...[A] deal [was] made between older men who were sending men off to war and those younger soldiers, to preserve their access to the up and coming crop of women.If indeed monogamous marriage became the cultural norm sometime after Jesus' arrival, I really doubt the Laden-mentioned theory in any way explains it. Polygyny is widespread--and then men are conscripted for far-off war. The warriors are resistant, and negotiate for an end to polygyny, so that they'll preserve their access to the up and coming crop of women. A sufficiently implausible theory to require some reasons, prior to our accepting, no? Laden continues:
Either way, under the older or the newer system, Western marriage is mostly about the ways in which men own or control women and women's reproductive activities.Looking back on the pre-modern world, we often forget the extremely difficult life prospects faced by average folks, which included considerable privation and risk. I'm not yet convinced that 'Western marriage' was defined by female subjugation, any moreso than were the marital practices prevailing elsewhere.
When people say "Marriage is traditionally between a man and a woman" or anything along those lines, that sounds really stupid to an anthropologist such as my self... So, for the last several months and over the next several months, I and my fellow anthropologists find ourselves in the position of enduring people saying the dumbest things about stuff we know about. That is frustrating.Laden gives voice, then, to a significant anthropological error. When the anthropologist studies the beliefs of individuals which 'explain' their prevailing social institutions, she does not expect to hear probing exercises in historical materialism. She expects superstition and just-so stories. The anthropologist does not guffaw upon hearing subjects who misunderstand aspects of their own culture's history: Rigorous, non-mythical, non-nationalistic, non-ethnocentric historical thinking does not frequently occur, in the field.
That said, within my own family tree, the monogamous heterosexual ideal does seem to have been prevailing for some generations--and I'll bet many Minnesotans notice something similar, when viewing their own family historical-photos collections. Male-female monogamous-appearing marriage does indeed predominate, even within my mystifying family's history. A non-stupid member of my family could, with reason, believe Marriage is traditionally between a man and a woman.
In the upcoming election, Minnesotans will vote on whether to add a heterosexuals-only 'marriage amendment' to the state constitution. I strenuously oppose this idea. On the larger question of allowing gay marriage, let's be honest: We are indeed proposing a significant change, with relation to the social practice most of us have known for some generations.