- Paperback: 328 pages
- Publisher: Beacon Press (March 18, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780807041352
- ISBN-13: 978-0807041352
- ASIN: 0807041351
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 23 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,416,047 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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What Is Marriage For?: The Strange Social History of Our Most Intimate Institution
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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
The only thing that I didn't like about the book is that some of the facts that she brings up are not cited, and also, I think there are some factual errors here and there throughout the book. For example, she talks about how married couples would have been growing the same potatoes in the same fields as their parents for thousands of years...but potatoes aren't native to Europe, they were imported from America. Also, it seemed like she dismissed peasant marriages as not important, and yet I think of contemporary artwork (such as Pieter Brughel's painting of the peasant wedding feast) that seems to contradict this.
However, despite these minor flaws, it is still probably one of the best books I have ever read on the subject, and so I still give it 5 stars.
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What Is Marriage For?
(Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1999)
(ISBN: 0-8070-4114-9; hardcover)
(Library of Congress call number: HQ734.Read more