Successful women, marriage and interesting sociological trends.

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Successful women, marriage and interesting sociological trends.



The Price of Power
By Liza Mundy


Also appropos of prominent women and the men who love them, or leave them, or both: The Wall Street Journal had a revealing piece this week about how more men not only are taking alimony from their higher-earning ex-wives but are willing to admit it. Exhibit A is a former soap opera star who is not embarrassed to say he gets $9,000 a month from the TV producer he was married to. Also featured are men who argue that they've moved for their wives' jobs, dialed back their hours for the sake of the kids, and made all those other concessions that women have gotten pretty used to. The ex-wives who are quoted tend to resent the payments; the former wife of the former soap star said she used to spit on the check before she mailed it. (She does not say why she stopped.) But perhaps the most striking detail was a figure from the U.S. Labor Department showing that 33 percent of wives earn more than their mates, a percentage that has been rising steadily. I have to confess, one-third is a higher figure than I would have guessed. It reminds us that we need to recalibrate our thinking: Guys whose wives are more powerful, or more public, or simply better-paid are not outliers—they are part of the norm.

Less upbeat, the WSJ had a related story on a study by a Washington & Lee University law school professor who found that women MBAs are more likely to be divorced than their male counterparts. The prof, Robin Fretwell Wilson, posits that high-powered women (who tend to marry equally driven men) aren't able to give their hubbies the attention and TLC these men may still expect them to bring home, along with their paychecks. A somewhat dreary reminder that it's not always women who expect to have it all.

Wall Street Journal on men receiving alimony: [url=][/url]

Wall Street journal on Gender and MBAs and Divorce


Like the writer of the XX factor column above, I was also very surprised by the 33% figure, in light of the fact the average women makes 70% what the average men makes. That leaves a few options:
1) There's a huge selection effect on married couples and income scaling.
2) The standard deviation of salaries is very large.
I suspect it's 1, but I don't know that much.

Quotes from the WSJ article on alimony.


Mr. Garnick used the alimony to earn a mathematics degree from a community college. But he has returned to his old job selling toilets, where he earns only half what he did before quitting. "Society thinks that just because you are a man you can pick up a career after you have dropped it for 10 years and jump right back," he says. "That's just not the case."

Still, relatives of his former wife continue referring to Mr. Garnick as a "deadbeat," he says. And Ms. Garnick herself says, "In some instances, alimony has become akin to a social-welfare program provided by working women to their ex-husbands."
[Diane Garnick]

Some feminists say cases such as Mr. Garnick's show progress of a sort. "We can't assert rights for women and say that men aren't entitled to the same rights," says the famous feminist lawyer, Gloria Allred.

But the women who have to pay it are sounding a different chord. "I feel financially raped," says Rhonda Friedman, the former wife of Mr. Castellanos. So distasteful are the monthly payments she makes to him that after filling out the check she used to spit on it. Especially galling, she says, is that she was required to pay a substantial portion of the legal fees he racked up while securing a lucrative divorce agreement.

To be sure, some men don't want alimony, viewing it as an embarrassment. Others are just as high-powered as their wives. Yahoo President Susan Decker and her soon-to-be ex-husband have taken alimony off the table, according to court records. Meanwhile, Sara Lee Chief Executive Brenda Barnes is paying no alimony to her ex-husband, a former PepsiCo Inc. executive who now manages his own money. Until their youngest child recently turned 18, Ms. Barnes, who earned a total of $8.7 million in fiscal 2007, was receiving child-support payments from her former husband, according to court records.

[ 07 April 2008: Message edited by: 500_Apples ]


I think people, male AND female, SHOULD be embarrassed about receiving alimony from their ex-spouses. Child support is totally legitimate.

Alimony? Screw that. Maybe for four years, tops, to put the person through retraining or schooling of some kind. Then the purse strings get cut off, period.

Thank dog that was the one thing my ex and I could agree on when we separated. No alimony either way.

martin dufresne

I would be very curious to locate some research on the dynamics surrounding the adoption of Canada's original Divorce Act, in 1968. Why did this go through relatively easily when the Catholic church still had so much sway on Canadian politics?

Is it the arrival of welfare entitlements that made it imperative for government to tithe men?

Up to that point, a man who wanted to divorce his wife had to find an MP to present a private Bill in Parliament (not kidding).

Men who didn't want to bother just ran away, leaving children - and in most cases, women - completely destitute.

Now that many women have achieved a degree of financial independence (or support from the State), alimony seems passй and backward. And the neo-liberal line (vigorously applauded by male conservatives, which should give some pause) is that no women should be seen near it.

But does this take into account the (still very relative) sharing of family and household tasks?

Even if liberal sensitivities will rarely broach the issue, raising 3 or 4 children is more than a full-time job and it's almost exclusively women that give up their career - if they ever had a significant one - to do the m-ot-h-e-r-i-n-g work that is better not mentioned in allegedly progressive "left" circles.

Alimony developed rather late in legal practice because, not only did couples tend to stay together before most domestic services were commercialized and religion waned, but many women died relatively young, worn out after raising umpteen children and slaving to feed, clothe and raise them. Widowers remarried routinely, sometimes within weeks, with nary a memory.

Today, however, many first wives - financially dependent because of decades of one-sided family duties outside the salaried workplace - find themselves junked by a man who has discovered Viagra and an interest for younger pursuits. (I know this will be gloated about as a clichй, but these experiences of women are ringing in food lines throughout the land, so please just stuff your complacency, folks.)

I find it more than a bit callous to allow Mr. to retain 100% of the affluent lifestyle that Mrs.' relatively thankless (and certainly unsalaried) work has bought him, and to casually turn this woman and millions of others like her over to "retraining or schooling of some kind" for her to belatedly become a successful entrepreneur or something. Yeah... While Mr. is rolling in the extra salary her domestic work allowed him to rise to.

Strange that an admittedly misogynist political and legal system acknowledges - to a rapidly dwindling point - these dynamics more than alleged progressives...

At a time where such women are about to lurch into discreet but total poverty because their work for thriving families was not taken into account in government retirement savings plans, I don't think it's an appropriate political position to dump on the people who desperately *do* need alimony - even though they rarely get it and are routinely shamed for even thinking about it. [img]mad.gif" border="0[/img]

[ 07 April 2008: Message edited by: martin dufresne ]