Monday, 26 March 2012

Time to Boycott Starbucks

Got my cynicism hat on. Starbucks gives money to gay marriage cause. Anti-gay marriage group calls for a boycott. Cue ridiculous online petition to say 'thank you' to Starbucks. It does lead me on to the question: how stupid does Starbucks think we are? Anyone should be able to see that Starbucks knew they'd stir up controversy among the religious insane by doing this, and the backlash to this could only be good PR.

Obviously generating good PR has got to be the primary motivation behind all corporate charity donations, but this one smacks of focus-groups and self-appointed social media gurus and brainstorm sessions and decaf soy lattes. What I mean is: let's not seriously allow our opinion to be swayed in favour of Starbucks because of an obvious marketing gimmick.

In the meantime I will be continuing my own personal boycott of Starbucks. But this is because I refuse to spend more than I would on the ingredients for an evening meal every time I want a caffeine hit. And for the record this isn't me endorsing some other cafe, I drink coffee that I make myself alone in my room. Coffee isn't a party drug.

Back to gay marriage, I've been reading some interesting stuff written by gays who are against gay marriage. I nearly wrote 'from an LGBT perspective', but most of what I've been reading has largely been written by and about gay men, without much of a nod to B, L, or T. But hey, we got left out the sandwich. (This is not a joke I thought of myself, but I love it and had to retell it.) I think there's a bit of an issue with how in the media the issue of 'gay rights' is often played out as if it only affects gay men, with other sexualities and gender identities being largely ignored. I'm about to do just that, but it's only because I'm trying to draw on my own thoughts and experiences. I'm aware this isn't the full picture.

This article makes the point that 'traditional marriage' as we understand it is a recent invention, and that part of the magic of being one of them gayers is being all nonconformist and challenging tradition.

Certainly, there were always members of the gay community who would rather not have borne the burden of existential difference, who would rather have stayed who they were while seeing society change in such a way that who they are might be allowed to count as normal. The domestication of same-sex desire is surely a good thing for these people. But their individual advantage does not mean that the world as a whole is not losing something, and it has been one of the great fallacies of the liberal defenders of gay marriage to assume that what is good for any given individual is for that very reason good for society. The loss we have in fact suffered is one akin to the loss of some mighty species of wild boar as it is bred downward into a fat, ugly, lazy, edible pig; or to the move of indigenous Amazonians from the rainforest into squalid urban slums. In each case, one may insist that the absorption of these once-free beings into the dominant world order is a bit of progress for them: the pigs will now be well fed (until they are slaughtered), and the proletarianized Indians will eventually benefit from some small dose of welfare-state largesse. But in each case there is something the world is losing. 
I don't know how much of this I can agree with, but the author is definitely on to something. As western culture has come to terms with the fact that we're not mentally ill and we're not deviants, the tendency has been to try to get us to act like straight people. Instead of being discriminated against, we are being told to assimilate. As far as marriage rights are concerned, I'm siding with the well-meaning straight people who think we should have the right to tie the knot. In this country we already have equal marriage laws in everything but name, and I don't see how the government's plans to make same-sex marriage the real deal is actually going to change much. Except annoy some fundamentalist Christians. This is obviously a bigger issue in the US because they don't have an equivalent in every state, and there's a lot more fundamentalist Christians out there. We should let the pig breed downwards, because some of the pigs really want to breed.

But I will side with the author of the above passage, in that I don't think all we should all shut up and get married. Here's a wild boar who intends to stay wild.

In 1991, the year I was born, the word 'heteronormativity' was coined. I bloody love this word. I suppose it's one of these annoying trump cards that I can invoke whenever, like an equivalent of 'white privilege'. Straight people, even with the best of wills, cannot escape their heteronormative viewpoint and will never understand what it's really like to be gay. We're different. And while we should be grateful for the increasingly tolerant world in which we find ourselves, we shouldn't be afraid to retain a distinct identity. We don't have to embrace outdated institutions in order to prove ourselves, and we don't have to pretend we're just like straight people who happen to like cock.

Homosexual relationships are different to heterosexual ones.

And as for marriage? The primary reason for getting married nowadays is economic. In the event of your partner dying, you'll inherit everything, and if you're worse off financially you can get some money off your partner when you get divorced. This second point applies mostly to women who've sacrificed their careers to have children and has thus ended up earning less than their husbands. 'Traditional marriage', where you get married once and then you die, is itself dying. People are cohabiting and marrying and getting divorced and remarrying in an endless cycle of constant nuptials. You have to ask yourself why they bother.

Who says we shouldn't question the idea of marriage? Marriage, to me at least, is a relic of a paternalistic society where women are traded like cattle, passed from father to husband. It's not fit for purpose. I question the logic of 'gay marriage' when it's clear that most people, and possibly men in particular, are not exactly wired towards choosing one person to form a long-term monogamous relationship with, and sticking with that person for the rest of their life. Which is not to say it's impossible, some people end up meeting 'the one' and live happily ever after. But equally, some people stick around in unhappy relationships far longer than they should.

Promising to stick with someone until death do you part is placing a heavy burden on yourself should the relationship start to turn sour. You've made a promise not to cut your losses and run if it's not working out. No, you will stay and try to make the relationship work until either things improve or you never want to see his face again. And of course when this happens you will feel guilt, shame and regret. You can't reflect that you had a good relationship that ran its course - no, no such luxury for you. Your marriage was a failure. Is the fight to legalise gay marriage about what we really want, or is it just another notch in the civil liberties bedpost?

Bigots like the Coalition for Marriage argue that gay marriage is an attack on heterosexual marriage. If anything, it's the opposite. It will have no effect whatsoever on straight people's unions, but it's what it does to the gay way of life that's the real game changer. We used to be outlaws, now we're bickering in Ikea.

I digress. We should totally change the law to allow gay marriage for one reason and one reason alone: it will annoy the fundamentalist Christians. Enjoy your Starbucks.


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