promulgation of national identity mark monogamous heterosexual marriage as the single most important union to preserve domestic peace and maintain national security through the safety it ensures for the individual, the family, and society at large.

           Often differences spring up in even the best of relationships. Typically, these differences introduce an ethic of leveling. In leveling, the differences are assessed internally and labeled with an inherent value; these are often deeply engrained in the psychological understanding and evaluation of things, individuals, and customs. The introduction of gender into any relationship carries with it a bevy of differences; the leveling takes place instantly, sometimes so quickly that it is not immediately clear that it has taken place. For instance, two couples of the male/female variety come together for a game night. Following their initial greeting, the men find a comfortable resting place and engage in stimulating conversation ranging from politics to sports, the stock market, and more. In the next room, the women have set to work preparing beverages and food for the evening. The women shuttle these drinks back and forth until everyone has enjoyed the refreshments and the game playing begins.

           The nonchalance of these actions demonstrates the heavily engrained gender roles men and women have invented throughout the years. In this paper, the reference to developing and defining gender identities does not reference the roles demonstrated in the above scenario. Rather, developing and defining gender identities means counteracting the coercive influence of previous leveling and restoring an understanding that differences do not have to create a hierarchy between the genders. Instead, monogamous heterosexual marriage can and should identify and glorify those differences truly biologically, physiologically, psychologically, and sacredly inherent to men and women.

           Gender is an inherent part of a heterosexual marriage. To this point, marriage has been defined as the union of one man and one woman. This definition, although explicit and somewhat exclusionary on its face, is most correct because all other unions and living arrangements diminish the innate differences between men and women. Popular thought in many modern societies tends toward equity, equity to an extreme of identical replication. Nearly every society in the world has experienced a period of male domination over females. In recent years, several attempts have been made to right that trend; however, these attempts come with a fatal blow toward true femininity and masculinity. Though improvements in policy and public rights have come to women in the recent past, many citizens cannot reconcile different things being equally good. The focus of male/female relations should encourage women to be the best women they can be and encourage men to be the best men they can be; unfortunately, society has melded the two. Women can now become men, if not physically, certainly mentally and often emotionally. Businesses do not want a woman; they want a man in woman form. Preference is still toward the men; in fact, all of society’s improvements have not promoted gender but instead promoted nullification of gender. 

           Gender’s recent arrival onto the endangered species list necessitates heterosexual marriage as a savior for the unique differences between men and women. Sylviane Agacinski relates that, “most theories of sexual difference have attempted to reduce the mixity of the species through the subordination of the other to the one, the suppression of the dizziness brought on by the two through reference to a unique center. We can do no more than to propose a new theoretical version of difference, one which is both philosophical and political in its attempt to break with the nostalgia of the one (2001, 39).

           The beautiful differences between men and women can be equally glorified and appreciated, but nullifying gender through homosexual marriage is not the way to achieve that end. Institutions such as same-sex marriage diminish the unique abilities of both sexes. “It is time to break with The Second Sex, which has conceived the emancipation of women only as a refusal of sexual identity, relegated to the order of contingency to the benefit of the ideal of a universal identity whereby difference would disappear” (Agacinski 2001, 41). Pursing a policy of parity is the key, and this will only come as a result of equal partnerships of a man and a woman committing to one another in matrimony and rearing a family in these ideals of respect and recognition of  the innate good within each exemplified, not diminished, by gender. For this reason, families formed by heterosexual marriages must be the most highly privileged union by the state. Families are the key to true equity, and equity in the home will breed equity in society and thus onto the tranquil domestic conditions breeding greater national security.

           The recent presidential elections have brought to the nation’s forefront much criticism regarding the defense budgeting in the United States. It has been a deluge of figures nearly all in the hundreds of billions of dollars (O’Hanlon 2009). While not every state spends such a significant portion of their budget on national defense; certainly, many countries see the need to protect their nation through defense spending. True realist thought tells that national defense to promote national survival is the primary concern of any state (Waltz 1979). This desire to preserve and protect is natural to the development of a state and for this reason, much emphasis is put on national identity. No amount of defense spending will compensate for domestic turbulence in the form of confused national identity. This is the risk that any state faces when marriage begins to encompass other unions and relationships besides heterosexual monogamous state-sanctioned marriages.

           Sexual orientation is nominal in nature meaning there is no inherent order or ranking to it. Some favor others of the same gender; others favor some of the opposite gender. This is purely personal preference and certainly, as with any other freedom, left to the people to distinguish for themselves their own sexual preference. Sexual preference is one facet of any individual. When the sexual orientation becomes the way a person defines him or herself, it has stopped being the adjective that it was meant to be and now become that person. The person and the sexual orientation are one, a noun. Not a person with heterosexual feelings, but a heterosexual. In this way, defining self by a sexual orientation strips the individual of his/her identity in the interest of the group to which he/she associates his or herself. This greatly threatens the security of a nation as the individuals inside it no longer have allegiance to the nation or even to self, but instead to another group within the nation.
Theodore Roosevelt asserts a similar concern at Carnegie Hall in 1915 while talking to the Knights of Columbus,

There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism. When I refer to hyphenated Americans, I do not refer to naturalized Americans. Some of the very best Americans I have ever known were naturalized Americans, Americans born abroad. But a hyphenated American is not an American at all... The one absolutely certain way of bringing this nation to ruin, of preventing all possibility of its continuing to be a nation at all, would be to permit it to become a tangle of squabbling nationalities, an intricate knot of German-Americans, Irish-Americans, English-Americans, French-Americans, Scandinavian-Americans or Italian-Americans, each preserving its separate nationality, each at heart feeling more sympathy with Europeans of that nationality, than with the other citizens of the American Republic... There is no such thing as a hyphenated American who is a good American. The only man who is a good American is the man who is an American and nothing else. (Roosevelt 1915)

           The concerns which Roosevelt raises in this quote are those that accompany the recent trend to identify oneself by sexual orientation. This practice leads to the same end. No longer is America or any state made up of a united national people, but instead factions of sexual identity which pull and press society to bend and divide until national identity yields to sexual identity and becomes null and void.

           National identity has been identified as an essential component of national security. The above discussion further outlines the threat that factions within a nation are to national security. The factions introduce divisions and inequities which diminish the overarching unity that a national identity creates for a people. National identity extends to any and all citizens of a nation; it is the great equalizer, no matter the socioeconomic, ethnic, or educational disparity between citizens. It is this quality of equality that corresponds to heterosexual monogamous marriage.

           Recognizing other unions as marriages introduces an inequity to the national identity which puts each citizen in peril. Marriage as a contract between two citizens and the state must be equally accessible to all citizens of that state. As heterosexual relationships make homosexual relationships possible, not all can participate in same-sex unions. While every citizen could engage in a heterosexual relationship, without the special ability that one woman and one man have together to make a child, there would not be a population from which homosexual relationships could result. Now, science is increasingly changing this and in-vitro fertilization is making reproduction possible without a man and a woman engaging in sexual intercourse, but in-vitro fertilization has a finite set of resources and the technology is still rather expensive which makes this a barrier for many in the population. Thus, even with these technological advances, any relationship besides a heterosexual relationship breeds inequity. Further, even heterosexual relationships which are not monogamous or are not marriages invite inequity in the national identity as any two people of opposite genders could come together claiming the rights of a couple though not actually being a couple. 

           Regarding the production of a population for the future of the state, heterosexual monogamous marriages have a quantitative advantage over other relationships in the number of services that they can provide to the state. States cannot produce or raise children. They count on their citizens to fulfill these services and the state in turn provides benefits to those citizens which fulfill these services. Clearly, many homosexual couples can create an environment that is both loving and stable for children. Additionally, most heterosexual couples can create a child. But only monogamous heterosexual marriages provide both services to the state. In this way, the supposed stable environment and natural ability to conceive found in the homes of monogamous heterosexual couples united in marriage protect the state in a way that no other union can. For this reason and those cited previously, monogamous heterosexual marriages should be the most highly privileged form of marriage by the state.

           Although preservation of the differences between men and women is essential to the health and stability of the nation, these differences do not need to put the two sexes at odds with each other. Virgina Woolf explains,

It would be a thousand pities if women wrote like men, or lived like men, or looked like men, for if two sexes are quite inadequate, considering the vastness and variety of the world, how should we manage with one only? Ought not education to bring out and fortify the differences rather than the similarities? For we have too much likeness as it is, and if an explorer should come back and bring word of other sexes looking through the branches of other trees at other skies, nothing would be of greater service to humanity; and we should have the immense pleasure into the bargain of watching Professor X rush for his measuring-rods to prove himself ''superior.'' (Andrews 1993, 12)

           This sentiment provides a fresh perspective on the heart of the issue surrounding marriage. Monogamous heterosexual marriage brings into view the greatest differences and similarities of both genders and provides the most efficient avenue for the development of respect and admiration between the two. Inherent to this development of understanding and respect is the recognition and appreciation of the differences between the sexes. When used as a boon and not bane, these differences bring about families and societies that can live peaceably and foster domestic security. This domestic security coupled with the equity of privileges that all citizens, male and female alike, have to participate fully in the nation, results in a national security which cannot be achieved in any other way. This is the great benefit to the state of monogamous heterosexual marriage; as a result, this type of marriage should be the most highly privileged form of marriage by the state.


Works Cited

Agacinski, Sylviane. 2001. Parity of the sexes. Trans. Lisa Walsh. Columbia: Columbia University Press.

Caputi and Russell. 1990. "Femicide." Ms. Magazine. September/October. http://www.diana russell.com/femicide.html.

O’Hanlon, Michael. 2009. "Obama’s defense Budget Gap." The Washington Post.  June 10.

Robert, Andrews. 1993. The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations. Columbia: Columbia University Press.

Roosevelt, Theodore. 1915. " Hyphenated Americans."  Carnegie Hall, New York City, New York. October 12. http://home.comcast.net/~nhprman/trhyphenated.htm

Waltz, Kenneth N. 1979. Theory of International Politics. Reading, MA: Addison-


Full Citation for This Article: Butterfield, Rebekah (2009) "The State and Marriage," SquareTwo, Vol. 2 No. 3 (Fall), http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleButterfieldMarriage.html, accessed [give access date].

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