Friday, January 25, 2013

Women in Combat and Entry into the Unjust

It was just announced that women are to be allowed combat positions in the US Military.  Women in combat is something that's been happening for a long time, but now that it's acknowledged it means women can receive equal compensation for it.  In addition, although it's not particularly new news, LGB people (although not transgender people) can serve openly, as well.

I will be among those who are not necessarily cheering.  I abhor the cream-thick adoration of war that permeates American culture, indifferently "supporting" the troops with cheap yellow ribbons, ignoring the ever-higher rates of suicide and PTSD, the fact that military recruiting bears a ridiculous amount of resemblance to a video game commercial, and of course, the thousands of civilian casualties overseas that Americans rarely bother to think about.  I do not blame the soldiers for the war, but I will not dehumanize them by calling them "heroes" and I will not feed into the perception that better access to a corrupt institution is the right fight for my community.

However, I should also mention that this is not limited to the military, the involvement in which is just a logical symptom of what fights mainstream liberal activism tends to focus on:  The tendency is to fight for entrance into institutions that have usually had exclusive access.  Marriage has been limited to straight couples... so let gay couples.  CEOs have usually been men... so let's elevate some women.  Women are banned from the Catholic priesthood... so let's change it so they can become priests.

Although this isn't always bad, there is a huge problem with this line of thinking:  We wind up supporting causes without really thinking about whether the institutions we're trying to enter are worth entering, or who else is excluded.  We just assume that because some majority or oppressor party does it, it's awesome and we should get us some of that.

I am not an advocate for same-sex marriage.  Although I will fight against initiatives to ban same-sex marriage, this is not because I think same-sex couples should be getting married.  I feel legal marriage is a decaying, outdated ceremony... it impedes free choice in relationships, it makes it more difficult for people to leave abusive relationships, it changes individuals into relationships.  I often hear people complain about the high divorce rate... I would say a high divorce rate is a good thing!  It means people are letting themselves out!

In addition, making same-sex marriage legal still excludes legal protection for people in multiple relationships or who live together but do not want to get married.  Rather than allow gays into a failing institution, why aren't we working toward sound and readily-available alternatives that benefit all relationships?

And trying to get the Roman Catholic church to ordain woman priests implies that somehow there's something redeeming about the Roman Catholic church.  After covering up sex abuse, hoarding wealth while others remain poor, refusing to provide adequate healthcare to women, shutting down charities when they aren't allowed to discriminate against gays... why is the obvious solution woman priests?  There are other Catholic denominations who do ordain women--and gays, and transgender people, and others--so there are reasonable solutions other than trying to gain entrance into a corrupt institution.

Many of these institutions are only of interest to generally privileged people, as well.  Marriage does little to help a queer youth who is homeless because they were disowned by their parents, nor a queer youth who is being bullied.  Having a woman CEO of a major corporation is great for her and her family, but most women cannot access that status and will not reap those benefits, and it doesn't address aspects of that structure that oppress workers.

Does this mean that all of these access-entry campaigns are a bad thing?  Of course not.  Nor does it mean that, at least in the meanwhile, these aren't important steps.  But we need to really begin to think about what is worthwhile and valuable rather than mindlessly assimilating the institutions of our oppressors, and these can't be the only thing that defines our movements, as same-sex marriage has become.