Carrie Wooten

Money, and success, and independence... oh my!

Filed By Carrie Wooten | August 15, 2006 7:10 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement

Last semester, I read a small article in Cosmopolitan about what to do if you (being female) are making more money than the man you are dating. Basically, the entire thing was geared toward how to cushion this extreme blow to the male ego. Well, it seems Cosmo has reared its ugly, repressive head again. Today on The Early Show, Kate White, the editor-in-chief at Cosmopolitan magazine made an appearance to discuss how to head off the potential marrital problem that is a woman making more than her husband.

My mom actually tipped me off on this story when she saw a commercial for it yesterday. She earned substantially more than my father for many years while working for IBM, and was appauled at the suggestion that a woman making more than her husband was percieved as a problem in this day and age.

Sadly, it is. And a Harvard professor has even written a book about it. Manliness by Harvey C. Mansfield touts male domination in all aspects of life, especially in the financial arena. While being interviewed on The Colbert Report, Mansfield even suggested that a wife never be allowed to make more than two-thirds of her husband's income. We must keep the systems of power in place, you know.

It is disturbing to me that sexism is being promoted and upheld by anyone, but when it comes from the mouth of a woman, such as White, it is the ultimate tragedy. The key manipulative move of the backlash against feminism and the Women's Movement is to make women think that they need to be submissive and subordinate to men... that they must always think of how their independent actions will come back to harm the psyches of their spouses. That male dominance is the "natural order" of things. When we (women) buy into the propaganda, we are losing ourselves and our identities. No one's identity should be that of service and subordination to another.

Kate's interview also posits another harmful perspective - that of keeping your marriage together at all costs. Instead of choosing the point-of-view that a man being insecure due to marrital financial balance is a problem, the success of the woman is made the issue. And the woman better fix that issue if she wants her marriage to succeed. All the responsibility is placed on her. The atmosphere of "you are doing something a bit inappropriate, here's how to deal with that" is palpable. Should we really be saying that a wife should always keep her success in check, so as not to offend her husband?

The damage done by these ideologies will continue until women are seen as those deserving of respect and ones who should never have to submit. To me, the ideas that these two people have promoted are extremely violent, and I am very concerned about those who are listening to (and agreeing with) them. We must not sit quietly in the background to avoid offending the "man of the house."

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Who did the author dedicate the book to - Dr. Laura?

I wonder how many young girls read and believe these ideas. It IS scary. I will never forget the first time I played Scrabble with my boyfriend (now husband). I was 15 and it was 1966. We sat down on the floor to play, and I instinctively knew I could beat him. Not having much dating experience, these thoughts went very quickly through my head - "should I let him win?" "will he think I'm not feminine enough if I win?" Well, I followed my instincts and won the damn game!

I think the pendulum is swinging back to the 1950's in some way. There must be a middle-ground between the hard-core feminism of the 70's (which wasn't so bad anyway) and the female submissiveness of the 1950's (which was so bad). Another image I remember from my childhood is when my mother used to sign her name on my report cards. She wrote (e.g.) Mrs. JOHN Doe instead of Mrs. MARY Doe. Even as a small child I could not understand why a woman would write her name like that - to me it was stealing her identity. There were also households where the wife could only vote what her husband voted.

This book seems like it's taking many steps backwards. I only hope that young girls don't take it to heart.

P.S. - I think I must offend the man of the house on a daily basis :)

Bruce Parker | August 16, 2006 1:06 AM

I do wonder if truly enlightened men wouldn't be happy to not work and have their wives support them. That is an option I would definitely be open to exploring.

Dave's been suggesting that since we first started dating. He already has the van... he'd be a great soccer dad. =)

Bruce, if I could have made enough money, I'd have been happy to have my husband stay home and take care of the house, cook, clean, shop, etc. As long as I made enough money and didn't have to do those chores, that would have been fine with me. But unfortunately, I never had the potential to make those kind of dollars. We place too much emphasis on "traditional" roles. What people don't realize is that what they think is traditional, is not. You can go through history and see how women have supported families, their husbands, etc. It's the same with the "traditional" family - husband, wife and 2.5 children. Only on TV.