Washington Post: In Conservative Marriages, There Are No Embraces
The Washington Post critic Philip Kennicott provides a lengthy analysis of a photo of the Obamas embracing. This photo -- of a married couple hugging each other -- is so revolutionary and breathtaking because, well, I'll let Kennicott explain it to you loveless rubes:
But out of what must surely be thousands of images of the two together, the president chose this photograph to tweet, disseminating an image that emphasizes neither the man’s power nor the woman’s beauty. The image that went viral, that clearly speaks to people, represents a more modern ideal of true equality in emotional relations.
That it went viral on the same night that voters in four states broke with decades of anti-gay-marriage voting patterns and endorsed equality for same-sex couples may not be entirely accidental. Opponents of same-sex marriage often speak of the necessity of “defining” marriage in traditional terms, and anxiety about gay marriage is frequently expressed as a broader fear of redefining long-standing gender norms and categories. Conservative authors have produced books that decry the feminization of the American male, describing men as an endangered species.
The Obama photograph shows another reality, what might be called the limitless possibilities of true mutuality, of marriage beyond strict definitions. The Obama marriage appeals to many people, because it seems so comfortable, as if no one is worried about who wears the pants in the house, which is the reality of many healthy marriages today. In a healthy marriage, the partners don’t simply step into ancient gender roles and enact a drama of fidelity and obedience, they invent their own roles in the manner that serves both people best. Marriage is improvisatory, and every marriage is unique. Variation flourishes, and people work it out.
Among the many things that will come with a broader societal acceptance of same-sex marriage — which won at the ballot box for the first time since it emerged as a wedge issue in the 2004 reelection of President George W. Bush — is an extraordinary boon for straight men. The strictures of masculinity will likely fade as the fear of homosexuality abates, leaving more room for individual men to define their own notions of masculinity. That this photo became so popular at this particular moment suggests that we may be parsing the broader cultural implications of this election for a long time to come.
Does it make elites feel better about themselves to believe that those with differing opinions don't embrace their spouses?
I don't know, but I do know that I laughed so hard while reading this that my 3-year-old thought I was crying. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
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