Contesting Gender Stereotyping in my Amendment
“In the opinion editorial, “My Amendment,” George Saunders brings attention to the controversial opinions regarding same sex marriage during the year of 2004, in which the ban on gay marriage was heavily disputed. He advocates as a person against same sex marriage in order to humorously mock those opposed to sex marriage’s entitled attitudes towards the matter. According to the David Stout article, “Bush Backs Ban in Constitution on Gay Marriage,” that was published in The New Yorker, in 2004, during his presidency, George W. Bush decided to propose an amendment that would ban gay or same-sex marriage and claimed that it was a means to “protect the status of marriage between man and woman”(Stout). Throughout the editorial, the ridiculousness of the essay continues to escalate as Saunders exposes society for inserting themselves and their opinions into circumstances that he indirectly expresses, have nothing to do with them. Saunders utilizes sarcasm to shed light on the absurd and irrelevant opinions that are concerned around the idea of same sex marriage. To divulge the views of those that are truly opposed to same sex marriage, Saunders progressively provides examples of situations in which are criticized by anti- same and samish sex marriage, and proposes a ludicrous solution that those in opposition of gay marriage, would favor. By developing the absurdity of each scenario gradually, he unveils his mocking persona that is meant to represent those against same-sex marriage. The continuous use of extreme exaggeration is to better enlarge the resistant views towards the subject and reveal the faults at hand of those that are opposed to a concept that is being fought to change, the notion of gay marriage.
In 2004, America continued to push back against traditional rules and regulations that were discriminating basic human rights and the debate around same sex marriage continued to expand. The amendment proposed in 2004, that was meant to ban same sex marriage, was argued to “protect the status of marriage between man and woman,” and the beliefs coinciding with this decision consisted of marriage between man and women being the “most fundamental institution of civilization”(Stout). This led to several debates from the LGBTQ community and rather than seeing this as a means of protection to the relationship between man and woman, it was violation to human rights. In “My Amendment,” George Saunders ridicules the ban of same sex marriage by providing scenarios that gradually become more and more oddly shocking. Ultimately, these scenarios serve to represent the samish sex marriage relationships that are criticized and invalidated which leads to his proposed solution known as “The Manly Scale of Absolute Gender.” Through offensive extremities such as scenarios that may apply to readers and a scale that offends those who may not fit the standard of masculinity, Saunders is able to emphasize on his sarcastic tone through exaggeration and mock society’s perception of masculinity and femininity.
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From the beginning of the editorial, the use of ethos is immediately established as Saunders clears up any speculation regarding bias by opening up with, “As an obscure, middle-aged, heterosexual short-story writer” (1), which is purposefully meant to give readers the idea that he is not a credible source but he is here to state his opinion. Saunders feels the need to open up his essay in rhetorical form and establish his persona right away so that those opposed to same sex marriage understands that his work is not to be taken literally. He then he ridicules his intended audience by basically screaming satire saying, “Like any sane person, I am against Same-Sex Marriage, and in favor of a constitutional amendment to ban it” (1). Saunders sarcastically says “Like any sane person,” which immediately ridicules those on the opposing side and says that anyone that argues against same sex marriage is insane.
In order to better emphasize his mockery of being on the opposing side of same sex marriage, the situations that Saunders implements are ones in which those opposed to the notion of gay marriage are the first to input our opinions and criticize. He makes known the idea that society has come up with their own unreasonable definitions of masculinity and femininity. In order to criticize homophobic people and their quickness to judge those that are not fit to the stereotypical man or woman, he provides situations in which 2 people are in a relationship and do not live up to their stereotypical roles. He then defines these relationships as “Samish-Sex Marriage” in order to satirically identify atypical gender roles. For example, he refers to one of the women in the examples as “a tall stocky female with extremely short hair” (Saunders 1) and points out that “S towers over him” (1). By including these examples, he is attempting to create a realization for those being completely insensitive towards the topic.
Saunders also significantly attains humor throughout the short story, which goes hand in hand with his use of satire and exaggeration. However, although humor is being utilized in order to appeal to a broader audience, occasionally his use of humor is used to even greater emphasize and convey a serious message. While providing examples of Samish Sex marriages, Saunders is also exposing his true beliefs about the ridiculousness of those opposed to Samish Sex marriage. Additionally, Saunders also implements abnormal situations in which are exaggerated to mock the opinions of homophobes and the opinions that are meant to be found offensive. The use of humor however, is being used to create laughter out of an idea that is not actually humorous. For example, “Or consider the case of T, a male friend with an extremely small penis. (We attend the same gym.) He is married to O, an average-looking woman who knows how to fix cars. I wonder about O. How does she know so much about cars? Is she not, by tolerating this non-car-fixing, short-penised friend of mine, indicating that, on some level, she wouldn’t mind being married to a woman, and is therefore, perhaps, a tiny bit functionally gay” (1)? Saunders explicitly places himself in the shoes of a homophobe and makes offensive assumptions about a couple where the woman knows how to fix cars and the man is “short-penised.” By mentioning these attributes, he is able to associate stereotypical gender roles and criticize the couple for having the qualities that the other is apparently supposed to possess. This specific situation is meant to highlight just how insensitive these opinions are and how they can possibly be found offensive by both men and women regardless of sexuality. By providing this example, he is utilizing his humor to ridicule the mind-boggling responses to same sex marriage.
While he is mocking those opposed to the idea of same sex marriage, he informs his audience of an idea that is aimed towards those that may be considered too feminine or masculine, and that is to change themselves. He proposes his idea by first suggesting that this only applies to those who may not pass his reccomended supplementary amendment that entails whether or not you are manly or not. “The Manly Scale of Absolute Gender,” serves as a metaphorical representation of the amendment to ban gay marriage by exemplifying the idea that such a tactic will rid same sex marriage and cause people to conform to their stereotypical gender roles. The scale consists of numerical values being assigned to different stereotypical feminine and masculine characteristics which give an overall score of masculinity. Through this intendedly outrageous proposition, he is able to greater emphasize the unseemly expectations of those fighting to ban gay marriage and the assumptions made about those that do not seemingly fit their stereotypical qualities.
George Saunders maintains satire throughout the entirety of the essay and also gets the reader’s attention by making rude commentary on the relationships that he previously criticizes. Through his witty remarks such as his proposed solution to those who find themselves in ‘samish sex marriages’, “having the feminine man become more masculine and/or the masculine woman become more feminine” (3), he is able to cause the couples in these relationships to feel shameful and seek correction. This creates a parallel between those that are more or less homophobic and Saunders’s actual beliefs towards same sex marriage in the sense that he is not actually opposed to the idea but instead bringing attention to the similar views that he is ridiculing.
Furthermore, George Saunders continuously appeals to is intended audience through the use of pathos in order to point out just how important this topic really is. Through the associations between same sex marriage and things such as religion and atypical gender roles, he is able to direct this idea towards a bigger audience. He says things like, “Then I ask myself, Is this truly what God had in mind” (1)? He also often refers to women as being too masculine or men being too feminine as he rejects their interests in society’s made up stereotypical associations or roles of a male and female, such as a woman having knowledge in cars. These criticisms are meant to be felt not only by those that are homophobic, but also those in favor of same sex marriage, regardless of their sexuality or personality due to the offensiveness to any gender.
While Saunders is mainly using satire, he is also exemplifying several other types of genre such as criticism, political, letter, and even some rhetoric. Saunders writes in letter format, allowing him to mock the political system and separation between church and state law by mentioning religion and its affect in the law. Generally, Saunders depicts the controversy surrounding same sex marriage and exaggerates those opinions commonly used to reject the notion of gay marriage. His attempt to propose a “supplementary amendment” to ban gay marriage is utilized to expose society and point out just how cruel it is to deny people of these rights. The judgement that those opposed to same sex marriage have, is ridiculed and mocked throughout the entire essay, as Saunders criticizes the ridiculousness of homophobes and their opinions on gay marriage. While this political message becomes confusing behind the masking of satire and exaggeration, Saunders ultimately wants his truthful opinions on same sex marriage to be seen throughout the development of the essay.
- Saunders, George. “MY AMENDMENT.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 20 June 2017, www.newyorker.com/magazine/2004/03/08/my-amendment.
- “Senate Debates Same-Sex Marriage.” CNN, Cable News Network, www.cnn.com/2004/ALLPOLITICS/07/12/senate.marriage/.
- Stout, David. “Bush Backs Ban in Constitution on Gay Marriage.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 24 Feb. 2004, www.nytimes.com/2004/02/24/politics/bush-backs-ban-in-constitution-on-gay-marriage.html.”