Letters Home XII. Marriage and unconscious biases.

The debate about same sex marriage is on fire in Australia, the postal vote deadline just behind us. It made me think a lot about why anyone would be against it, where our values come from and about humans and society as a whole. It made me think about all the stories in our head. It made me think about gender roles. And about unconscious biases.
I thought I was the most progressive and open minded girl ever. But it turns out I am as influenced by my surroundings as anyone else. I clearly have some gender stereotypes in my reference ‘book’, stored somewhere inside my limbic system. I’m as influenced by it as the next person. I also thought I probably had the most non-traditional parents ever. I grew up with an Italian comedian as a dad, who travelled around the world and a Dutch single mum, free spirited hippy, my hero.
Skipping a few years ahead to the 31 year old me, I do not want to get married; I never wanted to. Why was this never a dream? Isn’t this every little girl’s dream? My mum wasn’t married. My dad wasn’t married. Marriage and weddings were not an important part of my surroundings and upbringing. Even later on, when my mum met my step dad and started a family with him and she did get married, they just went to the city hall to sign the paperwork. No celebration, no party, no biggie. Done. Marriage was silly. When I got older, this view didn’t change. Not only ‘silly’ anymore but heritage of a strong patriarchal society that wants to dominate and control women. Keep them in their place. Become property of a man. I never saw it as a celebration of love. I still think I don’t see it like that. And although maybe I can understand it, I still don’t feel any need for it. There is no need to legitimise my love in any form. I do not need to declare my love to the state (!) and certainly not to any church (don’t get me started on that one). This also makes romantic love the only possible union, which is another issue of our modern society which probably leads to unnecessary loneliness and isolation (recently addressed by Alain de Botton).
So now comes the question, why is it that I am in favour of gay marriage? And why do I feel strongly about the topic? I’ve been thinking about this. If I find marriage bullshit, why do I feel the need to support same sex marriage? The conclusion is that it’s not about the ‘marriage’ part, it’s about what it represents. And how it could change what marriage is or hopefully was. Creating a new meaning to what once was (and still often is) the passage of property of women and land, the maintenance and alliance of power, the oppression and suppression of sexuality.

The marriage thing and whole wedding propaganda was never on my radar. But I did want kids. Lots of them. Immediately. I must have been only 13 when I started thinking about how nice it would be to walk around with a pregnant belly. And at the same age, I would observe in great detail all the parenting styles of my surrounding. Especially what my dad and his partner did wrong. I was passionate about picking up really ‘good’ and really ‘bad’ parenting pieces around me from family, friends, books, tv, etc. I developed my whole ‘parenting guide book’ by the time I was 15. I knew exactly how I was and how I wasn’t (the don’ts were probably even more important than the do’s) going to raise my little future humans. This guide book together with the idea that ‘of course I was going to have children’ was with me for a long time. Until recently this solid understanding of this must in my life was always there. It never got questioned. Because it’s a solid foundation of our society. It’s normal. People will never question it or ask you why. Why do you want children? Why do you feel the need to procreate and populate? Why do you feel you need to leave a piece behind? I never asked myself those questions. I’m sure that people that don’t want children get those questions all the time. And especially when you are female. There’s huge misunderstanding and judgement towards those who decide not to put another life on this planet. I have to say, if we rationally think about it, there’s so many more reasons not to have children. Just to mention a few: overpopulation, the big carbon footprint, time taken away from your own life goals and experiences. Everyone has the right to make a choice and it should be a choice, not a given. We’re not animals anymore and although we’re programmed for procreation and to love the cuteness of those chubby cheeks, it doesn’t have to be for everyone. As difficult as it is to challenge this idea, I feel it’s healthy to make it about a decision. It should always be a decision whether it’s a yes or a no. Popping out babies for the sake of it shouldn’t be today’s priority. I’m sure parenthood is an amazing experience and all the hard sacrifices are probably worth it, but let there be thought! Having a child is also a huge responsibility and sometimes a little selfish to just want a little copy of ourselves to spoil. I’m not sure what the future holds for me but I’m happy that I have decided to challenge what was once imprinted in my brain as the only way.

Marriage, kids, what’s it all about? At the end, we’re the only animals giving meaning to things. But meaning isn’t a real thing. We can change it and maybe we should sometimes.

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