What Is Marriage For? Pa Paperback – Jun 2000
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E.J. Graff had a very personal reason for asking the question in this book's title: she was married in 1991, but in a ceremony legitimized by neither church nor state. Graff and her dearly beloved, you see, are lesbians. But instead of being dominated by agenda, What Is Marriage For? is a playful and informative study of the institution of wedlock throughout history that will appeal to readers outside of its obvious constituency. Chapter by chapter, Graff looks at the legal, sociological, and anthropological assumptions about money, sex, procreation, tribal affiliation, and the pursuit of personal happiness that underlie the concept of matrimony in Western societies. Her eye for the odd historical footnote is especially striking: we learn, for example, that in ancient Rome, marriage vows were exchanged by the groom and his father-in-law, and that--the assertions of right-wing fundamentalists notwithstanding--families were actually far less stable in the premodern era (where as many as 50 percent of all French children lived with a stepparent) than they are today. Graff's conclusion? The rules of engagement have fluctuated so wildly over the centuries that the term "traditional marriage" is something of an oxymoron; same-sex unions are but one of the many ways in which marriage has evolved to meet the changing social dynamics of the 20th century. --Patrizia DiLucchio --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
"What is marriage forAlike most serious political or social questionsAis a question about what it means to be fully human," contends Graff in her lively feminist treatise on why same-sex marriage should be legalized in the United States. Beginning with her own desire to be married to her partner, Madeline, and the (non-legal) ceremony they shared, she explores why people yearn to be married, the state's investment in such unions and why society might object to particular couplings. She contends that since marriage encourages hard work, fidelity and legitimate children and creates social parameters for sex, it's good for society. Given that it is, fundamentally, a matter of "individual spirit," Graff argues that same-sex partners should be able to share in these virtues. The book's strength lies in her well-researched and entertaining history of Western marriage. Revealing how social change has always preceded legal and religious change, she delineates how couplings we take for granted todayAsuch as marriages for love, marriages in which women work outside the home, those in which the partners use contraception for family planning or remain childless, and those between members of different races and religionsAwere all once thought to provide such extreme threats to the institution of marriage that critics claimed each would destroy it. Since none did, asserts Graff, same-sex marriage won't, either. Although her repeated summaries of "what marriage is for" and why it must include same-sex couples can become a bit tiresome, and her dismissals of alternative views don't always take into account their tenacity (she ultimately spurns as "doomsaying" the idea that marriage won't survive social change), on the whole Graff's argument is spirited and likely to generate discussion. (June)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Graff never claims that her book is a balanced history; she lets readers know right up front that she is gay and that her purpose for doing all the research and writing was to present her argument that same-sex marriage should be legal. Anyone (like an earlier reviewer) who is surprised by that simply wasn't paying attention.
Graff's writing is both informative and lively, with plenty of facts interspersed with anecdotes and human interest. I already agreed with her premise so I didn't need to be persuaded, but she makes her case so well that it's hard to see how anyone could read this book and still believe gay people should be denied the right to marry. Even for those who are already believe that, the book is well worth reading. Now I can back up my assertion that same-sex marriage should be legal with a persuasive argument based on historical fact: What conservatives call "traditional marriage" is actually less than 100 years old, and this is the logical next step in its evolution.
This is an excellent book that belongs on the bookshelf of everyone who believes in human rights.
Lesbian-feminist author E.J. Graff tackles that issue head on in her new book, "What is Marriage For?: The Strange Social History of Our Most Intimate Institution," due for release in June by Beacon Press.
Graff's book is a welcome addition to the debate, which, on the proponents' side, has been advanced almost wholly by men. The most public voice has been that of Andrew Sullivan, former editor of The New Republic. Sullivan certainly has his own appeal. He serves as an effective foil to social conservatives, because he can counter them in their own language. But the other voices --primarily constitutional attorneys and social critics -- have also been male.
When I heard that Graff was writing a book, I was instinctively pleased that a woman's view was finally to be added to the conversation. My only exposure to Graff's work has been through her many fine op-ed pieces; I suspected that she'd do a reasonably good job. However, op-ed writing is a specialized craft, keyed to the pithy observation, made in 500 words or fewer. Thus, I wasn't prepared for the depth of scholarship that Graff deftly wields in this book. Nor was I prepared for her skilled interweave of the personal, the wry, and the scholarly.
This book seems to flow directly from Graff's regard for her partner, Madeline, with attendant curiosity about the "fit" of her relationship in today's society.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
I really enjoyed this book and can't say enough good things about it. So I'll just leave it there for that. Read morePublished on April 5 2004
This is a great book. It is not only well-researched, but also witty, insightful, and a very engaging read. Read morePublished on April 1 2004 by Jennifer
I was never that interested in the same-sex marriage debate until I learned of the legal protections that are automatically granted straight people when they marry. Read morePublished on Dec 22 2001
I picked up this book for the history-of-marriage value instead of the same-sex-marriage-propaganda value, and found the history and debated "reasons why people have... Read morePublished on June 22 2001 by owookiee
I expected this book to be kind of dry and boring, but it turned out to be absolutely fabulous. It is funny and eye-opening. Read morePublished on Sept. 21 1999 by Kaitin D. Sherwood
People who are sick in the head and don't know it used to be called insane. See how our society is changing? Read morePublished on Aug. 3 1999