What has happened to the feminist critique of romantic love in the same-sex marriage debate?

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Chapter
Citation:
Feminism and the Power of Love: Interdisciplinary Interventions, 2018, pp. 55 - 72
Issue Date:
2018-01-01
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© 2018 selection and editorial matter, Adriana García-Andrade, Lena Gunnarsson and Anna G. Jónasdóttir; individual chapters, the contributors. The same-sex marriage debate in Australia has centralized romantic love and attributed to it the power to demolish conservative readings of marriage. The debate has largely been seen as a battle for the meaning of marriage between procreation and romantic love.2 In this battle love’s power is great. It becomes the destroyer of traditional and long entrenched barriers as it opens the institution up to same-sex couples. This battle expresses a particular view of romantic love as radical and subversive and ignores critiques of romantic love that categorize it as the opposite. That romantic love is capable of such power finds expression among others, in the ideas of philosopher Robert Solomon (1994, 1998) and social theorist Anthony Giddens (1992). However, feminists have long argued that romantic love is oppressive and patriarchal. Their critique resonates with that of queer theory which reinforced the feminist critique by arguing that romantic love is heteronormative. This essay will begin with a brief overview of the legislative history of the battle for same-sex marriage in Australia. This history will document the centralization of romantic love in the struggle. The discussion will then turn to an overview and general discussion of the feminist positions in relation to romantic love. This discussion will show that while romantic love is regarded as a problem for many feminists (especially when considered alongside marriage and sex), many also welcome the radical nature of romantic love and are therefore not willing to remove it altogether from the modern imagination and way of life. When both sides of the feminist critique are taken together, what emerges is that feminists want to see some redefinition around romantic love and the institutions it is practiced in. In this project the same-sex marriage debate may be of assistance. Like romantic love, the same-sex marriage debate can be read both as a radical, and a conservative project, and neither readings are inevitable. This essay makes a pitch for keeping both in the radical sphere.
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