7th Place: "Heterosexual Monogamous Marriage:
The Key to Equal Rights for Women"

Vanessa Nielsen of Colonia Juaraez, Chihuahua, Mexico

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






            Oscar Wilde once said, “Marriage is the one subject on which all women agree and all men disagree.” [1] It would appear that Wilde’s assertion is a dated one, for these days there is a population of men who are very anxious to be married—to each other. There are also many women who reject the concept of gender roles entirely, and who strongly disagree with marriage. Wilde’s statement, though trivially given, seems to be a strong indicator of how times have changed, as homosexual marriage and other household arrangements besides that of heterosexual marriage are promoted in every sphere from religion to politics. However, it is my belief that if equal rights for women are ever to be achieved, men and women both must be overwhelmingly in agreement about the importance of marriage. Unfortunately, the promotion of heterosexual marriage has not seemed to form a part of the feminist movement or the fight for equal gender rights; in fact, some argue that the feminist movement has led society away from marriage by opening the door for homosexual marriage advocates. Yet the only way to achieve truly equal rights for women is through monogamous, heterosexual marriage, and for this reason it is the arrangement the state must privilege above all other household arrangements.

Male Domination and the Female Fight for Rights

           Any discussion of gender rights necessitates an understanding of how things began. For this we must look to human history, which gives us many examples of violence in the human race, especially male violence inflicted upon females. One need look no further than human biology to understand the prevalence of male-on-female violence: physiologically, males have an undeniable advantage over females when it comes to upper body strength. [2] This physical advantage is augmented by the fact that the responsibility of reproduction renders females weaker; firstly, the male desire for sexual intercourse with the female may lead to rape, injury or even death. Secondly, the periods of pregnancy and childbirth lead to greater vulnerability and weakness in the female. Due to the historical physical domination of males over females, physical coercion of females ensured the dominance of male force over female will. This in turn led to a social order in which men were the superior beings, while women became inferior.

           Yet such an order could not last forever, for although females lag when it comes to physical strength, the intelligence level of both sexes is comparable. It should come as no surprise, then, that over time an international shift occurred. The evolution of thought and activism over the centuries to define women's human rights and to ensure that women are equal members of society is primarily associated with the North (mainly because women's history has been deliberately ignored over the centuries and there are few available records detailing women's achievements in the Eastern and Southern regions of the world) [3] and is often simply called the feminist movement.

           The feminist movement (particularly during the 20th century and especially in the North) did manage to ensure that women obtained enough legal and social freedom to participate in public life, even at the international level. Additionally, women gained the right to control their reproduction through the development of safe, effective birth control as well as a more powerful voice which allowed them to refuse to participate in sexual intercourse. It would seem that the fight for gender equality is nearly won; however, we are far from that happy day. 


           In Kenya, there is a village where only women are allowed to live. It is called Umoja, which means “unity” in Swahili, and it was established in 1995 by women who had been raped, then abandoned by their husbands. Through the years, other troubled women (some abused by their husbands, some seeking divorce) have joined the settlement which has since evolved into a happy village complete with a camping site and a cultural center. Meanwhile, the men from the same tribe started their own village across the way, spitefully spying on the women; yet eventually the all-male village was declared a failure and many men moved away, leaving the women of Umoja to peacefully live their lives, alone. [4] While this arrangement of complete gender separation did in fact solve the problem of women who sought to reclaim their rights and escape from abuse, most people would agree that such a solution is hardly viable on a universal scale. If anyone proposed separating all the men and all the women in the world so that there would be no more violence, so that we could all live in equality, such a proposal would be likely to fail spectacularly.

           Nevertheless it is interesting to note that society is much more accepting of a different sort of gender separation, one just as detrimental to human society. Homosexual marriage does, after all, mirror the separate villages of women and men in Kenya in that once again gender “equality” is only possible for females if they don’t live anywhere near men. For this reason alone, a true feminist cannot possibly ally with the homosexual cause, for approving a separation of genders (although not nearly as radical as that of the women of Umoja) would nonetheless be a renouncement of hope for equal rights between the sexes. However, it is common for feminists and homosexuals to be perceived as allies, a perception which (due to the argument above presented, that females cannot possibly have equal rights if they live separately from males) is wrong.

The Unfortunate Language Connection between Feminists and Homosexuals

           In her article “Finding the Homosexual in Women's Rights,” Doris E. Buss (2004) states that the language feminists (or more accurately, radical feminists) use also opens the door to “pro-gay initiatives.” [5] Buss explains that the feminist approach to seeking international recognition of women's rights as human rights has led feminist campaigns to employ the term “gender” in perhaps a misguided way. Because the duality of masculinity and femininity imposes a pre-existing constraint on women's equality due to the historical dominance of man, campaigns for gender equality have promoted the idea that the term “gender” is merely a sex role which is socially constructed. [6]
The attempt to make men and women exactly the same—not male and not female, simply human—has led to a blurring of the sexes. The language of radical feminists is an asexual language which assumes no difference at all between females and males. As W. Wright (1999) so bluntly stated,
Unfortunately, when you buy into the concept that there is no distinction between men and women that leads you down a path that gets you to accept homosexuality. What’s the difference between a man and a man being together if there is no difference between men and women? Then, [you get] into all other kinds of bizarre lifestyles… [7]

           When gender becomes not biology but instead a social construction, it is a small step from there to a complete acceptance and welcome of homosexual and transgender behavior.  As has been established, this would hinder the achievement of equality between the sexes, and thus the language of the feminist movement has worked in opposition to the cause.

The Solution

           So if the complete separation of males and females in Kenya in order to achieve equal rights for women didn’t work, and if the radical feminist approach of destructing gender roles didn’t work, what will? Put more simply, if constructing two completely separate worlds for men and women and lumping all of humankind into the same category are both the wrong answers, what is left? The answer is simple: marriage. The method to achieving equal rights for both sexes lies in individual couples, consisting of exactly one male and exactly one female, achieving perfect unity, harmony and equality—a concept otherwise known as heterosexual monogamous marriage. This is the arrangement that the state should privilege above all other household arrangements or possible gender partnerships, for only beginning in the home and with marriage can peace between both genders be possible.

           To make this statement less shocking, let us first clarify exactly what kinds of marriages these must be. The term “marriage” for the purposes of this essay means the following: one female and one male who commit to live together permanently, in an environment of love, equality, respect and peace. This type of marriage is certainly different from what many married people experience. It is important to differentiate between “traditional marriage” and the marriage advocated in this essay. Traditional marriage (the marriage experienced by the vast majority of women throughout human history) has its basis in male domination over females facilitated by the biology of each. Females are seen as instruments, not partners. The children conceived in these marriages belong to the male and his family, and the female has little say in matters of divorce, polygamy, inheritance, decision-making, property rights, etc. In short, male patriarchy ensures the subordination of the female spouse.

           True marriage, by contrast, is the epitome of gender equality. It is also the pinnacle of peace between both halves of the human family. The couples who practice true marriage would follow the council expressed by Gordon B. Hinckley: “Every husband and every wife would constantly do whatever might be possible to ensure the comfort and happiness of his or her companion.” [8] These couples would then teach the children they had conceived and were raising together what true gender equality must look like. Children raised in such an environment, both male and female, would then innately possess the knowledge of how to live in harmony with the other sex, for it would in no way differ from what they had observed in their own homes.

           Gender equality, started at home, could then spread throughout society as young males and females left the home of their parent’s marriage and formed heterosexual marriages of their own. In this way, one marriage would lead to an exponential growth in marriages; not just any marriages, but heterosexual, monogamous marriages in which each partner has an equal voice. The knowledge of how both genders could live in peace with each other would change society, for children raised in such an environment would be the leaders in the fight for gender equality and peace.
The role of the state in privileging heterosexual marriage above any other arrangement is paramount. Without state encouragement of heterosexual marriage, this gender arrangement will be seen as simply one option among many. Any state which values peace must encourage this type of marriage, which fosters peace between the sexes (which in turn will lead to peace in society, peace between states, and so forth). Most importantly, any state which values women must actively promote heterosexual marriage above all other gender arrangements, for it is only through marriage that females have any chance of truly achieving equal rights.



[1] Oscar Wilde and Anya Clayworth. Oscar Wilde Selected Journalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 10. [Back to manuscript]

[2] Barbara Ehrenreich. “Men Hate War Too,” Foreign Affairs Jan/Feb 99, Vol 78 Issue 1 (1999): 119. [Back to manuscript]

[3] Arvonne S. Fraser. “Becoming Human: The Origins and Development of Women's Human Rights” Women's International Network News, Vol 26 Issue 1 (2000), in Academic Search Premier [database on-line]; accessed June 12, 2009. [Back to manuscript]

[4] Emily Wax.  "A Place Where Women Rule; All-Female Village in Kenya Marks Blossoming African Feminism," Wall Street Journal, July 12, 2005, Europe,  http://www.proquest.com.erl.lib.byu.edu/ (accessed June 14, 2009). [Back to manuscript]

[5] Doris E. Buss. “Finding the Homosexual in Women's Rights,” International Feminist Journal of Politics/6 no. 2 (2004): 257-284. [Back to manuscript]

[6] Ibid, 14-15. [Back to manuscript]

[7] As quoted in Buss op. cit.,, 13. [Back to manuscript]

[8] Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Women in Our Lives,” Liahona, Nov 2004, 82–85. [Back to manuscript]


Full Citation for This Article: Nielsen, Vanessa (2009) "Heterosexual Monogamous Marriage: The Key to Equal Rights for Women," SquareTwo, Vol. 2 No. 3 (Fall), http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleNielsenMarriage.html, accessed [give access date].

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