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What’s Kim Kardashian got to do with it?

2 Nov

Okay, so. I am very new to Kim Kardashian. Obviously I knew she existed, and I could have probably picked her out in a line-up but, until very recently, she was completely irrelevant to me. In fact, I am about to argue that she remains completely irrelevant to me; her only and very temporary relevance is that I now feel compelled to speak out against other people’s inference that her life and choices have anything to do with mine.

In the last few days, my Twitter feed has been full of people saying the exact same thing. (Well – most people I follow are white, middle-class, artsy, feminist, queer or queer-friendly, and educated to university standard, so this isn’t really very far out of the ordinary. But, anyway.) In the wake of Kim Kardashian’s now notorious seventy-two day marriage, pretty much everyone has been going, ‘AND YET GAYS COMPROMISE THE SANCITITY OF MARRIAGE.’ And I have been getting fucked off with every single one of them.

For one thing, it’s a logically defunct argument that, because Kim Kardashian is alleged to have had a brief heteronormative marriage for publicity and money-making reasons – an accusation of whose evidence I know little but feel is quite unfair given that divorce and relationship breakdown are usually actually really upsetting, so maybe she’s actually really upset – this means that non-heteronormative couples ought to be able to get married. Before we even get onto my feelings about “gay marriage,” this is wildly problematic, because it still positions marriage between people perceived to be of the “same” gender as something of a deviancy. The argument tacitly runs, ‘because Kim Kardashian can do this supposedly fucked up thing with the institution of marriage, so should people in non-heteronormative relationships,’ which does nothing to challenge the view that marriage between people in non-heteronormative relationships is deviant. Way to promote your cause. (It reminds me a lot of this awesome article about justification of abortion – TRIGGER WARNING.)

For another, taunts about ‘Kim Kardashian’s seventy-two day marriage’ carry the implicit assumption that marriages are not authentic unless they last a certain amount of time. I was particularly interested to note in the last month or so that Mexico is considering offering finite marriage contracts to its citizens which, of course, has also prompted some to complain about the ways in which this might threaten the “sanctity of marriage.” Personally, I feel that, if marriage has to be institutionalised – which I think it does at least in the short term – check-in points during marriages are a great fucking idea, because the idea that anyone would feel anything forever, let alone love someone, is one that I tend to find, in hypothesis, highly idealistic.

I would like to point out here that I do not believe all marriages to be doomed, or all those who choose to get married to be foolish. However, my reason tells me that such a promise would be far better framed as ‘I will always endeavour to be committed to you,’ although I am aware that not all marriage ceremonies involve this promise, and I am also aware that, just because someone promises they will always try to maintain commitment to whatever relationship you have agreed upon, this does not mean that they will actually always do that. I understand that my experiences of being the child of a desperately unhappy marriage and ensuing divorce probably have some sway over the way I feel about this, but I do not think that my approach is solely emotional: I couldn’t, in right conscience, however besotted I was with someone, tell them that I would always love them. I just couldn’t. Because human beings change all the time, and our feelings change all the time, and obviously some people will be more constant than I am, but to promise to be consistently constant? I’m afraid I don’t buy it.

There is also the issue of non-heteronormative couplings by marriage and queer assimilation. I don’t take the view that queer people oughtn’t get married because they’re copying straight people, although I do recognise the potential for oppression that homonormativity carries with it, although I think this potential lies more in those who would seek to oppress non-normative others anyway rather than those who choose to marry their “same-sex” partners. However, I worry about any degree of submission to an institution – and there will be some degree if you are legally married, however you choose to phrase your vows and maintain your relationship – whose history is steeped in oppression. Of course, just because marriage began as the facilitator of possession of women does not mean that it still necessarily does that; this isn’t even really a valid point to raise with many non-heteronormative married couples. But marriage can still function to facilitate oppression, whomever you are marrying – it can compromise recognition of equally important polyamorous relationships, it can compromise the idea of the significance of the non-biological family, and it can impose a hierarchy of importance upon others’ relationships.

I don’t know if my beef with marriage is really reasonable on these grounds – perhaps it’s similar to my feelings of concern regarding that K-Y intense advert and how it might fuel bigoted ideologies. What do you think?

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