Posts tagged Heart

“What kind of victory is that?” Jane Rule on Government-approved Gay Marriage

Jane Rule, a feminist before the Second Wave and a pioneer lesbian novelist before Stonewall, died last month at the age of 76. She was born an American but moved to Canada with her lover Helen Sonthoff, where they would live for the rest of their lives, in order to escape the persecution of the McCarthy era. In her novels, she was known for her nuanced and sympathetic portraits of lesbian characters’ lives—one of the first novelists to write books about lesbians in which her characters lived through ordinary human problems, were not punished for their sexuality, and were not treated as psychological freaks. Her essays, columns, and correspondence were notable for her generosity, patience, and also vigorously independent thought. Although she wrote passionately and movingly about her own life-long love affair with Helen, she was sharply critical of the gay rights movement’s efforts to win State recognition for gay and lesbian marriages. Here is what she wrote for the Spring 2001 issue of BC Bookworld; while I’d urge a radical people-power solution to problems of welfare, based on mutual aid between workers rather than State redistribution, the rest of the essay is almost entirely right-on. The solution is not to lodge same-sex relationships firmly under the eyes and the bootheels of the marital State; it is to free everything that’s valuable in both straight and gay love, intimacy, and commitment from the State’s stifling embrace.

The Heterosexual Cage of Coupledom

Over thirty years ago, when homosexual acts between consenting adults were decriminalized, Trudeau said that the government had no business in the bedrooms of the nation.

Until a few months ago that privacy was respected.

Now the government has passed a law including gay and lesbian couples as common-law partners with the same rights and responsibilities as heterosexual common-law partners. Any of us who have lived together in a sexual relationship for over two years must declare ourselves on our income tax forms, or we are breaking the law.

With one stroke of the pen all gay and lesbian couples in Canada have been either outed if they declare or recriminalized if they do not. Our bedroom doors have come off their legal hinges.

Why then is there such support for this new law among gay people? Svend Robinson spoke in favor of it the House. EGALE, the national organization for gays and lesbians, encouraged its passing.

It is celebrated by all of them as a step along the road to total social acceptance, to a day when those of us who wish to can be legally married, our relationships just as respectable as those of heterosexuals.

But common-law partnerships were never about respectability. They were forced on couples as a way of protecting women and children from men who, by refusing to marry, were trying to avoid responsibility, free to move on when they felt like it without legal burdens of alimony and child support, without claims on their property or pensions.

There are some gay and lesbian couples raising children who, because they are not allowed to marry, may find a common-law partnership useful for benefits in tax relief, health benefits, pensions, if they can afford to expose themselves to the homophobia still rampant in this country. The law may also protect those who are financially dependent on their partners from being cast aside without financial aid.

But the law, far from conferring respectability, simply forces financial responsibility on those perceived to be irresponsible without it. What about those poor who are unable to work because they are single parents or ill or disabled?

The single mother on welfare has long had her privacy invaded by social workers looking for live-in men who should be expected to support her and another man’s children. Now single mothers must beware of live-in women as well. The ill and disabled will also be forced to live alone or sacrifice their benefits if their partners have work.

Over the years when we have been left to live lawless, a great many of us have learned to take responsibility for ourselves and each other, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, not bound by the marriage service or model but on singularities and groupings of our own invention.

To be forced back into the heterosexual cage of coupledom is not a step forward but a step back into state-imposed definitions of relationship. With all that we have learned, we should be helping our heterosexual brothers and sisters out of their state-defined prisons, not volunteering to join them there.

We should all accept responsibility for those who must be dependent, children, the old, the ill and the disabled, by assuring that our tax dollars are spent for their care. We should not have any part in supporting laws which promote unequal relationships between adults, unnecessary dependencies, false positions of power.

No responsible citizen should allow the state to privatize the welfare of those in need, to make them victims to the abilities and whims of their legal keepers. Human rights are the core responsibility of the government.

The regulation of adult human relationships is not.

To trade the freedom we have had to invent our own lives for state-imposed coupledom does not make us any more respectable in the eyes of those who enjoy passing judgment. We become instead children clambering for rule, for consequences to be imposed on us instead of self-respecting, self-defining adults.

Those of us who want to legalize our relationships for the protection of our children, for our own security, for whatever reason, should have the right to do so but not at the expense of imposing that condition on all the rest if us.

What we have now is neither the right to marry nor the right to remain private and independent in our relationships.

What kind of victory is that?

— Jane Rule, BC Bookworld (Spring 2001): The Heterosexual Cage of Coupledom

Via Women’s Space / The Margins 2007-12-02.

Lazy linking on liberatory learning

Three good recent articles on learning and unschooling in the home:

  • David Friedman (2007-12-04): Home Unschooling: Theory

    Our approach starts with the fact that I went to a good private school, my wife to a good suburban public school, and both of us remember being bored most of the time; while we learned some things in school, large parts of our education occurred elsewhere, from books, parents, friends, projects. It continues with some observations about the standard model of K-12 schooling, public and private:

    1. That model implicitly assumes that, out of the enormous body of human knowledge, there is some subset that everyone should study and that is large enough to fill most of thirteen years of schooling. That assumption is clearly false. Being able to read and do arithmetic is important for almost everyone. Beyond that, it is hard to think of any particular subject which there is a good reason for everyone to study, easy to think of many subjects outside the standard curriculum which there are good reasons for some people to study.

    2. It implicitly assumes that the main way in which one should learn is by having someone else tell you what you are going to study this week, what you should learn about it, and your then doing so.

      ….

    3. A related assumption is that you learn about a subject by having someone else decide what is true and then feed it to you. That is a very dangerous policy in the real world and not entirely safe even in school—many of us remember examples of false information presented to us by teachers or textbooks as true. A better policy is to go out looking for information and assembling it yourself.

  • David Friedman (2007-12-04): Home Unschooling: Practice

    When our daughter was about ten there was a class, lasting somewhat over a year, in math. It started assuming the students knew nothing, ended with the early stages of algebra. That is pretty much all of the formal instruction either of them had. In addition, we required them to learn the multiplication tables, which are useful to know but boring to learn. That, I think, was the closest thing to compulsory learning in their education.

    How did they get educated? They both read a lot, and although some of the books they read were children’s books, pretty early they were also reading books intended for adults. … But the largest part of their education, after reading, is probably conversation. We talk at meals. We talk when putting one or the other of them to bed. …

    What is the result? Our daughter will enter college knowing much more about economics, evolutionary biology, music, renaissance dance, and how to write than most of her fellow students, probably less about physics, biology, world history, except where it intersects historical novels she has read or subjects that interest her. She will know much more than most of them about how to educate herself. And why.

  • Heart @ Women’s Space/The Margins (2007-12-05): Raised in the Revolution: Radical Women Homeschooling Boys

    There are quite a number of youngsters being homeschooled in progressive families, including by radical feminists and lesbian feminists. I have been homeschooling for 24 years now; my two youngest, Sol, 12, and Maggie, 9, are still being homeschooled and have never gone to a regular school. It’s an interesting thing, raising children away from the sexism, racism, classism, lesbophobia, and other destructively socializing influences of school kids and school hierarchies of all kinds, with a commitment to seeing to it that your children spend time with with others who are being raised as they are. V’s son, shown in the video, goes to Brother Sun camp at the Festival every year, a camp for boys ages 5-10 years. My daughter, Maggie, goes to Gaia girls each August. In settings like this, children raised in the revolution find encouragement and support.

    V has graciously given her permission for the posting of this video. I will allow comments but want to remind everyone that V is a real person to me, a member of a women’s community I value. I’d ask you to keep that in mind in commenting. V’s son, Parker, is giving a report about his friend, Alix Olson, also a member of the Michfest community. Watch it all the way through the different “takes” — I think you’ll enjoy it!

    None of us involved really knows what the results of this quiet revolution we have undertaken will be. But, that is the way with all revolutions– they take on lives of their own which are outside of any individual’s immediate control. I do find reason to feel hopeful about the potential for change in the world which resides in this particular revolution, for so many reasons. I am about to blog its dark side, as I have before, but before I do, I wanted to post this.