so I bought some new books…

Group reproduction – both biological and social – is fundamental to nationalist practice, process, and politics.  While virtually all feminist treatments of nationalism recognize this fact, they typically take for granted that group reproduction is heterosexist.  I refer here to the assumption – institutionalized in state-based orders through legal and ideological codifications and naturalized by reference to the binary of male-female sex difference – that heterosexuality is the only “normal” mode of sexual identity, sexual practice, and social relations.  Heterosexism presupposes a binary coding of polarized and hierarchical male/masculine and female/feminine identities (ostensibly based on a dichotomy of biophysical features) and denies all but heterosexual coupling as the basis of sexual intimacy, family life, and group reproduction.  And heterosexism is key to nationalism because today’s state-centric nationalisms (the focus of this chapter) not only engage in sexist practices that are now well documented by feminists, but also take for granted  heterosexist sex/gender identities and forms of group reproduction that underpin sexism but which are not typically interrogated even in feminist critiques.

[…] Heterosexism as sex/affect involves the normalization of exclusively heterosexual desire, intimacy, and family life.  Historically, this normalization is inextricable from the state’s interest in regulating sexual reproduction, undertaken primarily through controlling women’s bodies, policing sexual activities, and instituting the heteropatriarchal family/household as the basic socio-economic unit.  This normalization entails constructions of gender identity and hegemonic masculinity as heterosexual, with corollary interests in women’s bodies as objects of (male) sexual gratification and the means of ensuring group continuity.

–V. Spike Peterson, “Sexing political identities/nationalism as heterosexism,” Women, States, and Nationalism, p. 59-60


To display the falsity of the “natural” nuclear family, Michelle Barrett explored the many different forms that family takes in human societies by examining anthropoligical and historical works.  “At an ideological level,” she wrote, “the bourgeoisie has certainly secured a hegemonic definition of family life: as ‘naturally’ based on close kinship, as properly organized through a male breadwinner with financially dependent wife and children, and as a haven of privacy beyond the realm of commerce and industry.”  If we reject the ideological assertion that the state is merely protecting natural relationships, then we need to ask whose interests the family-household system embedded in twentieth-century American liberalism serves…

[…] The ability to create a privatized household depends on financial resources that are unavailable to many, particularly families that do not have a white, male wage-earner… Those who cannot satisfy the material prerequisites of family life do not create the same kind of privatized units as those of the more economically privileged…

[…] Although the contractually agreed-to marriages of today may seem like a significant advance over the pre-arranged, clearly economic arrangements made for many men and women in the past, this understanding presupposes that monogamous, dyadic sexual relationships should have higher status and receive greater benefits than other forms of relationships.  This superiority is asserted often through a variety of disciplinary mechanisms, including mental health experts, the media, schools, religious institutions, and the law.  In this sense, marriage itself can — and should — be understood as a disciplinary system…

–Valerie Lehr, Queer Family Values, p. 19, 20, 23


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