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On Power Couples

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November 15, 2011




November 15, 2015


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There is so much still to come in the wake of gay marriage, which is now effecting a quiet desolation upon lives, as opposed to the more obvious kind. But mostly, it's interesting to see how the supposed "end" of gay marriage has allowed for a resurgence in the discourse around coupledom as some kind of new and hallowed ground, as in the current interest in polyamory/polygamy, as if that is something new and fresh and not just just yet another tired and clichéd discourse which still retains power within a very particular set of social orderings.


And speaking of power, what is going on with people openly referring to themselves, in a very un-ironic fashion, as "power couples?" And in the "social justice" circles where, of all places, such designations should be greeted with suspicion?


I have friends who cringe because they've been described as such and would never want to be called that. I have friends who are actually both "powerful" in their own ways, but would never call themselves "power couples." Those are not the people I'm referring to, but to people who very obviously and publicly need and want to be defined throguh their coupledom and need and want to invoke a particular set of power dynamics through their relationship.


What I see now is a set of people, mostly under 30, who seem to think that identifying themselves as part of some weird sexual and relational dynamic that dovetails so perfectly with capitalism is perfectly okay because, oh, hey, they're such exciting combos of queerpolytranscishet people and so even their fucking is inherently radical.


No, just no. You know who else identifies as a "power couple"? Bill and Hillary Clinton. You know, those guys who initiated "welfare reform," which has created the disenfranchisement and generational poverty that millions of people are experiencing today. You know who else was a power couple? Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver. Huma Abedin and Anthony Weiner. The only reason Hillary Clinton stayed in a shitty marriage (she knew about his dalliances all along) is because she had invested too many years into her bid for the Presidency and a divorce would have meant the end of her dreams. What made her furious about the Monica Matter is not that it happened, but that he was dumb enough to be caught.


Shriver, like so many Kennedy wives -- and with very little talent but lots of contacts that set her up as a "journalist" -- would have stayed in but the public exposure was too humiliating. And Abedin has, all signs indicate, nurtured dreams of one day becoming the first Muslim First Lady. Today, I suspect,  she throws things at her husband whom she cannot divorce until a "decent" interval has passed.


I could go on but you get the point: power couples are shitty people usually trapped in horrible relationships who agree to combine forces to wreak havoc on the world and accrue power -- mostly financial -- for themselves. Any altruism they project -- like creating "Foundations" or becoming the node through which you get to beg them for money -- is in the service of the raw power they want. If you feel the need to self-identify as a power couple or if you are the sort who worships them or gets gooey-eyed in their presence (even on a microlevel of "ordinary people" who just invest too much in the existence of relationships), you are, in essence, part of that structure of inequity and disempowerment. Power couples are scum multiplied into two.


I'll have more on all this later but until then, here is a reminder that your sex -- and your marriage or partnership -- is not inherently radical.


See also: "Anthony Weiner, Huma Abedin, and the Gender of Power.


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