In Support of Divorce Equality


In case you live under a rock with some kind of force-field blocking news of fauxlebrity misadventures, Kim Kardashian filed for divorce on Monday, 72 days into her marriage.

The dominant meme, at least within my social networking circles, is that the extremely speedy dissolution of this straight couple’s marriage is somehow an argument in favor of legalizing gay marriage. [See here, here, here, and here]

On the one hand, I’m in favor of any possible way we can convince Americans to let gay people get married, already.  But truthfully, I hate this meme.  I do not think gay marriage should be legal because committed gay couples are morally superior to capricious celebrity nuptials.  Gay marriage should be legal because marriage is a human right.

Another thing I think is a human right? Divorce.

Divorce (or at least the availability of divorce) is a good thing, people.  Please do not take divorce for granted.  My hope and expectation is that my marriage will last the rest of my life; but I am tremendously grateful that (thanks in large part to my feminist foremothers) I have the right to get out of this marriage some way other than death if the need for that arises.  And I am grateful that my mother was able to divorce her first husband and marry my father.  I’m a “child of divorce,” but in the good way.  Divorce saves lives, and saves people from lives of misery.

Do I suspect that the extremely short duration of Kim Kardashian’s marriage might indicate she was less than sincere about her vows in the first place? Yes. But the extremely short duration of her marriage is only the second biggest clue, after her being Kim Freaking Kardashian.  And really, what do I know? There are situations in which a marriage should be ended after only a few months.  Again, I’m glad that option is available to people.

Of course, getting divorced is often a horrible life experience, so I’d definitely discourage less-than-sure people from getting married thinking, “oh, we’ll just get divorced.”  But that’s not my decision to make for them, which is kind of the whole point, right?  Or as Melissa McEwan of Shakesville put it,

There is the Great Kardashian Divorce of 2011. Does the internet need one more person making some sneering comment about straight people and their sanctity of marriage, which is an Actual Point, but one I’m increasingly reluctant to make since I sort of want same-sex couples to have the right to forge wildly inappropriate unions in lavish, multimillion dollar ceremonies if that is what they REALLY WANT? No, the internet does not need that.

Amen.  So let’s lay off on the divorce-shaming as we try to create a world were loving and deeply committed gay couples can get married.  If the price for that is frivolous gay celebrity marriages of limited tenure, well, uh, is that really a price at all? I know it will help me pass the time at the supermarket checkout.


  1. I read somewhere that Kim admitted she got caught up in the wedding-planning hoopla and encouragement of TV networks and excited designers (and various other fauxlebrities dying to get a piece of that wedding). So even though she had doubts, she was too embarrassed to call the wedding off, which makes me feel sort of sorry for her. I think if anything, this whole thing should be (YET ANOTHER) example of why people shouldn’t put their relationships/engagements/lives on “reality” television.

    Because yes, the short duration of her marriage does make it look like she didn’t take it seriously, and that’s the part of it that pisses off George Takei. That she had that attitude and was allowed to marry anyway. (Although I completely agree with you that divorce isn’t something that should be shamed – no one should have to stay with someone they don’t want to be with, especially for the sake of public humiliation or TV ratings)

  2. I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with some parts of this post. Because I don’t think most of the internet chatter about the Kardashian divorce and what it should say about gay marriage is related to divorce shaming. Divorce is an important right and I appreciate that some divorce laws help value the non-monetary contributions of marriage. But the general outcry is because crusaders against gay-marriage often claim it will destroy heterosexual marriage. And the Kardashian fiasco proves that the only people “destroying” hetero marriages are the people in any given relationship. And that her marriage has no bearing on mine or anyone else’s.

    If straight people have the right to get married for vapid famewhorish non-commitment, non-procreating reasons, the institution isn’t all that sacred and doesn’t need protecting. It demonstrates that it’s simply a legal construct and not a moral achievement. And everyone should have that legal right. We should all be allowed to enter freely into non-moral legal agreements with our chosen partners for whatever vapid or important reasons we deem important. On that point, we agree. But I don’t think I’m reading the outcry and the gay marriage statements in the same way as you are.

    • While I appreciate your point, I guess I like to think that marriage can and should still be a sacred moral achievement. (I use “should” in the way that I “should” work out, eat right, donate to charity, volunteer at homeless shelters, call my mom more…)

      I think marriage should be a moral achievement AND I think two men or two women are just as entitled to such worthy pursuits. Should shitty straight couples and shitty gay couples get married? No. Should we deny them that right? No.

      I guess I hate to think you are going the opposite direction here and think the Kardashians prove marriage (especially in this ‘day and age’) is no big deal, a contract like a deed for land, and so who cares if two dudes or two vapid assholes do it. I like to think it’s a big deal. AND gay people are entitled to that big deal. Arguments for gay marriage should not lean on the lowest common denominator.

      • I’m very much talking about civil marriage and legal laws here. We each make of our own personal marriages what we need them to be. And for me, my marriage is VERY sacred. But that had nothing to do with the legal paperwork and everything to do with how my partner and I have built our marriage and prioritized our commitment. I don’t think legal marriage is a moral achievement but I think I have a moral obligation to my partner, within the confines of the relationship we define.

        At the core, civil marriage is a legal construct and frankly I don’t like anyone ascribing moral overtones to it. It’s why religious conservatives are able to object to gay marriage- because they’re overlaying their own values on what should be a value-free, religious-free bundle of legal rights. So no, while I would never argue that two poorly matched or flippant vapid people should enter into legal marriage lightly, I don’t think their relationship has any bearing on the success of my own and I don’t want my own judgments (or right wing judgments) clouding the legality of that marriage. The same should go for gay marriage. The moral arguments are a slippery slope and I frankly want them out of the legal marriage debate altogether.

        And as for my personal wedding and marriage agreement, it’s the most meaningful, important Big Deal commitment I’ve ever undertaken. But I want to separate that emotion and my own personal “shoulds” from any objective legal arguments. And, legally speaking, I want to strip away the “shoulds” and recognize marriage for what it is – a legal contract between consenting adults who agree to share legal responsibilities and benefits for the duration of their marriage. Whether it’s 72 days or 72 years. If some set of consenting adults can choose that legal arrangement, despite being patently wrong for each other and flippant about the contract, all consenting adults should be able to choose that arrangement. The Kardashain fiasco (and so many others like it) simply strip away the moral overtones and expose legal marriage for what it is, and therefore what it should be for everyone. “Should” in my case, not referring to any morals but only to the most basic of legal rights.

    • I think that part of my reaction is not knowing enough bigots? I haven’t really heard the “sanctity” argument from any real people.

  3. Thanks for this.

    My personal thought about the whole meme was: Once you use Kim Kardashain as the justification for your cause (in any way) your cause is a little bit fucked, credibility wise. Let’s just stick to the actual reasons why gay marriage should be legalized. All those reasons that affect the lives of everyday people. There’s enough reasons, they are strong, and more importantly – they will still be relevant 15 minutes from now.

    • I think this is why I don’t love the Karashian-Gay Marriage arguments, even if I fundamentally agree with them (I think the Kardashian fiasco is a perfect example of why we should all stop claiming marriage is about moral so we can just give everyone equal rights to have whatever fiascos they choose). But I don’t think it’s the best argument for gay marriage. It’s just an example, and we can do better as a society and a movement to focus on the actual reasons why gay marriage should be a universal right. Also, this is the first time I’ve ever commented on the Kardashians online, because I hate wasting effort thinking about these people. It’s distateful and I don’t want them mucking up arguments for important issues. Even if their lives could illustrate a point I care deeply about.

  4. Oh Robin, when I saw the topic of this post I knew it was going to be about Kim K, and I was worried you were going to throw another match on the straw man. Thank you for not doing that.

    I’m so sick of people hating on the Kardashians. It’s lazy, and anyway the show is not even that bad. It’s fun to watch a bunch of gorgeous sisters who enjoy being together run a business and pull good natured pranks on each other or mercilessly tease their mother. I don’t know why people have to act like the Kardashians and reality tv are the epicenter of everything evil when 50% of scripted tv is white guys in suits making bad puns about raped & murdered prostitutes. Like that’s good for anybody.

    My biggest problem with the Kardashian vs. gay marriage meme is that the people who are against gay marriage already hate the Kardashians. It’s not like the Kardashians are some uptight republican gay-bashing family. People who oppose gay marriage are probably like, yeah, let’s make a law that from now on outrageous Hollywood types can’t marry either.

  5. Btw, even though in my comment I defended reality tv, I agree with Nikki that the wedding really had no place there. This relationship was obviously dead way before the wedding, and the contracts they signed for the show were clearly the only reason they went through with it. I mean ON the show they were saying they hated each other the night before the wedding. not a good sign.

    But, I also think that based on Kim’s personality and the rest of her family, even if they all weren’t famous she might’ve been too embarrassed to call off a big crazy wedding after spending a ton of cash and accepting the help of her friends and family in planning it. Her commitments to the tv show just would’ve made that decision exponentially harder.

  6. THANK YOU. I come from a subculture where divorce was a sin, and it took my mom forever to leave her very abusive marriage, and almost as long for my two older sisters to leave theirs. Because of divorce shaming.

    Stop the shaming, okay? It doesn’t work as a motivator, or a de-motivator. It just creates hurting people and bad situations.

    • My mom was Catholic and her divorce and re-marriage (if I remember correctly, the re-marriage was really the sticking point) almost cost her her family. Which is so scary to me because we were such a happy family!

  7. What a great point, fellow “child of divorce”! I can’t recall the deal with your mom’s first fella, but my mom married someone right out of college that fit all the shoulds–much like Kim! Seriously, she found someone that everyone (tv, family, society) thought was ‘perfect’–then the dust settled and it was just the two of them in a room and it was like “what did I do?” My mom married someone who was ‘perfect’ according to her religion, socio-economic background, parents. It lasted like, 10 months or something? My mom and Gil are not an argument for gay marriage.

    I was actually talking about this whole thing with my BF the other night. I like the show. I think these people are decent. I think there are two things important to Kim (and all the) Kardashians: money and family. She’s part of a giant fucking Armenian family, with 3 siblings, 2 half-siblings, and 4 step-siblings. She’s 32, her older sister has a baby; she probably really wants to start having kids. That will rush ANYONE into marriage. But he wants to move back to Minnesota, her career (yes, she works: she models, designs clothing, etc) is Los Angeles-dependent. So she divorced because she picked her career over her man? GASP. Alert the 1950 police.

    She didn’t make a profit from the wedding, she’s donating all their gifts to the Dream Foundation, and honestly, she would have made a LOT MORE money staying in an unhappy marriage for the cameras. Enough, internet.

    • I know hardly anything about my mom’s first husband, but I do know that marriage was really short, which is part of the reason I’m reacting to strongly to this Kardashian hoopla.

  8. I really don’t think the argument is trying to say that “committed gay couples are morally superior” to those straights who get swift divorces. I think instead the point is that only a moron could truly believe that legalizing gay marriage would in any way affect the marriages of straight people.

    And there are plenty of people, whether you know them personally or not, who believe this. Like, um, those folks over in the state of Alabama. And, I’m pretty sure, my own parents. SIGH.

    That being said, I agree that the whole look-at-these-divorcing-straights-who-prove-our-point bandwagon has gotten pretty overcrowded. This is not the argument that is going to win the battle. It’s just the pro-gay marriage team patting themselves on the back (and yes, I am on that team, and yes, I pointlessly patted some backs over this notion).

    The assertion that gay marriage legalization would destroy the institution of marriage is not based on logic or fact. In my opinion, we should not validate that assertion by trying to disprove it.

  9. So, I chuckled at this meme when it was about Britney Spears. I still don’t find it particularly funny, and frankly, I will take a meme that gets a ton of people posting in support of gay marriage.

    I like the Kardashians. I think considering how privileged they were growing up, the sisters are pretty grounded and I actually find them pretty likable when I’ve watched them. I don’t really understand why they’re famous, but welcome to celebrity in the new millenium. Fame aside, they seem like girls I might want to get pedicures with, you know? I don’t think getting a quickie divorce after an ill-considered marriage makes Kim a bad person or worthy of scorn.

    But I don’t think the purpose of those memes is too scorn Kim Kardashian as a person. (intent vs. outcome? that’s another argument). I think the idea is that no one is saying celebrities shouldn’t be allowed to get married. Or Armenians, or rich people, or models, or friends of Paris Hilton. People fuck up. People break their vows. I don’t think people should be punished for that, but I do think it’s important to point out the absurdity of the gay-marriage-ruins-the-sanctity-of-marriage argument in the face of straight people breaking their vows after 72 days. And people – real, otherwise reasonable people – make that argument. A lot.

    And frankly, I think there is a difference between divorce shaming, which I’m against (see: Marty Hitchcock) and looking at a situation and calling it out for being irresponsible and capricious. I think sometimes in our rush to not be judgemental, we forget that it’s ok to think things are wrong.

  10. That should read “but, frankly” in the first paragraph.

  11. As a fellow child of divorce, I get the “I’m sorry” reaction whenever someone finds out that my parents are no longer married. I always repeat (and repeat and repeat) that divorce was the best thing my parents did for me. It made my environment SO much more stable. Sure, I was at more of an economical disadvantage, but a home without screaming and yelling is wore more than cool lcothes and lots of Christmas presents.

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