Academic journal article Ethnologies

Not in the Hardware Aisle, Please: Same-Sex Marriage, Anti-Gay Activism and My Fabulous Gay Wedding

Academic journal article Ethnologies

Not in the Hardware Aisle, Please: Same-Sex Marriage, Anti-Gay Activism and My Fabulous Gay Wedding

Article excerpt

My Fabulous Gay Wedding [Mon merveilleux mariage gai] etait concu des le depart pour etre << un sujet chaud, un sujet de controverse, un sujet rempli de possibilites d'instants d'emotion >>. Cet article esquisse un certain nombre de discours contemporains portant sur les mariages entre gens du meme sexe qui se trouvent illumines, quoique pas totalement clarifies, par les reactions a cette emission, incluant un boycott de Canadian Tire, commanditaire presume, par un certain nombre de groupes conservateurs anti-gais. Cependant, les questions que souleve cette emission depassent la scission binaire simpliste des medias entre les << droits des gais et des lesbiennes >> versus les << droits religieux >> et implique que l'on s'interroge sur ce qui est represente a l'ecran exactement et si, oui ou non, les mariages entre gens du meme sexe interpellent les couples de gais et de lesbiennes pour qu'ils entrent dans une forme d'heteronormativite.

My Fabulous Gay Wedding was intended from its conception to be "a hot topic, a controversial topic, a topic filled with lots of opportunity for emotional moments." This article traces a number of contemporary discourses around same-sex marriage that are illuminated, albeit not clarified, by responses to the show, including a boycott of Canadian Tire, a purported sponsor, by a number of right-wing, anti-gay groups. However, the questions the show raises exceed the media's simplistic binary of "lesbian and gay rights" v. "religious rights" and involve interrogating what, exactly, is being represented on screen, and whether or not same-sex weddings interpellate lesbian and gay couples into a form of heteronormativity.

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To study weddings using this theory of heterosexuality is to investigate the ways various practices, arrangements, relations, and rituals work to conceal the operation of [heteronormativity as an] institution. It means to ask how practices such as weddings prevent us from seeing what is at stake, what is kept in place, and what consequences are produced.... When used in professional settings, for example, weddings work as a form of ideological control to signal membership in relations of ruling as well as to signify that the couple is normal, moral, productive, family-centred, upstanding, and, most importantly, appropriately gendered (Ingraham 1999: 3).

Focusing on the wedding itself reveals possibilities that are lost when the purpose and result of "wedding" is presumed to be marriage as domestic lave defines it: a monogamous, enduring, opposite-sex dyad with biological reproduction as its raison d'etre. By undoing this presumption, texts that foreground the wedding as a production return to and rework the possibilities embedded in the ritual itself, asking in what ways the kinds of weddings people have, or dream of having, or thought they had, might be indices for forms of social life made possible in one domain, but impossible in another, or in one historical moment but not another--or might even be avatars for changes in what Raymond Williams calls "structures of feeling," new senses of collective being felt viscerally, in advance of their institutionalization in discourse (Freeman 2002).

As both Chrys Ingraham and Elizabeth Freeman point out in the works cited in my epigraphs, the relationship between weddings and marriages is only discursively stable. Within the institution of heterosexuality --whose very raison d'etre is to regulate, rather than to reflect, the actual practices of heterosexual people--weddings and marriages appear to be linked in a productive relationship. The marriage causes the wedding; the wedding produces the marriage. And the relationship of wedding and marriage to each other is understood as both linear and singular. There is really only one proper form of wedding, the "white wedding," and it leads to only one form of socially legitimated marital relationship, the procreative monogamous nuclear family. …

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