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Minimizing MarriageMarriage, Morality, and the Law$
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Elizabeth Brake

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199774142

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199774142.001.0001

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Critiques of Marriage

Critiques of Marriage

An Essentially Unjust Institution?

(p.111) 5 Critiques of Marriage
Minimizing Marriage

Elizabeth Brake

Oxford University Press

Theorists of oppression note that marriage law has historically oppressed women and people of color and argue that it continues to perpetuate oppression of women, gays and lesbians, and minority racial and ethnic groups. For example, John Stuart Mill and 20th century radical feminists compared marriage to slavery. Susan Moller Okin argued that gender-structured marriage makes wives economically vulnerable. Claudia Card has argued that marriage facilitates abuse and, far from serving gay and lesbian liberation, same-sex marriage would encourage assimilation to a heteronormative ideal of monogamy. And Patricia Hill Collins has argued that marriage law has functioned as an important symbol of racial hierarchy; U.S. marriage promotion continues to be racially inflected in ways which devalue practices found in African-American communities. Such critiques will be crucial to my arguments for marriage reform. I will argue, though, that marriage is not essentially unjust; its symbolism can be changed through extensive restructuring.

Keywords:   marriage, history of marriage, feminism, gay and lesbian oppression, racism, ethnocentrism, class, coverture, slavery, justice

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