Heteronormativity is the idea that men and women fall into gender categories naturally. And from these natural states of engenderment practises and norms form from the biology of reproduction to social and cultural behaviours that benefit heterosexuality.
Now whilst this article isn’t intended to break any new ground in the field of queer theory (for those of you interested I urge you to read Judith Butler), It would seem that when approaching the subject of normativity, to ignore the effect of the social norms on those who have been socially excluded would be problematic.
This year saw the celebration of the first legally recognised Husband and Husband marriage in the UK. Whilst this caused a divide down the country, as hypocrisy rained down from the fora of debate, what is arguably one of the key areas of friction here was ignored. The issue here isn’t the one of “is it right or wrong?” It is the issue of Patriarchy.
We should be quick to recognise the tremendous gains made by any marginalised groups to gain equality and also pay tribute to the ways in which subordinated cultures have interjected the dominant narrative. However we should also be wary of the changes made to the subordinated now they are included.
It wouldn’t be difficult to draw a parallel between hetero-norms and patriarchy. It has long been argued that the society which on average pays men better, which promotes men’s interests and which provides men with more opportunities; works in the interest of men. The family headed by a heterosexual couple encourages these patriarchal norms by tradition, encouraging the woman to stay at home depending on the financial income of the man and in cases where the woman is at work, she is often on a lower wage than her male companion anyway.
So what does the introduction of homosexual marriage mean for the heteronormative construct of marriage? We assume we are talking of a notion of marriage not based on the exchange of one party from their family into the responsibility of another, so what marriage are we discussing? If we narrow the field down to be of two motivations, the first that to marry is a celebration of love; then it could be understood that to present your love in front of family and friends for the world to see would be quite the romantic gesture. But why then do so in recognition with the state? Secondly then is to marry and gain the benefits that a legally recognised marriage gives you and your partner. But why marriage?
Another radical step on the road to egalitarianism is the legal parentage of a child by a same sex couple. Again the statement here isn’t “is it right or wrong?” The question here is why?
Marriage and parenthood in their last 2000 years of history in this country have been constructs of subordination through patriarchy and heteronormativity. Perhaps it is the case that the integration of previously subordinated groups could redefine these dynamics and ultimately improve them for the sake of the greater flourishing of humanity. But there is a concern here that a logic has been overlooked.
If we follow the argument that marriage and parenthood are constructs of patriarchy and heteronormativity and we elude to the work down by feminists in the 1960s (see Simone de Beauvoir amongst others) on how capitalism works as a structure for oppression like patriarchy does then we start to see a problem come to light.
Capitalism grew on the foundations made by Protestantism on the notion of individualism. It stated that, like the American dream does, anyone can rise from the bottom to the top. This then sits nicely into a laymen’s notion of survival of the fittest and you have a wrapped up ready to go system that justifies extortion and subordination.
And hence we arrive at the problem faced by the communities outside of the hetero-domination. To obtain integration into a system that once segregated society; through divisions in sexual orientation and ideals based on individuals thriving, is to destroy all the work that was only achieved through pressure applied by a unified social sector of marginalised peoples. This along with the constant redefining of what the L&G, the then LGB, LGBT, LGBTQ, LGBTQIA community actually is, only serves to integrate through division one of the true remaining challenges to the oppressive structures of the normative society. The question is this, should we be more concerned about whether the inclusion of segregated groups is an attempt at political and moral correctness, or prevention against the unification of a group of marginalised people?