It's Not Feminism, but the Failure to Engage with It, That Has Undermined Marriage ; EDITORIAL & OPINION
Orr, Deborah, The Independent (London, England)
Bloody hell! If there's one thing we marriage-supporting members of the commenting classes have to be grateful for today, it's that the Archbishop of Canterbury didn't decide to join the other side. Even batting on Team Matrimony, let's face it, he's a liability, because he makes marriage sound so unbearably dreary. I don't want "prosaic heroism" or "moral geography". I want intimacy, jokes, shared history, enough children for a desultory game of rounders to be an eternal possibility, never, ever, having to put out the rubbish, and sex with a man who can't wince at my stretch marks because they're All His Fault.
Certainly, you can have all that and not be married, and equally, you can be married and not have any of it. But marriage, when it's working, is the finest, most rewarding, most committed human relationship on earth. Standing around intoning about what a solemn and difficult duty the whole thing is, doesn't seem to me like a call to welcoming arms. It sounds like a total turn-off.
Not that the Archbishop's Christian friends are doing so much better. Richard Kane, an activist who runs National Marriage Week, told the Telegraph yesterday that "for a long time the issue of marriage had been the fault line between Left and Right". Honestly, it almost makes one wish for Barbara Amiel to return to public life, so she can talk us gently through the right-wing libertarian view on that one.
Oh yes, I remember. It's all right for Barbara to behave just as she pleases, but the little people should face their responsibilities and knuckle under. Much the same drift as Thatcher's view, Major's view and the view of all those other stalwart campaigners for family values whose years in power, oddly, were marked by, what was it? Oh, yes, a comprehensive breakdown in those selfsame "family values". Which is much the same as the view now being touted by Iain Duncan Smith, freshly inspired from actually meeting some poor people. (Shouldn't you have done that prior to your attempt to run the country, chum?)
It would be simple and somehow comforting to subscribe to the view that the breakdown of marriage was motivated by ardent political belief. Simple, because black versus white always seems so clear-cut - even though it usually means utterly bloody insoluble. Comforting, because there would at least be method in the whole thing, with couples up and down the country plotting their alternative lifestyles in order to win a political argument and working damned hard at doing so. The truth is, it's all much more chaotic and self-interested than that. There is a purely ideological element in the history of 20th century marital breakdown, and it's somewhat over-identified with feminism. But the identity-politics influence is heavily overstated, and sadly, I'm just about to overstate it again.
That's unfortunately necessary, because what's clear is that this latest flurry of ecclesiastical support for marriage is indeed politically motivated. It's all mixed up with the rather bonkers gay adoption issue that has ignited so many passions for so little gain, and alerted the Church to the fact that the Government is not its friend.
The church really ought to have been more relaxed in the first place, because it is not Christian to campaign for discrimination of any kind. Anyway, too late. Smarting at the rebuff of its attempt to gain moral primacy for the married couple, the church has decided that it is not going to let the matter drop. …