I’ve started this sentence three times, because I can’t find words to adequately express how excited I am about today’s post. There has been a lot of talk on the blog about wanting to hear about what the term ‘wife’ means from a lesbian or otherwise queer perspective. So, who did I turn to first (more to come, of course)? Well, quite obviously Lisa and Terri. You’ll remember them from their fancy budget wedding, and then their gothic one year anniversary legal Iowa wedding. Oh, and they write the awesome e-comic Godseeker. So here they are, with their post, which pretty much sums up why I think marriage equality is important to EVERYONE. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because the expanding definition of marriage makes all of our unions better, and makes us wiser. And this post taught me the term “role fatigue,” which will give me weeks of thought. So get ready:
Lisa (my wife) and I have been talking, on and off, about how we’re utterly baffled at why some people balk at both marriage as an institution, and at the concept of being a “wife”. We understand why not everyone wants to get married, but not why they should by afraid of the institution existing. Here we are, a couple of liberated, over-educated feminists, and all we can do is stare blankly in confusion.
And we’ve come down to this idea- we lucked out by being lesbians. Sure, there’s the oppression, the legal ramifications, and the odd co-worker or stranger that needs a talking-to, but just at the moment, I’m feeling a bit like we won the lottery.
And that’s because we’re new. That as out, married lesbians we are fairly new to this culture as a whole. The media hasn’t ever bothered to tell us yet what a married lesbian couple looks like/acts like/wears/drives/buys to wash their dishes. We’re under the radar of most mass media. And that means there are no rules. There’s nobody to tell us which one of us raises the kids or mows the lawn or washes the dishes or fixes broken toasters.
We’re not a couple that’s easily identified as “butch” and “fem” so for us, society gave us no pre-prescribed roles. Yes, they still tell us what we should drive/wash our clothes with/look like/act like as women, but we’ve been ignoring that for years now. So unlike some of you; we weren’t suddenly hit by a barrage of new societal pressures when we got hitched. That can be a vulnerable time in your life, and the last thing you need is to get hit with a bunch of extra psychological rubble.
Ok, so given the percentages, most of you probably aren’t lesbians. But we still have good news! Our marriage works.
We don’t have any societal roles but we still get by just dandy as a married couple. Which means you straight ladies don’t need the rules either. You might have more pressure to adopt them, I’ll admit, but always remember that you don’t need them. Those rules are bullshit, plain and simple.
If a “rule” doesn’t work for you and your partner, toss it on out the window! The rules are more…guidelines. Not even very good guidelines. In fact, as a graduate student of marriage and family therapy I can mention here that the current “rules” tend to lead to “role fatigue” (that thing you’re worried about in which you get stuck with all the responsibilities of the housewife and the worker and the mother and then you don’t have time to be yourself) which leads to unhappy wives, unhappy husbands, no sex life, and the next thing you know your fighting over who gets to keep the kids in your two year long divorce.
Ok, that might not happen to you. But it sure does happen a lot. Enough to generate a whole lot of studies on it. The main point is that those “rules” really can be toxic- it’s not in your head, no matter what people try to tell you. Which means that for the sake of your marriage, your sanity, and your partners sanity, you really should take a look at what rules you both want to have for your own marriage. Because the rules other people sell you about how you need to cut your hair, take out your piercings, have a baby, and become obsessed with home decor (I am, but that doesn’t mean you have to be) are bullshit.
If a definition of “wife” doesn’t embody the kind of marital partner you are or want to be, then toss it out and make your own! I mean, if the various household chores that come with society’s idea of “wife” are getting done and nobody is being unduly burdened by those tasks–who cares who does it when? The floor is vacuumed. The dinner is cooked. Lets move on.
All a wife is is a female marital partner- any definition more complex than that is just somebody’s personal opinion, which you are no more obligated to follow than when they tell you what to weigh, wear, and watch. Being a wife only means that you’ve chosen someone to stand by and to stand by you, whom you love. If anyone tries to tell you differently, you just remember the lesbians. If we can do it, so can you!
Drawing by Teri & Lisa