Marriage, Continued

Dear Editors,

Issue Nine was a real barn-burner. Keep it up! And please keep the first person plural in the opening commentary — we are living in a dark age of technological isolation, and speaking collectively is a source of comfort and an act of resistance. I crave companionship and n+1 is good company, in no small part due to its reviving the “we.”

The Letters section was fascinating for the strong reactions to Mark Greif’s “On Repressive Sentimentalism” from Issue Eight. Greif now seems to regret his style, but is it not possible to express ambivalence about the impending triumph of gay marriage? There exists a noble utopian tradition of trying to imagine a world free of the tyranny of the family unit — where children are not owned by parents and sexual relations aren’t reduced to a form of prostitution. I don’t think I’m the only one who has attended parties in the Castro and thought, another world is possible; the gay community has expanded the boundaries of “family” into something more inclusive and humane, and we have much to learn from their example.

Any time civil rights are on the march is exciting, and we all felt the tingle when the court in Iowa ruled in favor of gay marriage. Every person of conscience loves to see the end of institutionalized discrimination. But when the institutions that are becoming more inclusive (marriage, the military) are also wreaking so much violence upon people, some of us are more circumspect about the depth of the victory.

— Bob Downing

More Babies for Octomom

Dear Editors,

I find Mark Greif’s writing about how to be human and in particular how to negotiate the demands of one’s body sustaining. When Greif writes about the darkness of wasting leisure on exercise and health, he voices things I feel deeply; when he writes about the necessity of abortion and IVF, he convinces me that he’s right. But when I think about these two strands together — one reveling in non-intervention and indeed ignoring one’s body in order to cultivate one’s mind, the other favoring extreme interventions that allow some escape from the body’s tyranny — the positions are inconsistent.

In particular, Greif seems to give greater weight to the unwanted events visited on women’s bodies (pregnancy, infertility) than to those tyrannical propensities of the body that are sex-neutral (disease, ugliness). I see that in both cases, his vision is to deemphasize physical demands so as to be more human, but what is essentially human about having babies only and precisely when one wants to through extreme medical intervention?

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