On the same-sex marriage question, Matthew Yglesias suggests that the conservatives who call it a first step down a slippery slope have a point. They do kind of have a point.
But the truth is that it's only a slippery slope if we the people want it to be a slippery slope. Cutlural stigma alone prevents same-sex marriages today. Cultural stigma alone allowed segregation for the hundred years between the passage of the 14th amendment and Brown v Board of Education. Maybe polygamy or consensual incest taboos will fall shortly, or maybe they'll fall far in the future, or maybe they'll never fall. Maybe gender will become a quaint archaism. I can imagine conservatives arguing that the real problem is the willy-nilly challenging of cultural taboos, but I don't think anyone's advocating that.
Gender roles are still enforced in this society, sometimes via physical violence, but often via ostracism. It seems pretty obvious to me on a first pass, even without getting into the supporting evidence, that this is a sign of two things: that people want to violate gender norms and therefore need to be put in their place; and that without this pressure, the average man would be less stereotypically masculine than he is now, and the average woman less stereotypically feminine.
But anyway, stigma of homosexuality is just another way of enforcing gender roles. If homosexuality comes to be accepted, I don't think it is necessarily obvious that gender roles will come tumbling down. The pressure may just take other forms. Gender norms have a funny way of doing that. Gay men may suddenly feel the need to be hypermasculine, for example, and lesbians may find it necessary to go out of their way to be non-threatening to men. Or whatever.
The other day I noticed that Secret brand antiperspirant had changed its slogan from "strong enough for a man, but made for a woman," to "strong enough for a woman," which is kind of a remarkable shift, to my mind. (I don't know when they did that.) So I'm not completely pessimistic about the prospects for change. But the fact remains that people still get punished if they deviate from gender norms too much. So anyway, my own personal liberal utopia would be a world where both men and women could be as masculine or feminine as they want, and nobody would care. They certainly wouldn't get beat up for it. Until that happens, I don't want to hear any arguments about "biologically determined" or "evolutionary advantageous."
--Melissa O, at 03:46