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Wealthy Women Can Afford to Reject Marriage, but Poor Women Can't

Posted by on Feb. 6, 2016 at 8:32 AM
  • 12 Replies
In a Wall Street Journal editorial this week, Bush administration press secretary Ari Fleischer wrote that "'marriage inequality' should be at the center of any discussion of why some Americans prosper and others don't." He cited statistics about the vast income disparities between single women and married women, regardless of race, and argued that these gaps would shrink if women stayed in school and waited until marriage to have kids.

At an Atlantic summit on female poverty on Wednesday, the women in the room would have none of that.


"When you say to women, to get out of poverty you should get married, my question to them is how many men you have to marry," said Barbara Ehrenreich, the author of well-known book on low-wage workers, Nickel and Dimed. "Marrying a 10-dollar-an-hour man gets you nowhere, so you'd really have to marry three or four."

There was laughter and applause. Clearly, the mostly female audience approved of her sharp-tongued dismissal of the "just get married" approach to solving income inequality.


But income actually has a significant effect on how women can afford to think about marriage. Often, self-described feminists question the merits of marriage and urge their fellow women to remain independent if they choose. As Carol Gilligan, a New York University professor who sat on a panel with Ehrenreich, put it, "Does anybody know the word patriarchy?"

Taking a stand against patriarchy is much easier if you're well-educated, have a stable income, and live in a community where you could theoretically find an educated, employed man to marry. For poor, uneducated women, especially those who have kids, the question of whether to get married looks a lot different: It's the choice between raising children on one or two incomes, between having someone to help with household chores and child-rearing alone while working multiple jobs.

And that's the big difference: For a poor woman, deciding whether to get married or not will be a big part of shaping her economic future. For a wealthier woman, deciding whether to get married is a choice about independence, lifestyle, and, at times, "fighting the patriarchy." There's a cognitive dissonance in Ehrenreich's straight-up dismissal of the economic benefits of marriage, because the statistics tell an awkward truth: Financially, married women tend to fare much better than unmarried women.

This topic has been covered extensively in The Atlantic and other publications. But the way this question is covered in the media tells a similar story of the fundamental divide in who can afford to stand against marriage on principle. Take, for example, two articles on marriage in the New York Times: One is about a 35-year-old Argentinian woman who fears that marriage will erode her independence, while the other is about the vast economic disadvantages that poor, single mothers face. The women profiled in the second story aren't worried about being controlled by men or losing their carefree lifestyle; they're worried about how one income can feed, house, and clothe two (or more) people. Wanting a certain lifestyle, or even wanting to fight against societal pressures to marry, are both questions of privilege.


This is not to say that all low-income women should marry, that it's their fault if they're not married, or that marriage is the silver-bullet solution to solving income inequality, as Fleischer and his supporters might argue. But it is important for the resistance against "patriarchy" to be mixed with a recognition of statistical reality: Marriage is good for women economically.

As chanteuse of the single lady, Beyonce is an interesting litmus test for this. She recently wrote an essay about gender inequality in the Shriver Report on women and poverty, and a song on her most recent album contains this sample from a TED talk given by artist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:

We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We say to girls, 'You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful. Otherwise you will threaten the man.' Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important. Now marriage can be a source of joy and love and mutual support. But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we don’t teach boys the same?
This is an important question, especially because it frames the cultural pressures surrounding marriage in the right way: Why don't we teach boys that they need to get married, the way we teach this to girls? For the single, poor women (and single, poor men) of the world, this question needs to be accompanied by another: If I choose not to marry, what will be the economic consequences?

"Single ladies" who decide not to get married should be empowered to make that choice and share their perspectives with the world. But women who can comfortably support themselves (and possibly their children) on one income should not assume that low-income women are facing an identical choice.


http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/01/wealthy-women-can-afford-to-reject-marriage-but-poor-women-cant/283097/?utm_source=SFFB
by on Feb. 6, 2016 at 8:32 AM
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Replies (1-10):
ALynn565
by New Member on Feb. 6, 2016 at 8:40 AM
1 mom liked this

  Women do not have to depend on a man. If you do not love that man, then do not marry him. There are opportunities for women to go back to school, and learn a good trade, or get a degree.. You can only depend on yourself, do something about it. 

Fayanne
by Bronze Member on Feb. 6, 2016 at 8:56 AM
3 moms liked this

that's too damn much to read this early in the morning... lol.

I 'm just glad my mother gave me enough brains to learn how to be independent, and that I've passed that on to my daughters.

flika
by Bronze Member on Feb. 6, 2016 at 9:21 AM
1 mom liked this
Lol. I read it four times bc I couldn't understand haha... But it's interesting.

I'm with you with this. I'm still single and definitely not settling just bc it might be easier. Easier could end up in lots of heartaches, who has time for that or want that!! 😨


Quoting Fayanne:

that's too damn much to read this early in the morning... lol.

I 'm just glad my mother gave me enough brains to learn how to be independent, and that I've passed that on to my daughters.

Goobergal
by Bronze Member on Feb. 7, 2016 at 7:39 AM
3 moms liked this
True dat. For me I had the education but I followed his dreams. Mine were to stay home w the children. It was a win for me altho now I pay for it.

I do agree this is a patriarchal society. The capitalist ideas in this county do not allow prosperity for all and the continued marginalization of women costs all but the privileged dearly. Were opportunity available to all, we wouldn't have the super wealthy 1%. Women would not suffer a wage disparity.

Well I could go on and on. But I'm sleepy
flika
by Bronze Member on Feb. 7, 2016 at 7:51 AM
1 mom liked this
Please go on when you are awake😊
My dream was also to be with my kids. We suffered a lot after divorce and kind you said, the wage disparities is a huge problem here.

I started college when I knew it was over. Finished just before things changed for the worse. I wasn't able to contribute until 2013. I could be graduating this Dec but I'm waiting to find out if I get the BFA. If I do, then I have to wait until next January for the one class I need. Then I'll graduate in May 2017.



Quoting Goobergal: True dat. For me I had the education but I followed his dreams. Mine were to stay home w the children. It was a win for me altho now I pay for it.

I do agree this is a patriarchal society. The capitalist ideas in this county do not allow prosperity for all and the continued marginalization of women costs all but the privileged dearly. Were opportunity available to all, we wouldn't have the super wealthy 1%. Women would not suffer a wage disparity.

Well I could go on and on. But I'm sleepy
Plasticmouse
by Member on Feb. 7, 2016 at 8:50 AM
1 mom liked this
This article addresses how I was raised by my mother-thank goodness. She raised both my brother and myself to be independent, go to school, get a higher education, etc. So I never wanted any man supporting me due to having an addict for a father. I always knew I would never depend on a man to take care of me. Thank goodness for my mother's own values and how she was raised-to be well educated, have your own career, etc.. When I went through my divorce, financially I didn't have to worry about raising my child on my own. I was also proud that I chose marriage and family at a later stage in life which worked for me. By the time I married, I owned my own home, had my career, etc. My divorce was a blessing. He was the dead weight, I had to rid myself of. My life became easier without this person in it.
flika
by Bronze Member on Feb. 7, 2016 at 9:03 AM
That's great! How old were you when you got married, if you don't mind me asking?



Quoting Plasticmouse: This article addresses how I was raised by my mother-thank goodness. She raised both my brother and myself to be independent, go to school, get a higher education, etc. So I never wanted any man supporting me due to having an addict for a father. I always knew I would never depend on a man to take care of me. Thank goodness for my mother's own values and how she was raised-to be well educated, have your own career, etc.. When I went through my divorce, financially I didn't have to worry about raising my child on my own. I was also proud that I chose marriage and family at a later stage in life which worked for me. By the time I married, I owned my own home, had my career, etc. My divorce was a blessing. He was the dead weight, I had to rid myself of. My life became easier without this person in it.
2boysnaprincess
by Member on Feb. 7, 2016 at 3:32 PM
Since I kind of am in the shoes of being the one who has always held the job and provided insurance and had the steady income. I kind of feel like my husband has relied to heavily on that which is why he has never really had to be the responsible one.

when he had a boss he did not like, he quit.

When he wanted time off for hunting or fishing he requested time off, if they said no he quit.

He looked for cash paying jobs a lot

when he had to be.responsible for paying bills like i always had, he quit 6 weeks in even though we really needed him to have an income.

When he wanted to be self employed he did while I worked and was the constant pay check

Without him we won't suffer financially we will either be in the same boat or better off

I went to school got my bachelor's while working full time and raising 3 kids with little help from him.

Unfortunately where we live limits my income regardless of my degree. 8 really wanted to get a bachelor's in nursing but knew I couldn't realistically because I could not depend on him.

I guess my point is regardless of wealth status we all create own destiny. I allowed dh to be a sub par provider for us for years. I regret it and realistically all the reasons related to income are no different now than they were then. I am just finally in that place that I know something has to change. I have no desire to remarry anytime soon and everything I am doing is based on what is best for everyone.
tottaxi
by Battle Weary on Feb. 7, 2016 at 3:49 PM

Since you have been the breadwinner you will have to be very careful and be sure that your custody agreement names you as CP.  In shared custody (very common now) you might end up paying him child support!

Quoting 2boysnaprincess: Since I kind of am in the shoes of being the one who has always held the job and provided insurance and had the steady income. I kind of feel like my husband has relied to heavily on that which is why he has never really had to be the responsible one. when he had a boss he did not like, he quit. When he wanted time off for hunting or fishing he requested time off, if they said no he quit. He looked for cash paying jobs a lot when he had to be.responsible for paying bills like i always had, he quit 6 weeks in even though we really needed him to have an income. When he wanted to be self employed he did while I worked and was the constant pay check Without him we won't suffer financially we will either be in the same boat or better off I went to school got my bachelor's while working full time and raising 3 kids with little help from him. Unfortunately where we live limits my income regardless of my degree. 8 really wanted to get a bachelor's in nursing but knew I couldn't realistically because I could not depend on him. I guess my point is regardless of wealth status we all create own destiny. I allowed dh to be a sub par provider for us for years. I regret it and realistically all the reasons related to income are no different now than they were then. I am just finally in that place that I know something has to change. I have no desire to remarry anytime soon and everything I am doing is based on what is best for everyone.


2boysnaprincess
by Member on Feb. 7, 2016 at 7:51 PM
One thing I have on my favor is that he did not stay home to care for them while I worked. He still had his mom babysit up until recently so he would be hard pressed to prove otherwise plus I am the one that takes them to appointments games etc not him. And they all want to stay primarily with me.

Quoting tottaxi:

Since you have been the breadwinner you will have to be very careful and be sure that your custody agreement names you as CP.  In shared custody (very common now) you might end up paying him child support!

Quoting 2boysnaprincess: Since I kind of am in the shoes of being the one who has always held the job and provided insurance and had the steady income. I kind of feel like my husband has relied to heavily on that which is why he has never really had to be the responsible one.

when he had a boss he did not like, he quit.

When he wanted time off for hunting or fishing he requested time off, if they said no he quit.

He looked for cash paying jobs a lot

when he had to be.responsible for paying bills like i always had, he quit 6 weeks in even though we really needed him to have an income.

When he wanted to be self employed he did while I worked and was the constant pay check

Without him we won't suffer financially we will either be in the same boat or better off

I went to school got my bachelor's while working full time and raising 3 kids with little help from him.

Unfortunately where we live limits my income regardless of my degree. 8 really wanted to get a bachelor's in nursing but knew I couldn't realistically because I could not depend on him.

I guess my point is regardless of wealth status we all create own destiny. I allowed dh to be a sub par provider for us for years. I regret it and realistically all the reasons related to income are no different now than they were then. I am just finally in that place that I know something has to change. I have no desire to remarry anytime soon and everything I am doing is based on what is best for everyone.

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