Gay marriage supposedly interferes with “traditional marriage,” say its opponents. “We have at least 6,000 years of recorded history on our side,” remarked Kris Mineau, president of the conservative group Massachusetts Family Institute. People like Mineau assume that the traditional definition of the family is stable, unvarying and ancient. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the history of marriage is one of frequent, radical change. As a scholar studying the history of marriage in England over the last several hundred years, I can tell you that not only is there is no such thing as traditional marriage, and that gay marriage hardly even counts as a major change in the history of the institution. It is in fact the logical next step in two centuries of evolution.
I specialize in Victorian literature, and as everyone knows who’s read Austen novels or Jane Eyre, the Victorian novel supposedly revolves around marriage. Its central story, “the marriage plot,” features a courtship that ends up with wedding bells and true love at last. No wonder that the Victorian era is often associated with romantic chivalry. As the popular website The Knot, sighs, “there are few (if any) periods that are more romantic”. Victorian-themed weddings and Victorian valentines, featuring lace, candlelight and vintage cherubs, testify to this continuing association.
But if you really think about Victorian marriage plots, something doesn’t add up. Jane Eyre boasts one of the most appalling marriages in fiction, between Rochester and Bertha, before its happy ending. David Copperfield miscalculates drastically in his first marriage. The two main marriages in Eliot’s Middlemarch are disastrous. Catherine Earnshaw is hardly happy in her union with Edgar Linton. One could go on. In fact, as scholar Kelly Hager has recently noted, the “failed-marriage plot” is actually more common than the happy marriage one.
Why Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” Video Makes Me Uncomfortable… and Kind of Makes Me Angry
So this video started going around my facebook today, with about a dozen of my female friends sharing the link with comments like, and “Everyone needs to see this”, and “All girls should watch this,” and “This made me cry.” And I’m not trying to shame those girls! I definitely understand why they would do so. And I don’t want to be a killjoy. But as I clicked the link and started watching the video, I started to feel a slight sense of discomfort. I couldn’t put my finger on why that was, exactly, but it continued throughout the whole thing. After watching the video several more times, I have some thoughts…
Don’t settle. Don’t finish crappy books. If you don’t like the menu, leave the restaurant. If you’re not on the right path, get off it.