glass ceiling

Marriage Anyone?

One of the hot social issues of these times is whether same sex marriage should or should not be legal. Conservatives naturally oppose anything that breaks tradition, and use the “slippery slope” argument that such a break would lead to the legalization of polygamy. Why they think this naturally follows is not clear, but maybe they’re right. Is polygamy necessarily a bad thing? Would harm be done? Is there a victim? The whole debate, however, is about to become moot. In modern western societies such as the United States and Europe marriage loses ground every year. Already more than half of all households in the U.S. are headed by a single adult, and marriage is on its way to becoming only symbolic.

Other than a few artificial tax distinctions, is there anything a married couple can do that an unmarried couple can’t do? Living together in an unmarried state has lost all its stigma, and having children out of wedlock is now so common that the term “bastard,” although still derogatory, is losing its original meaning. Much of this has happened in the last fifty years. What is driving all this change? Marriage, after all, is a very ancient institution. Originally, most ways of making a living required physical strength and thus a division of labor naturally developed, relegating women to domestic roles especially when child care was an issue. The disparity in physical strength also served to enforce the subjugation of women. It has been a long haul for women and all during that time male dominance and traditional marriage went hand in hand. The logic of one reinforced the logic of the other. That distinction is rapidly disappearing even in what would normally be considered heavy work such as construction. A ditch is no longer dug with a pick and shovel and a backhoe can be operated just as well by either sex. In addition, many ways of making a living are increasingly dependent on mental strength rather than physical strength. Mental strength consists of innate ability, where women have always been equal, plus education where parity is immanent. At this writing the majority of all students enrolled in higher education in the U.S. are female.

What will the future look like?

Is seems highly probable that within fifty years (maybe sooner) complete parity will be occur. Compensation will equalize and the “glass ceiling” will be broken. There may even be a reversal of dominance between the sexes. When this comes to pass traditional marriages will probably become a small minority, and it will be women who bring this about. There will always be those to fight a rear guard action, but it’s a losing battle. The original logic just isn’t there anymore. In short, there is an inverse relationship between the prominence of women in society and popularity of traditional marriage. Today the basic legal entity is the individual and it would appear that in the future this will also be the case, perhaps even more so. Individuals will be free to make any kind of living arrangement they wish –they may remain single, be coupled, tripled, quadrupled, or become a whole commune. Such arrangements may be heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, asexual, or all of the above. They may be informal or covered by some kind of contractual agreement dealing with issues such community property and the rearing if children. Some living arrangements of the future may be organized, as businesses are today, into legal partnerships or corporations. Frankly, it seems unlikely that large, close-knit group marriages will become common. It is six times more difficult for four people to be blissfully compatible than it is for two, and two is hard enough. Perhaps we will see a tiered type of structure with primary and secondary relationships.

All of this represents something new for human society. It’s unexplored territory, and a significant revolution for our kind. There will, of course, be some missteps and false starts, but in the long run it is difficult to see such expansion of choice as a bad thing. It’s the wave of the future and the future is almost here.

R.L Mason
Mendocino, California

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008 Marriage Anyone? No Comments