On Alimony And Feminists Being Sexist

May 23, 2008 at 12:23 pm (feminism, sexism, stupidity) ()

I nearly always enjoy Broadsheet, but this? What the hell?

It’s a post about the fact that the percentage of alimony recipients who are male is slowly, slowly creeping up. Because the press just can’t resist, they’ve given this phenomenon a stupid, cutesy name: “manimony.”

For reasons I may never understand, the post’s author, one James Hannaham, decides to go ahead and use “manimony” like it’s a legitimate word. It’s not a legitimate word. It’s an annoying little moniker designed to simultaneously mock men who receive alimony payments and delegitimize women who out-earn their male partners, as if either phenomenon is objectionable or ridiculous. Using the word sanctions these sexist ideas. Why would someone do that on a feminist blog?

Finally, Hannaham closes with this:

. . . Men still have advantages over women in business, but certainly not all women, and perhaps not the women they married. So the question becomes: Does maleness always create enough of an advantage that manimony will turn into the new reverse racism? Or should we pretend that equality already exists so that, one day, it will?

What the hell kind of question is that?

Yes, undoubtedly, men in general are privileged over women in general in business — that’s why, as the article notes, women are the higher earners in about one-third of straight marriages, men in two-thirds. But what bearing does that have on a given couple in which a wife makes more money than her husband? What if a male partner deprioritizes his career to support his wife or girlfriend? What if a male partner is the primary caretaker of children, thereby sacrificing some of his earning power? Why should that man be treated any differently from a woman who makes the same choices? (Answer: he shouldn’t be. Women who out-earn their husbands are just as capable as any man of paying reasonable alimony — that is, women can be financial providers. It’s really anti-feminist to suggest that women shouldn’t or can’t.)

And as to the second question — “Should we pretend that equality already exists so that, one day, it will?” — how, exactly, would not allowing men to receive alimony further the quest for equality? You know what we do by having higher-earning (ex-)wives pay alimony when appropriate? We smash right through the idea that men are breadwinners, women caretakers. We smash through the idea that marriage is a financial transaction in which women become their husbands’ property. And we affirm the idea that women can and should succeed in their careers, and that men can and should be free to pursue other goals. We affirm that making money and being supported are gender-neutral activities.




  1. Justin said,

    It’s also worth thinking about the incentives. If we discourage men from prioritizing family over careers, with the prospect of alimony in case a marriage breaks up, then we thereby discourage couples from taking a path where the woman is the higher wage earner–not a good result from a feminist perspective.

  2. Daisy said,

    Yes, Justin — that’s a really good point.

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