What Is Marriage For? by E. J. Graff

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John Stuart Mill called marriage the first political institution most of us enter as adults. In a book that is always witty, often startling, and deadly serious, E. J. Graff traces the history of this institution, from a feminist perspective, illuminating the many forms it has taken, arguing forcefully for the legalization of same-sex marriage, and shedding new light on such ongoing battles as equality between wives and husbands and the contentious definition of "family."

Each chapter—Money, Sex, Babies, Kin, Order, and Heart—examines a crucial aspect of this personal and political bond, sifting through the ways Old Testament Hebrews, Catholic theologians, Protestant reformers, nineteenth-century utopians, and people in our day define marriage. Graff reveals that marriage is something surprising and strange—and, right-wing moralizing notwithstanding, not very traditional at all. For instance, marriage wasn't declared a sacrament in the Catholic Church until 1215. Among Roman aristocrats, wedding pledges were exchanged by the groom and his father-in-law. And the "crime against nature" once meant contraception.

This passionate and often personal search for the meaning of marriage argues that marriage has always been a social battleground, shifting constantly to suit each economy, each era and each class.

The Washington Post Book World: "(Graff's) first- person interjecti turn what could have been a dry textbook into a lively personal examination of what it means to choose a life partner (regardless of age or sex)."
The San Francisco Chronicle: "With the patience of a saint, and the wit and wisdom of that favorite professor at college, Graff Shows in What is Marriage For? how and why marriage in the 20th Century is about love, money, social justice, stable homes for adults and children and constitutional democracy...all who are caught up in the same-sex marriage debate will find Graff's book invaluable."

About E. J. Graff

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Graff is a journalist and writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Nation, Ms., Out, and elsewhere. She lives in the Boston area.
Published June 1, 1999 by Beacon Press. 303 pages
Genres: Health, Fitness & Dieting, Political & Social Sciences, Parenting & Relationships, Self Help, History, Gay & Lesbian. Non-fiction

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Publishers Weekly

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""What is marriage for--like most serious political or social questions--is a question about what it means to be fully human,"" contends Graff in her lively feminist treatise on why same-sex marriage should be legalized in the United States.

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The American Prospect

Yes, I know that there are serious and horrifying bias attacks of all kinds (for instance, Sikh Temple shooting, Trayvon Martin, Charlie Howard, spraypainting Jewish graves, et al.) But over my lifetime, I’ve noticed that attacks of this particular type—in which hateful words or messages are smea...

Aug 23 2012 | Read Full Review of What Is Marriage For?

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