"Should Feminists Be Critical of Compulsory Monogamy?"
At the Ms. magazine blog, Angi Becker Stevens extends her run with three solid poly articles appearing in three significant publications in a week.
Should Feminists Be Critical of Compulsory Monogamy?
By Angi Becker Stevens
In 1980, Adrienne Rich broke new ground in her essay “On Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence,” in which she argued that feminism need not merely include lesbian voices but actively critique compulsory heterosexuality as a patriarchal institution. More than 30 years later, feminist support for gay and lesbian rights has become commonplace.... But we have yet to turn a critical eye toward the similarly functioning institution of compulsory monogamy.
Akrabbim / Wikimedia Commons
...As feminists, we’ve learned to speak out and criticize these narrow visions of romance for their heteronormativity as well as for their strict enforcement of gender roles, their frequent double-standards for male and female behavior and their two-dimensional portrayals of women. But we fail to acknowledge the institution of compulsory monogamy that underlies media portrayals of love and romance, or how that institution has worked hand-in-hand with patriarchy for much of history.
...Though exact numbers are hard to come by, it’s estimated that between 4 and 5 percent of Americans are in some form of openly non-monogamous relationship, many of them polyamorous.... Modern polyamory has many feminist roots, and although there are polyamorous folks across the political and ideological spectrums, a large number are feminists, progressives and leftists....
Of course one function of compulsory monogamy is that polyamorous relationships are widely condemned, by both liberals and conservatives. But it’s important to reflect on the root of that condemnation. Whenever a society prohibits a certain behavior or identity, that prohibition is most likely serving the interests of people in positions of power. As feminists, we should always question these socially mandated norms. Is monogamy enforced simply out of tradition? Or is it enforced as yet another way to control and police women’s bodies and sexuality?
...Just as one can be straight and still critical of compulsory heterosexuality, it is possible to engage in monogamous relationships and yet still be critical of the institution of compulsory monogamy. I hope we can begin having a dialogue about this institution, examining what it is and how it functions, and envisioning a future without it.
Read the whole article (August 6, 2013).
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