I’ve been playing through some extensions of my “I believe in spousal hires” position and trying to figure out whether I think it’s just okay to discriminate against single people or what. Note, by the way, that I am less concerned with convincing anyone else that I’m right, than with knowing whether my positions are consistent with each other.

There are a few basic assumptions I’m making here, that I’d want to lay out. Dr Crazy saved me the trouble, and spelled a lot of them out for me.

Ultimately, spousal hires, or partner hires, work within a heteronormative economy of privilege, in which we offer institutional endorsement to those employees who are in monogamous, committed, socially sanctioned relationships, and we give those people benefits that we don’t give to other employees.

But I would tweak her reading a bit. What I am privileging here, emotionally, is not coupledom but parenting:

I meet long-distance couples: “well, them’s the breaks”. But you mention raising a child in a commuter marriage, and I think “inhumane!” (Again: I’m unmarried and childless, and not even necessarily planning on having children, so I’m not just being defensive about my own privileges here.)

And I’m more comfortable with the ethics of privileging parenting—“the children are our future”—than of privileging monogamy. Still not entirely comfortable, but less uncomfortable. But parenting is possibly less inextricable from heteronormativity and patriarchy than coupledom—though note that when I talk about parenting, I am equally picturing adoptive families, same-sex couples, and single parents.

So if I think the public good of parenting justifies partner hires, then I must also advocate for single parents to get preference at the campus daycare over married parents, for a campus daycare to even exist, etc. What else?

Privileging parenting dodges the “what if people get divorced?” argument against partner hires.

But do I think couples who prefer to remain childless should not benefit from partner hires? I kinda think I do, but I can’t advocate that a formalized system of partner hires should investigate whether people either have or are planning to have children. That’s just intrusive. Which means that privileging parenting devolves to privileging couples, in practice. Problem.