Summary of The Pro-Feminist, Pro-Democracy, Pro-Peace Case for State Privileging of Companionate Heterosexual Monogamous Marriage
Editor’s note: This is a summary written by Julie Ford Brenning of V.H. Cassler’s article form SquareTwo, Vol. 2 No. 1 (Spring 2009). Cassler’s original article can be read in its complete form here: http://squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleCasslerMarriage.html
All across the country the topic of marriage and the state’s involvement in its definition has aroused a heated and fiery debate. Although I have heard many good arguments for and against different conceptions of marriage, the thesis presented by V.H. Cassler is the most logically sound, well-supported and convincing argument for the support of companionate heterosexual monogamous I have ever heard articulated.
The author, who has approved of my penning this shortened paraphrasing of her work, boldly begins by stating:
“The gender arrangements privileged by the state determine its potential for democracy, peace, and gender equality. There is good reason to suggest that only one form of gender arrangement–companionate heterosexual monogamous marriage—provides the sustainable foundation for these public goods.”
The author starts with foundational assertions that begin at the very basics of life.
Firstly, each person is born with either an XX or XY chromosome, making them inherently male or female. Half the population is male and female, and unassisted conception of a new member of the species can only occur between exactly one person of the male sex and one person of the female sex.
Secondly, there are differential reproductive effects upon males and females. The effects of physical reproduction (male desire for sexual intercourse, pregnancy, childbirth, and the perinatal period) upon females can render her more vulnerable to physical danger. The males superior upper body strength, with potential to dominate and become violent, present risks to females during reproduction. Except for conception, theoretically males and females could part and go their merry way with no need for direct interaction, but according to evolution or whatever other source, women face greatest dangers during reproduction and a threat of malignant patriarchy by men.
Thirdly, there is a clear legacy of malignant patriarchy in almost every society. As seen by chimpanzee and human societies, men form kin-only groups that subordinate women (females give in for the necessity of protection) and fight other kin-only groups. These groups send their females out of the group at maturity to mate with other males; this basic type of society is aggressive, repressive to women and presents a dilemma for society and the state. Cassler explains, “The situation of women in a world of men, then, is the unspoken conundrum that lies at the heart of every human social structure, and how a society chooses to manage that conundrum will have sweeping consequences for all social phenomena.”
Fourthly, because of this inherent conundrum, societies form “marriage arrangements” that are strongly influenced by our evolutionary legacy. “Evolutionary legacy marriage” includes some or all of these essential elements:
a) it involves an exchange of women for material goods between men, with little meaningful consent by the women so exchanged;
b) women will be married young, usually before or at puberty;
c) grooms will be on average ten years older (or more) than brides;
d) polygamy, formal or informal, will be common; e) patrilocality will be the norm;
e) offspring will belong to their father and his family;
f) family law that heavily discriminates against women in favor of men will arise; for example, women will have little or no right to divorce, whereas divorce will be simple for men; men will have the right to beat or kill wives; adultery will be strongly punished if committed by a woman, and unpunished if committed by a man; women will have few or no property rights, etc.
When these elements are present, it forms the foundation for human society, which has visibly been handed down from the malignant patriarchal system through the millennia of history.
Evolution, although a compelling determinate of society, is not destiny. Cultural selection modifies natural selection through engineering of social structures and moral sanctions, or simply stated, people can choose and construct ways to avoid malignant patriarchy and its effects. The goal of the state then ought to be gender equality that leads to peace, thereby stemming the tide of violent patriarchy and its dysfunctional consequences.
What are the arrangements societies can choose from and which is best for a stable state?
Arrangement B: Hierarchal marriage, where either the male or the female is subordinate to the other. Men and women live in virtually different spheres, and joint-decision-making is not made between males or females. This arrangement easily falls back into evolutionary legacy marriage.
Arrangement C: Children are raised by a group nursery, relieving much of the burden of reproduction, thereby allowing women to move fully into society. But this model remakes women in the image of males and offers a zero-sum choice for women if they do want to raise children, thereby not achieving true gender equality.
Arrangement D: Strong state that takes up the slack for irresponsible males and deters male coercion. In this society, males fend for themselves, while the state fends for females and their dependent children. This model still puts women at a significant disadvantage and many men and women still end up living in gender-apartness.
Arrangements E and F: On the horizon is plan E, where males and females separately purchase offspring from the labor of other females. Assuming a strong state that prevents male coercion, males and females have nothing to do with one another. At its extreme, model F reproduction of females will be rendered mute as technology for artificial life progresses. Gender equality could not be found by blotting out one gender.
Every one of these systems leads to one end: gender inequality and assumes men and women cannot live together in peace.
Arrangement G: One male and one female commit to live together for the rest of their lives, forsaking all others, and raise children together. Cassler says of this model, “It is the most audacious and radical social engineering plan to promote gender equality that could ever be imagined.” The failure rate would be high, but the success would bring true gender equality, with men and women working together as loving, equal, committed partners that would bring up the next male and female generation. If successful, this model would stop evolutionary legacy marriage in its tracts, and therefore all of the unwanted consequences.
Why Household Gender Arrangements Matter to the State: The Hajnal-Hartman Thesis
The Hajnal-Hartman thesis explains why the state must support arrangement G or its very foundations will crumble. They posit that the rise of a free state, capitalism and eventually democracy in northwestern Europe began in the 1200’s. Families began to marry their daughters very “late,” meaning on average around 24 and grooms were on average age 27. This marrying late, which only occurred once in all of human history, made revolutionary changes in the homes of Europe, as women came to the table more independent, knew how to handle money, and were seen as equals to their male partners. Men and women could choose their own spouse and they moved into a separate home. The equality in the homes laid the foundations for democracy in the society.
Indeed, compelling research has shown that nations that value the security and status of women are more peaceful, stable, and prepared for true democracy. Cassler concludes, “Thus, the state itself has a vested interest in the creation and promulgation of companionate heterosexual monogamous marriage (G arrangements)—and likewise has a vested interest in the proactive diminution of the prevalence of evolutionary legacy marriage and gender apart-ness.”Any system that promotes gender apart-ness promotes a true lack of partnership between men and women, making equality completely unachievable.
Cassler goes on to further analyze the states involvement, the deep relationship between freedom and generation, sexual differentiation, finitude, and freedom, and the symbol that is sex.
The author concludes that first, “If we value human freedom, democracy, peace, and gender equality, we are justified in promoting companionate heterosexual monogamous marriage and expecting that the state will privilege this arrangement.” Second, those who support arrangement G cannot stand with those who promote any part of “evolutionary legacy marriage.” Third, gender apart-ness systems must be called out and reveal the real harm of perpetrating inhuman sex acts, inhuman conception, and the degradation of motherhood, fatherhood, and parenting. Fourth, the state must uphold the generation of the population in companionate heterosexual monogamous marriage, and be weary of supporting any other.
In my own extensive research of the situation of women and men in the world, Cassler’s thesis not only rings true, but is supported by endless amounts of data and evidence. As the situation of men and women are put on equal grounds in companionate heterosexual monogamous marriage, the fruits of a good state are found: peace, freedom, democracy, and true gender equality.