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Where to Put Dan Savage…

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I guess I’m not convinced by Amanda’s criticism of Benjamin Dueholm’s article on Dan Savage:

You can criticize Savage for being wrong or being sexist at times, but generally speaking, he’s trying to create an ethical system that’s anti-patriarchal not to fill a void, but because he believes that the old patriarchy was evil and unethical. He’s openly agreed with the feminist contention that the “old constraints” were more about oppressing gay people and straight women than anything else. In fact, this should be pretty obvious. A system that forces gay people to live in shadows and deliberately pushes women to be a servant class for men is not a system that’s about happiness, at least not for the majority of people. And that’s especially true if you grasp, as Savage often does, that straight men who are more interested in personal fulfillment than dominance are also screwed by a patriarchy. He may not use the word “patriarchy” often, but that’s the basic gist of it. And while I’m skeptical of a lot of the evo psych stuff he’s been indulging lately, it’s undeniable that he does so because he’s arguing that our basic human nature is thwarted by patriarchy, and he supports the claim that the “old restraints” were there more to keep men controlling women than to promote happiness or even stability.

I dunno. I read a lot of Savage in the 1997-2003 period, and it really, really seemed like much of his project was about convincing people that drag queens could be good Republicans, too. What I mean by this is that much of his writing and activism seems motivated by the idea of creating a standard nuclear family, with relatively standard ways of transmitting family mores, and simply substituting out some of the “traditional” members. Savage seemed enraged not by the notion of a “traditional” nuclear family, with pre-set roles and expectations, but by the idea that he should be excluded from this traditional vision. There’s some merit to that, of course, but it also reflects a certain comfort with a conservative vision of politics and family life. And so I guess that my reading of Savage is much closer to Dueholm’s than to Marcotte’s; Savage is a radical in that he argues for a different set of sexual ethical principles than most conservatives, but he has rather a Republican way of going about it. This puts me into the exceedingly uncomfortable position of agreeing more with Sully than with Amanda.

I’ve long thought that Savage was a much better editor than columnist, and I’ve also detected a level of judgement in his columns that doesn’t reflect the same values that conservatives hold, but that does treat interlocutors with the kind of moral contempt that’s common in conservative circles. Savage’s support of the Iraq War is worth mentioning here, because it falls into the same category; the idea that someone who has made a “radical” set of individual choices can still hold bog standard Republican views on war, taxes, etc.

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