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A symbolic marriage cake in favor of allowing ...
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Next weekend a March for Marriage for lesbian and gay couples will take place in Dublin. Yesterday a friend asked me if I was going on it, I think she was rather surprised by the snorts of derision that escaped from my mouth.

While I  support the rights of people to celebrate their relationships and be recognised by the state and others I have always questioned the rush that same sex couples have taken in seeking marriage rights.   I’ve also been stunned by the leaders in this rush coming from Ireland’s second wave feminists.   Instead of questioning the roles and expectations created by the institution of marriage many see the exclusion of lesbians and gay men from the institution as a human rights issue.  Suddenly marriage became the goal  and symbol of success.

Marriage has previously barred women from employment, excluded us from claiming social welfare, participation in FAS schemes, a reason for being paid less, and a host of other rights and entitlements. Those who did not marry were castigated as a drain on the state, as not behaving appropriately, they also do not get the same rights to protection in cases of domestic violence.  Marriage was considered permission for rape until the early 90’s.

Is it a case of tax individualisation and the end of the marriage bar making it ok  now? On the non legalistic issues that surround marriage regarding women losing their identity and being seen as a couple instead of individuals, of women who don’t marry being seen as less valuable?  How have these issues disappeared from feminist debate? And what of the stigma that still exists regarding marital breakdown?  This issues are not historic or relics. For many women the pressure to marry remains very real, and now we are seeing a pressure to marry (and I include entering into civil partnership) created in the lesbian and gay community.

The impact of civil partnership and cohabitation legislation inferring rights and responsibilities on relationships is untested and far-reaching.  The Department of Social Protection will soon be able to infer that people in same sex relationships living together are co-habiting, sharing incomes and responsible financially for each other whether they want to be or not.  Many people may not want that to happen (including because they don’t want to be open to financial abuse or control by a partner)  but that’s one legacy of ‘equality’.

We’ve already had the debate on women taking their husband’s name on the Anti-Room and I am aware that for many marriage is a romantic and very meaningful occasion . I wish that my intention not to marry and questioning the clamour would garner as much respect.

Some campaigning for marriage rights  use the language of other oppressed groups in their fight – and continue to do so, this saddens me greatly.  The exclusion from the right to marry can in no way be compared to the way in which black people were excluded in South Africa.

The impact of civil partnership and marriage rights on the ways in which lesbian and gay lives and relationships are lived is now beginning to be explored internationally.  Julie Bindel’s column last week on this is a warning of things to come. Academic articles will no doubt follow. It will be interesting to see how Civil Partnership’s change the ways in which lives are lived and viewed in Ireland.

Will lesbians and gay men who choose not to enter into civil partnerships be seen as ‘loose’, a drain on the state, ‘behaving inappropriately’?  Will Paddy Power give me odds on this?  I bet not because I predict within 3 years there will be articles and debates appearing about lesbians and gay men who are ‘not the marrying kind’, refusing to commit,  castigating them as refuseniks.  Civil Partnerships will be seen as status symbols and indicators of success.  And the campaign for marriage will continue because the quest for ‘normality’ dressed up as equality will persist.

I’m still mystified as to when Marriage became a feminist goal. Maybe you can explain it to me?

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The stars of the film...lots of expensive designer items

By now, anyone who wanted to see it, has surely seen Sex And The City 2.

By now, anyone who cares (and a few who don’t) will have heard or read the mostly awful reviews of the film.

Back in the day, Sex And The City was the HBO television series that ran from 1998 until 2004, detailing the lives of four best friends and their dating adventures in Manhattan.

It is credited with revolutionising the way modern women perceived their own sexuality, attitudes to dating, sex, marriage and their friendships with women.

The show was enormously successful and came to a timely end, just as it was running out of steam.

I loved every single episode (although must admit if I watched too many in a row I quickly turned into a dissatisfied and demanding person who felt she deserved more).

While the film version lacked a lot of the TV series’ edge, it was a huge success (grossing $415million worldwide), so it’s no surprise they made a sequel.

I went along to see it on the opening night a few weeks ago. The story has moved on two years. Carrie and Big (or John as he’s called now) are settled in their luxury Fifth Avenue apartment, Charlotte is raising her two daughters, Miranda is happily living with Steve, her housekeeper Magda and son Brady, and Samantha, still single and on the prowl, and somewhat hampered by the side-effects of the onset of menopause.

After some gratuitous glitzy fun (which sees Liza Minelli do her version of ‘Put A Ring On It’), Samantha announces an all-expenses-paid trip to Abu Dhabi (which is really Morocco, as Abu Dhabi wasn’t keen on having a Sex And The City film made there). And so we’re whisked away from the fifth character of SATC – Manhattan.

The plot is light and fluffy and hard to find beneath the overwhelming amount of product placement. Essentially it amounts to Carrie grappling with married life and the fear that she and Big are becoming a boring old married couple (earth-shattering problem); Samantha is trying to maintain her legendary libido; Charlotte is still struggling to be perfect, in the face of two not-so-perfectly behaved children and a braless, hot nanny. (It’s hard to feel much sympathy for Charlotte, a full-time mother, with full-time help, who complains about coping then wonders aloud, ‘what must it be like for those moms who have no help?’ What, indeed?); Miranda gets the bum deal in the script, with very little function here except to drop the one-liners and offer advice.

These are all valid issues for lots of women, it’s just that they’re all dealt with in such trite fashion that they can’t really be taken seriously. The film is really just a giant excuse for advertising a long series of handbags, shoes, cars and hotels and nobody wants to pay for a big ad. If this was the case, Vogue would have have ditched their editorial a long time ago.

In the TV series, the shoes, dresses, clothes and lifestyle were always present, but they were never the main story. In the film, they are and that’s just vacuous.

For this viewer, it felt like the starting assumption was ‘women are stupid’ and we’re fed a series of heavy-handed messages about Abu Dhabi, a place where a girl can’t even have a snog without getting arrested and women are made to eat chips under their veils. And guess what, they also like to wear the latest Louis Vuitton collection under their Burkhas – just like you and me. It’s simplified and dumbed-down in the extreme.

One of the least enjoyable aspects of the film was what felt like a new undertone, a sarcastic, meaner edge to some of the representations of Samantha that made her look a little pathetic, seedy and desperate. Her character veered close to ridicule at many points and it just felt mean. And SATC was never mean to women in that way.

Perhaps one good thing to come out of the films is that they have given women an opportunity to get dressed up and go out together in an unashamedly girly, frivolous and flippant way, which they might otherwise not have the excuse to do.

Personally, I’d rather host an Ann Summers party.

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