You’ll Do: A His­to­ry of Mar­ry­ing for Rea­sons Oth­er Than Love

  • From the Publisher
September 1, 2023

An illu­mi­nat­ing and thought-pro­vok­ing exam­i­na­tion of the unique­ly Amer­i­can insti­tu­tion of mar­riage, from the Colo­nial era through the #MeToo age. Amer­i­cans hold mar­riage in such high esteem that we push peo­ple toward it, reward them for tak­ing part in it, and fetishize its ben­e­fits to the point that we rou­tine­ly ignore or excuse bad behav­ior and soci­etal ills in the name of pro­tect­ing and pro­mot­ing it. In eras of slav­ery and seg­re­ga­tion, Blacks some­times gained white legal sta­tus through mar­riage. Laws have been designed to encour­age peo­ple to mar­ry so that cer­tain soci­etal ben­e­fits could be achieved: the pop­u­la­tion would increase, women would have finan­cial secu­ri­ty, chil­dren would be cared for, and immi­grants would have famil­ial con­nec­tions. As late as the Great Depres­sion, poor young women were encour­aged to mar­ry aged Civ­il War vet­er­ans for life­time pen­sions. The wide­ly over­looked prob­lem with this tra­di­tion is that indi­vid­u­als and soci­ety have relied on mar­riage to address or dis­miss a range of injus­tices and inequities. Through reveal­ing sto­ry­telling, Zug builds a com­pelling case that when mar­riage is tout­ed as the solu­tion” to such prob­lems, it absolves the gov­ern­ment, and soci­ety, of the respon­si­bil­i­ty for direct­ly address­ing them.

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