Wednesday, January 12

The Left on Patriarchy

Today Lynn Sanders of Left2Right has this to say about why she things the "right" disapproves of SSM. Ms Sanders admits that the reference to a covenantal bond in marriage is appealing, but that for her, the "elephant in the room" in this discussion is "Male Headship", more commonly called patriarchy.

She says for example,
the idea (stated as generously as I know) that in a marriage of two equals, one male and one female, the man must be assigned, and must take, responsibility to lead the family this pair creates The partnership of equals that marriage is supposed to affirm is also supposed, according the idea of male headship, always to be hierarchical, and always to be a hierarchy with the man on top.
Ms Sanders thinks this is an unspoken agenda of the supporters of "traditional marriage".

I think her positions shows a willful misunderstanding of what is implied with patriarchy. Patriarchy and "traditional marraige" do in fact assign set roles for husband and wife. However, the idea that these roles imply heirarchy is a misreading of the idea of "set roles". Given the traditional division of labor being bread-winner/homemaker does in no way imply that the role of homemaker is subordinate. In fact, as far as well being of hearth and home, the role of home maker is far more important that of the bread-winner. I would argue that the role of the bread-winner is consigned to a more subordinate role than that of his wife. After all, he just brings in cash. She must make the home into a haven, and take the primary role in nuturing, cherishing, and preparing the children for adulthood. What could be more important. Patriarchy also does not imply that those decisions made by either party are made without consultation or consent. Finally, an understanding of who has responsibility for any final decisions can often quiet troubled waters.

There is in fact an important underlying dissonance exposed here by Ms Sanders which is present between the left/right communities. The left (in my view) consistently reads that set or expected roles automatically imply less freedom and opportunity. This, however, is a shallow view of our social roles. By analogy, in a symphony we have set roles for the musicians. Play these specific notes in this manner and in this order. This does not constrain the musicians. It frees them to make music. Improvisation is much more difficult. It helps to have that music written and composed ahead of time, to provide a role for each musician.