Megan McArdle (probably my favorite non-reactionary blogger) has written an article which comes right up to the brink of saying the unsayable:
Marriage also enables specialization. Which can be illustrated by a piece of wisdom I have developed in my brief three and a half years of marital bliss and now pass onto my friends who are getting married: “Marriage makes you stupid.”
I mean, I used to know where I kept my batteries and old documents. But when we got married, my husband, who is much tidier than I am, took over organizing the house. Now, unless it’s a piece of my clothing or kitchen equipment, I have no idea where we keep anything. And while I’m pretty sure I used to be able to put up shelves, now all I know how to do is ask my husband to do it.
On the other hand, he has no idea how much money we have, or in what accounts. And he can’t do the grocery shopping, because he doesn’t know what we consume. Individually, we are less competent to survive on our own. But collectively, we eat better, and we have a tidier house and better-managed finances. And our shelves don’t fall down so often.
Obviously, child-rearing is a major area of specialization. One interesting thing I’ve heard from gay parents is that they find themselves falling into roles that you might describe as “Mom” and “Dad,” even though this is obviously not some pre-programmed gender destiny. It just doesn’t make sense to try to jointly manage a kid 50-50; one parent keeps the social calendar and decides what kids Junior can play with, because two parents trying to do it actually makes the task take a lot more time, as both people have to learn about all the friends and the birthdays and the parents, and then negotiate what Junior does with her time. I’m not saying this happens with every gay parent. I’m just saying that gay parents I know report considerable benefits to specialization.
In other words, gender specialization is natural, efficient, and economical. Of course, this is something that anyone who’s been married for more than a week already knows; yet the existence of gender-driven social roles for husbands and wives is supposed by feminist orthodoxy to be an example of patriarchial oppression. The problem, of course, is that a feminist insists that hanging your own shelves is liberation, and forgetting how to do so is oppression, when in reality giving certain areas of responsibility up to your spouse is a tremendous relief. If society partitions certain marital responsibilities to husbands or wives ahead of time, it’s merely saving every couple the trouble of figuring it out for themselves.
Additionally, marriage is obviously awesome, for all of the reasons that McArdle mentions.