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Unhitched: Love, Marriage, and Family Values from West Hollywood to Western China

Judith Stacey
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Judith Stacey, 2012 winner of the Simon and Gagnon Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the American Sociological Association.A leading expert on the family, Judith Stacey is known for her provocative research on mainstream issues. Finding herself impatient with increasingly calcified positions taken in the interminable wars over same-sex marriage, divorce, fatherlessness, marital fidelity, and the like, she struck out to profile unfamiliar cultures of contemporary love, marriage, and family values from around the world. Built on bracing original research that spans gay men's intimacies and parenting in this country to plural and non-marital forms of family in South Africa and China, Unhitched decouples the taken for granted relationships between love, marriage, and parenthood. Countering the one-size-fits-all vision of family values, Stacey offers readers a lively, in-person introduction to these less familiar varieties of intimacy and family and to the social, political, and economic conditions that buttress and batter them. Through compelling stories of real families navigating inescapable personal and political trade-offs between desire and domesticity, the book undermines popular convictions about family, gender, and sexuality held on the left, right, and center. Taking on prejudices of both conservatives and feminists, Unhitched poses a powerful empirical challenge to the belief that the nuclear family - whether straight or gay - is the single, best way to meet our needs for intimacy and care. Stacey calls on citizens and policy-makers to make their peace with the fact that family diversity is here to stay.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-8857-8
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: Tolstoy Was Wrong
    (pp. 1-12)

    WHEN “FRANKIE,” A New Jersey hero, recorded the song “Love and Marriage” in 1955, he was crooning for me and my gals, and we sure did soak it up. Coming of age in a white ethnic, lower-middle-class New Jersey town, we were part of the first generation of kids to encounter the magic box of television, which fed us a steady diet of fifties family fables—Father Knows Best, Leave It to Beaver, Ozzie and Harriet,and my personal favorite,I Remember Mama.In the mid-fifties, my gal pack and I jumped rope chanting the popular jingle, “First comes love,...

  5. 1 Love, Sex, and Kinship in Gay El Lay
    (pp. 13-48)

    NOT SO LONG ago, the notion of a gay or lesbian wedding or family seemed oxymoronic to most people, including many lesbians and gay men themselves. The 1970s-era gay liberation movement, like the 1960s counter-culture and the women’s liberation movement that inspired its birth, rebelled against the gender and sexual constraints of marriage and the nuclear family. “Smash Monogamy,” “Make Love Not War,” “Let It All Hang Out” were popular banners waved by political youth in that innocent pre-AIDS era. “We expose the institution of marriage as one of the most insidious and basic sustainers [sic] of the system,” proclaimed...

  6. 2 Gay Parenthood and the End of Paternity as We Knew It
    (pp. 49-88)

    GAY FATHERS WERE once as unthinkable as they were invisible. Now they are an undeniable part of the contemporary family landscape. During the same time that the marriage promotion campaign in the United States was busy convincing politicians and the public to regard rising rates of fatherlessness as a national emergency,¹ growing numbers of gay men were embracing fatherhood. Over the past two decades, they have built a cornucopia of family forms and supportive communities where they are raising children outside of the conventional family. Examining the experiences of gay men who have openly pursued parenthood against the odds can...

  7. 3 A South African Slant on the Slippery Slope
    (pp. 89-121)

    IN THE SPRING of 2008, two remarkable interventions in U.S. family life riveted the mainstream media and the blogosphere.¹ On April 3, state authorities raided the Yearning for Zion (YFZ) Ranch in Eldorado, Texas, in what they described as “the largest child-welfare operation in Texas history.”² The ranch was the polygamous Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS) compound founded by Warren Jeffs, who now is serving a prison sentence for compelling a fourteen-year-old girl to marry her nineteen-year-old cousin, and the raid was the most coercive state offensive against polygamy to take place in the United States in over fifty years....

  8. 4 Paradoxes of Polygamy and Modernity
    (pp. 122-151)

    ON MAY DAY 2008, less than a month after the raid on the polygamous YFZ ranch in Texas and two weeks before the California Supreme Court issued its ruling in favor of same-sex marriage, one of the ubiquitous sex scandals that incessantly spice up U.S. political life clocked its fifteen minutes of fame. U.S. Congressman Vito Fossella of Staten Island, New York, a married father of three children and staunch Republican proponent of family values, was arrested in Washington, D.C., for driving under the influence. When Fossella told the arresting officer that he was hurrying home to the bedside of...

  9. 5 Unhitching the Horse from the Carriage: Love without Marriage among the Mosuo
    (pp. 152-187)

    IF THERE WERE an international endangered species status for vanishing family forms, I would nominate without delay the Mosuo people of southwest China, whose family system serves as this book’s final, least familiar case study. The contemporary world stands to lose a great deal, I believe, if we allow this unique, ancient family system to expire. We would lose a species of happy family life that Tolstoy never contemplated, one that offers creative solutions to intractable contradictions between individual eros and family security that seem particularly pertinent today. The resilient, pre-modern Mosuo family system anticipated by millennia core principles of...

  10. Conclusion: Forsaking No Others
    (pp. 188-208)

    READERS WHO HAVE accompanied me to this point on our family odyssey should have come to a very different conclusion about the inseparability of love and marriage. You should be well prepared by now not to fall for this trick question:

    Q: Which of the following famous (and infamous) people grew up in a family with their two married biological parents? Adolph Hitler, Alan Greenspan, Barack Obama, Barbra Streisand, Benito Mussolini, the Dalai Lama, Francisco Franco, George Washington, Joseph Stalin, Julia Roberts, Lance Armstrong, Michael Phelps, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Oprah Winfrey.

    A: Hitler, Stalin, Franco, and Mussolini.

    Transparently tongue-in-cheek,...

  11. Appendix: A Co-parenting Agreement
    (pp. 209-210)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 211-234)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 235-260)
  14. Index
    (pp. 261-274)
  15. About the Author
    (pp. 275-275)