Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Feminism Is Dead. Or Maybe It Just Hasn't Been Born Yet in Some Places

Reading St. Louis Post Dispatch turned out to be a pretty good idea, after all. Daily, I discover things that bring me in touch with the kind of reality I find next to impossible to believe. The article titled "Mother who home schools receives custody in St. Charles County divorce case" made me ponder the question I put in the title of this post. Is feminism really dead, as many people have been suggesting for the past couple of decades? Or has it simply been slow in arriving to St. Charles County and other similar places?

Here is the part of the article that made me worry about the future of feminism in this country (or, if we are very lucky, just in St. Charles County):
The court awarded Payne-Naeger $1,262 per month in child support and $3,500 in maintenance. Various investments and retirement funds were to be divided equally between Naeger and Payne-Naeger. The ruling said both parties agreed the monthly cost of maintaining the household exceeded $10,000. Zerr said Payne-Naeger, who has an associate's degree in advertising design, could earn $20,000 per year. She has not been employed for more than 20 years, but the court said evidence at trial showed she was capable of continuing her education and finding a job.
I know that it's hard to get past the $10,000 that some people apparently need to "maintain a household." The whole idea sounds kind of offensive in the middle of a harsh economic crisis. Leaving that aside, however, I wonder if the court that made this ruling sees an obvious contradiction between the first and the second parts of its decision. Why should a healthy, grown individual who is capable of finding a job receive "maintenance"? How come child support is a lot less than this mysterious maintenance? I understand the need to support underage children. But how is it fair that one adult should "maintain" another adult with an amount of money three times bigger than the amount of child support he pays to his children?

Such rulings infantilize women and are deeply humiliating. The court in this case seems to be suggesting that even if you are an educated woman capable of finding employment, you still need to be kept by a man. Even a man who is not a part of your life any longer.

Just consider the difference in the way we would normally react to a story about a man who has not worked for 20 years in spite of enjoying perfect health and is asking that his ex-wife "maintain" him to the tune of $3,500 per month after the divorce. Nobody would respect him much, and you know why? Because we see a man as a human being - or rather, the human being by default - and expect him to be responsible for himself and his own life. A woman, however, is still mostly seen as not a wholly valid human being. She is, rather, an appendage to a male. That is why we see it is kind of normal that a man should pay car maintance, ex-wife maintenance, a bike maintenance, etc. A woman is forever a man's possession. And a possession needs to be paid for.

And the scariest thing of all - this woman homeschools her poor children. If many children in St. Charles County are "educated" by people of similar values, we should not expect feminism to arrive in this area any time soon.


Anonymous said...

I think a lot of it occurs because eventually all movements, even the most worthy ones, become about "how much can we get" rather than "let's be equal."

Meanwhile, there is still a lot of feminist work to do, of course. Women are not anywhere near equality in a lot of areas.

But inevitably, someone will be concerned with using some chosen ideology to grab a bigger slice of the pie.

In most places, this would make me a horrible person and a "concern troll," but I am sure you'll know what I'm talking about.


Clarissa said...

These payouts are not an achievement of femnism. This is yet another legacy of patriarchy that disgusts me. And I know precisely what kind of people would hate me for holding these opinions. Honestly, I couldn't care less.

Greenconsciousness said...

YOU ARE RIGHT AGAIN CLARISSA. If feminism were dead that would be one thing but it is in purgatory where any thing can be labeled feminism now. It hurts.