Women can always just mooch off husbands?

This, submitted by The Other Anne, surprised me because it actually comes from one of our other regular commenters. That makes things a little awkward, but it’s a big case of fail that needs to be discussed. Clarissa of Clarissa’s Box says male privilege doesn’t exist:

As a woman, I am routinely underpaid and discriminated in the workplace. In this country, women in all professions are paid less than men for performing the same work. This is disgusting, unfair, and wrong. When you experience it yourself, as I did, it is also very painful. So is that male privilege at work? You could say so if it weren’t for one little thing. I could quit my job today and spend the rest of my life painting my nails and snoozing on the couch while my husband would exercise his male privilege to pay all of my bills, bear the financial responsibility for both of us, stress out about the competition in the workplace and the danger of being laid-off, and die several years earlier than I do.

Clarissa, seriously? How long have you been reading my site, girl? You totally disappeared about 95% of American women in that comment – it would be funny if you weren’t serious. First, Anne’s response:


Where to begin? Well, for one, no. Not all women can stay at home and paint their nails while their husbands work. For one thing, not everyone has or wants a husband. Not everyone likes men. Not everyone is upper class, or upper middle class, and can afford to have only one person contributing to a household (assuming this is a hetero marriage). Case in point: my parents. My mom had to work to make ends meet the first many years of their marriage. Then she worked to save her from the boring tedium of not doing anything all day. Now she works because her current husband is a retired pilot with a monthly pension and part time job who mostly sits around all day.

And that’s barely scratching the surface of why this post was so full of ablism, classism, sexism, and completely disappeared non-hetero non-cis-gendered people. Quite honestly the laziest argument I’ve ever read–and one that I got, honestly, last year from a mysoginist “friend” of mine who, after learning I was feminist, went all MRA on me about lazy women and how sexism is a lie because women don’t HAVE to work and men DO and the social pressures on men and girls want to be the little spoon and lesbians just need to find better men and they’ll be cured!

Very well said. My first response had a lot of foul language in it, to be honest, because I am one of those women she “disappears.” I’m from a low-class background, and you tend to attract people from your own class, so I’ve never gotten within spitting distance of marrying a man who was ever going to earn enough to feed two people, let alone kids, too. There are precisely two ways for “low class” women to move up a class: if they’re beautiful, they might get to “marry up.” If, like me, they are not beautiful, they have to get out there and earn it themselves. In either case, depending on a man for anything is usually trouble because you’ve got your class and gender screaming “Walk all over me, no one will care” louder than any badass attitude you might radiate. It tends to attract predators.

Oh, yeah. I didn’t even manage to “mooch” a college degree off my parents. I will be stunned if someday some man making great money offers not only to pay my expenses for life, but to pay for servants and services so I don’t have to stir from the couch, the way Clarissa describes – and comments reveal she really did absolutely mean she wouldn’t have to do anything around the house, except occasionally pop a TV dinner into the microwave. Clarissa’s husband must be earning way above the median household income for their area. But two-earner households earning the median or less by far outnumber households like Clarissa’s. Therefore, our experiences count a lot more than hers, from a statistical standpoint, in determining what options are available to “women” in general. Clarissa claims that all privilege talk is just “lazy thinking” that lacks analysis, but no one’s ever provided a better example of jaw dropping unconscious privilege – or lack of analysis – than this post.

In fact, when you think about it, when did more than maybe five percent of American women ever have the option to actually sit around doing nothing while the house and kids were tended by others? The idea that all women have the eternal option of simply mooching off Hubby is one of the most ignorant and embarrassing holdovers from pampered white well-to-do second wave feminism*. Don’t buy into it.

The system Clarissa’s describing also depends on the economic exploitation of underpaid women: women who continue to provide the services on which Clarissa and her husband depend, women who manufacture the goods which Clarissa and her husband divide, and the women whose unpaid labor (child care, elder care, disabled partner care, etc.) make it possible for the working class men to put in the sort of hours that households like Clarissa’s rely upon them (directly or indirectly) to work.

We all look at society from our position upward. We mainly see the people who have it at least as (relatively) easy as we have it, and until some “lazy thinker” babbling about privilege actually causes us to indulge in quite a bit of “analysis”, we don’t notice all the people who have it tougher than we do. Therefore, ironically, society is better understood by people nearer the bottom, who look upward and see all the layers of people having it “easier.” If you’re already near the top and looking upward, then you aren’t in a good position to recognize how many, many people your uninformed “theories” fail to account for. Privilege absolutely does exist, and it’s lazy thinking and failure to analyze and big unexamined, unrecognized privilege that would make someone think it doesn’t.

At least someone nearer the bottom would be aware of all the types of women Anne mentions, and of what’s been happening to salaries in the US in recent years, and that women who do live like Clarissa describes sometimes find themselves in a scary position if the Prince Charming upon whom they’re 100% dependent turns out to have a dark side.

If patriarchy had ever even potentially worked for every single woman – if all us women could all happily marry someone who would take care of us while we did nothing but take up space and provide sex, and in so doing we would never be at risk for abuse, and never be having sex we don’t want to because it’s the only way we know to get our bills paid – do you really think feminism would ever have gotten off the ground? Who would turn down such a sweet deal if it actually worked for women more than maybe 20% of the time? And I think I’m being generous with that estimate: about ten percent of women are lesbians; some other unknown percent are asexuals; a significant percent of women who depend financially on men find themselves abused; and a huge, vast number of women are in a financial class where Clarissa’s “option” is just a fantasy flogged in romance books and movies of the week. This was all true even when single-income households were feasible for a lot of Americans.

And don’t forget that for some women, staying at home isn’t one option among several: it’s the only choice they have due to disabilities that prevent them from working outside the home, if they’re lucky enough to have a partner who can earn for the whole household. Somehow, painting this “choice” as one endless sunny afternoon of lolling on the cushy sofa disappears those women in a whole new painful way.

The truth is, this great “privilege” Clarissa says women enjoy was designed to work for men. Oh, absolutely, it put a difficult burden on a lot of men who weren’t privileged with the ability or correct skin color or connections to earn enough to provide comfortably for a family. We’ve discussed ad nauseum elsewhere on the site how patriarchy hurts men, too, so I’m not going to derail this article with that.

But men created the arrangement by which women could only obtain the resources they needed to survive by spreading their legs to men, either in holy matrimony or on the streets. Men created it, and men benefited from it, because it was the only way to ensure paternity, provide constant availability of women’s bodies for sex and enforce female faithfulness. And if it’s bothering them so much, they can just ensure fair pay and fair employment any ol’ day now, and let up on the pressure for women to marry men and be faithful to men and bear men children, and we’ll all just take care of ourselves and our offspring while men get to run around free of family commitment unless they opt for it, and see how that arrangement works out. Feminists have been proposing this since forever. No problem, guys! Any day now! Guys? Any takers? Was that a tumbleweed that just rolled by?

The system didn’t evolve to make sure women got well taken care of, or else it would have been tweaked until it, you know, actually did that for more than a small minority of women.

*Check out Elizabeth Warren comparing today’s typical two-income household with the single-income household of 1970, because government data indicates that’s the typical household. Now there’s a woman who, coming from humble roots, actually gets what the typical options are for people in the U.S. today, and on a not-entirely-related note, I thoroughly recommend listening to that lecture.


  1. says

    My dear fiend, “Clarissa” is an immigrant who moved to North America from a third-world country whose language she barely spoke. Almost immediately, she was thrown out of her rented apartment by her husband who took everything she had. Then, she put herself through school while taking care of her teenage sister and working several part-time jobs at any given time. Since the age of 14, the horrible, spoiled Clarissa only lived on the money she made for herself. And continues to do so. She never even allowed any boyfriend or husband to pay for her meal at a restaurant.

    Maybe it would be a good idea for you to stop fantasizing about people’s lives and just ask.

    • Maria says

      ….? Can I ask what ANY of what you just posted has to do with Jenn’s post refuting your original point? Where is she fantasizing about anyone’s lives?

    • Attackfish says

      Since you have been in situations where you were desperate, and where the men who society says should support you didn’t, I find it hard to stomach the fact that you think that women as a class could be safe relying on men for their economic support.

      My family is upper middle class. We are very privileged. And yet? If my mom had stopped working, and we had lost her insurance, I would have died, slowly. My dad’s insurance claims my illness doesn’t exist, and we can’t pay for my doctor on our own, even after we sold the house. If my doctor stopped working? She’s the only provider for her children, and the only doctor in the country who treats what I have. She treats it because her children and herself have it. If she stopped working, all four of them would die. My mom and my brother ended up on the streets when he was two because her first husband abandoned her, and society told my mom that because she was a woman, her job was in the home. She got an art degree and married a man from a good family, and treated him very well. She still ended up on the street, and then on welfare. Fortunately, my grandmother found out, and took her in, but you know what? My grandfather wouldn’t, and my grandmother had to work to support them both until Mom could get back on her feet. And then she had to work to support herself while my mother worked to support herself. And my mom was damn lucky she had someone to fall back on. If the sitting back and letting the man do it model doesn’t even work for privileged middle class women like my mother and grandmother who does it work for? Who does it take care of? It’s designed to foster dependency that keeps women under the control of men. It takes care of men.

      Oh, and anyway? The model postulates that women would take care of the home and the children, and the elderly, and her husband should he fall sick, which is a lot of work. Even managing a staff to do that is a lot of work, and without a staff as nearly all women are, as you know, is extremely hard work. The woman sitting around the house eating bon bons was a post-WWII fantasy.

    • says

      Please reread this statement:

      I could quit my job today and spend the rest of my life painting my nails and snoozing on the couch while my husband would exercise his male privilege to pay all of my bills, bear the financial responsibility for both of us, stress out about the competition in the workplace and the danger of being laid-off, and die several years earlier than I do.

      The language of your statement is in the first person, and it suggests that you are incredibly well-to-do; That you have the option of quitting your job and letting your husband pay all the bills. It also suggests an ignorance about women in different situations. Women who don’t have the option of relying on a successful husband because, whether they are single, a lesbian, asexual, in a lower social standing, etc. they do not have one.

      When you use this kind of language it is quite difficult not to fantasize about who the person at the keyboard is. You can quit your job and let your husband pay all the bills? Take a wild guess what most people picture. This is the internet, you are going to be judged on what you post, and not on your biographical information.

      • says

        This. Additionally, I don’t feel I “fantasized” at all – I merely took her words at face value, and inferred from her description that she’s unusually well-off because I know the two-income household is necessary for all but some upper-middle and the upper class these days.

        Similarly, if she’d said, “I have to work two jobs just to buy a can of beans for my kids”, I’d have inferred that she’s on the less advantaged end of the economic stratum.

  2. JMS says

    So, Clarissa, what was your actual point, then?

    If your point was “The mythologies promulgated in popular culture suggest that I could quit my job tomorrow, &c., but of course that is an imaginary situation that only applies to a small minority of women with social and economic privilege,” that is a different point by far from the point the words you wrote made.

    Readers are not psychics. They respond to the words, not the intention behind them. Nor is it a reader’s responsibility to ask someone what they meant—it’s a writer’s responsibility to be clear.

    • sbg says

      This. If your reworded clarification was intended as the original point, I’ll be relieved. If it wasn’t, then knowing Clarissa’s background only makes it come off worse.

      • says

        Could that possibly have been her point? I read and re-read the original article, and “Shame on people for suggesting things are unfair to women when we all have the option of sitting around on our duffs and painting our nails while men take care of us!” was the only way I could read it.

        And she’s not suggesting anything other interpretation in her response.

        • The Other Anne says

          Her responses to commenter’s disagreements made me very uncomfortable.

          She said one person was being hysterical, and made the claim that her post was just to be viewed as her own anecdote and people shouldn’t infer any universal application she may or may not have intended–and yet the title of her post and her description for it at Feministe implies that she did intend it as something applicable on a large scale. That was what triggered my initial aghast reaction. It would be one thing to say “I don’t think gender privilege exists in my relationship” and another to say “because of my relationship or hypothetical ability within my relationship gender privilege does not exist across the board.”

          • says

            Very much so. There’s no way to interpret it but as a blanket, and shockingly false, statement about women in general. Privilege is about groups of people, so lack of privilege is, too.

    • Chai Latte says

      ZOMG ZOMG SO MUCH THIS. There was a blogger awhile back saying some horribly offensive things about mental health, and every time someone would question her, she’d say “BUT I HAD x, y, AND z EXPERIENCE AND THAT GIVES ME THE RIGHT TO MAKE BLATANT GENERALIZATIONS LIKE WHOA”. Except, NONE OF THAT was in her original post–we were expected to GUESS it, I suppose. THank you so much–you summed up in one sentence what has been festering inside me for months. I feel lots better now! XD

  3. says

    I also have a comment regarding this quote (from her blog post):

    “If a man chose to stay at home permanently doing his nails and snoozing in front of a soap opera, there would be no similar social acclaim and support for him. He’d be a laughing stock and an object of derision for the rest of his life.”

    Then why are there so many men who do exactly this (or not quite…it’s “football and beer” instead of “soap operas and nail-painting”)? Seriously. I have MET men who lived off their wife’s earnings, preferring to stay at home and watch TV or work on their cars or pretend to work on get-rich-quick-schemes. Then there are self-described “pimps” and “playas” who mooch off their women, and far from being denigrated, are sometimes lauded for their ability to manipulate women.

    No matter what men do, there will be other men who step in to defend their actions. There is NEVER universal condemnation of actions taken by even a small group of men…there are people who defend men that commit rape and murder. “Mooching off your woman” is small potatoes.

    THAT is male privilege: the knowledge that know matter what you do, other men will defend you for doing it.

    • Maria says

      You know, there’s also something misogynistic about an argument that supposes when women aren’t working they’re going to be lazy daisies that only care about the fripperies of their appearance.

    • M.C. says

      There is NEVER universal condemnation of actions taken by even a small group of men

      You’re forgetting the widespread condemnation of homosexual and transsexual men. Because men are only allowed gender privilege as long as they identify themselves as heterosexual and cisgendered. And when they don’t, they become “the other” along with women, homosexual, transsexual, transgender and bigender people.

      That’s the problem with relying on privilege – it can be so easily taken away…

    • cycles says

      Anecdata alert: In my corporate peer group (25-40 year old white collar West Coast cube slugs), it seems to be the expectation that both partners have profitable day jobs or a damn good excuse for why they don’t (and of course every excuse is picked over and gossiped about such that no excuse is ever good enough). Any deviation from a dual-wage-earning family results in open denigration. So the option for one partner, male or female, to “just stay home eating bon-bons” isn’t really available without serious social consequences.

      There’s one guy whose partner is trying to establish a career in the art world, so she doesn’t have a traditional paying job. He is the sole money-earner, with the understanding that if she wanted to, she could work in an office job a few days a week to contribute $$ to the pot, but they both prefer to live frugally and give her full-time mental space to create art without being distracted by TPS reports and corporate crap. She’s not just sitting around eating bon-bons, and as most of us probably know, it’s a hell of a lot easier to paint, write or accomplish other big artistic goals if you’re not leading a dual life as a corporate drone. It’s the whole reason artists’ retreats exist, for example. Even so, after explaining all this, people still give this guy hell behind his back for having a “mooching” partner.

      • says

        I’ve had this experience. I’m disabled and can’t work. I continually have well-meaning female friends “encourage” me to get a job because it would be so much better for me to not be dependent on my husband — and other people who are not nearly so nice about it. I’ve been called a lazy bitch and a mooch, because I can’t work. Apparently my physical problems don’t exist; it’s just a moral failing, and I should pull myself up by my bootstraps and get over it. After all, my friends know plenty of people with my conditions who managed to do it, why can’t I!?

        • says

          I really feel for you. I can’t remember a time I haven’t known someone who was getting shamed for not being able to work. I’ve heard people openly speculate that someone really COULD come to work (like you said, a moral failing – especially bad when someone has a mental disorder, because “Don’t they have pills for that?” and “Jesus could help you overcome if only you’d let Him” and so on). I’ve also known people who absolutely know and acknowledge there is no way a particular person could take any of the jobs theoretically available to her and there’s no question about it… and yet they go on to talk about how she’s “getting away with” not working, as if it’s really just a big scam and they envy her for thinking of it first. It puts my jaw on the floor, because I don’t know how to accomplish that level of double-think. Seriously, how??

          • says

            Oh, lord and lady, if I had a penny for every time I’ve heard that I’d be cured if I just turned to Jesus… >_<

            It's fucked up. I would love to work if I could. If my physical issues weren't so bad, I'd be more able to work on my writing career, even if I continued to stay home. As it is, I have such pain and brain fog that I can't focus enough to be creative most of the time, and much of my day is spent blathering around the Internet or killing things in World of Warcraft. Both of which get really boring after awhile when they're all you can freaking do, so the people who sigh and say "You're so luuuucky"… I'd really love to have them spend a week or two in my shoes and then see how lucky they think I am.

            • The Other Anne says

              I had a few minutes where I was so unsure as to whether or not I knew you from another part of the internet. I have a web-friend from a nerd forum named Nonny who identifies as pagan and having disabilities so I totally facebook and blog-stalked you for a minute but I think you’re different people. If the name “Annibal” means nothing to you feel free to ignore my awkward awkwardness! :)

              In other news, I’m sorry people concerntroll you irl. Unsolicited advice from people who supposedly care but fail to empathize with your individual situation can be very annoying. My dad tells me all the time to just be more confident, assertive, and ambitious…completely ignoring my social anxieties that literally make that the most difficult thing I can do besides getting through a day without fixating on how awkward that interaction was, or how I sounded so stupid when I said that one thing, or do I really want to go to the store to get food even though I might buy so much that I’ll have to go through the checkout lines with an actual person and totally screw up that interaction too?

              Urgh. Sorry to make that all about me. Being physically able doesn’t even guarantee that leaving the house and working is an easy thing, and when I get too meek and stay home it’s torture because all I do is berate myself for being so shy.

              • says

                Uh, which nerd forum? I post some on Border House and WoW_Ladies and Inclusive Geeks on LJ. And a few other WoW forums here and there. But I’m awful with remembering names. Before I started using Nonny for everything… well, don’t ask about trying to keep user names straight. >_>

                Seriously, I could fill a book with all the concerntroll things I’ve heard from people that are totally meaning to be helpful. The folks that drop it after I’ve said “tried it, didn’t work” don’t bother me, but then there are the ones that keep at it and try to make it out like I didn’t work hard enough and if I’d only tried harder…!! *resists urge to throttle certain people*

                I totally get the meek and shy thing, too, as I have a fairly severe social anxiety disorder. Even if I didn’t have the physical problems, the anxiety would still be a huge issue.

                • The Other Anne says

                  Nerdforum: Exisle. Started as a fan forum for Andromeda, back in the day. I’m 100% positive that you are not the Nonny I know as I am friends with her on Facebook, but I had to make even more sure! 😀 It’s not a common name, though it is a REALLY cool name.

                  Well, I hope concerntrolls the world over take a hint and stop bothering people, for your sake and others’!

                  • says

                    Nope, that’s not one I’ve hung out on. Funny, though, because I think I’ve only run across a handful of other people with the name in all the time I’ve been on the ‘net!

                • sbg says

                  I don’t know how you do it. Every single time I have a migraine, I will get someone asking me if I’ve taken any aspirin for it or get repeated references to how red my face becomes. Look, I’m in considerable distress and it manifests by flushing skin, okay, and no, I like to suffer so I haven’t even attempted to get rid of this pain. ::eyeroll::

                  That’s minor and I still want to smack people. 😉


        • Patrick McGraw says

          I’ve run in to some of this over my disability, but far less than you have by the sounds of it. But I’m sure my gender has nothing to do with that, right? /snark

      • Anka says

        I’m delurking to say that this one-artist-spouse/one-regular-job-spouse issue is a big issue for me, and it’s great to see someone mention it! My husband, who has a typical 9-to-5 job, says he’s willing to support me while I jumpstart an art career. I was born poor and went the academia/analyst route for survival purposes, managing to fight my way up to the upper middle class due to getting some rare and lucky chances to develop and use my skills. I always wanted to be an artist but was never really in a practical position to do so. But I’m also a feminist and a long-time reader of many feminist blogs, where the general theme usually seems to be that women MUST have regular paying jobs at any cost because they can’t depend on men/circumstances/life, and that it’s really personally irresponsible and like shooting yourself in the foot to do otherwise.

        At the same time, though, I can see that I DO have potentially marketable art inside me and will always regret not letting it out in a dedicated way, and I’ve kept it up when I can for the decade since graduating from college. I just know from experience that it’s impossible to have any energy left over from that 40-hour-per-week-which-is-more-like-60-hours-but-has-health-insurance job to attempt anything more than the occasional exhausted doodling. And never mind kids, which I also want; I saw how women who had kids and could no longer work 60 hours per week got treated at my last job–like they had a disease that others felt like they shouldn’t have to accommodate, and they were ever-so-gently pushed out until they quit in frustration.

        I have a fairly organized plan for my fantasy art career, and I’m definitely not going to sit around eating bonbons either. But I also know that it’ll be a while before I start making any money off it, and in the social stratum I now move in (upper-middle-class, educated, liberal, workaholic, development-and-defense-oriented professionals), I get the strong feeling that not having a job would cause me to be seen as a leech.

        And I love and trust my husband, who is also a feminist, but I do fear the potential lack of security these favorite feminist blogs of mine describe, and having grown up without financial security or family to bail me out, the lack of security is a very real concept for me. I sort of feel like I don’t know whether it’s a totally good idea to advantage of this privilege, which could be illusory in my case, since I didn’t have it before and who knows, I might not again. But then again, art shouldn’t just be the pastime of the rich, and if I don’t do mine, then it doesn’t get made. So I’m going to do it anyway; I just feel conflicted, especially with all the judgment that surrounds women’s “choices” in contemporary American society.

        • says

          For what it’s worth, I’m an artist-type too (would love to write fiction again someday before I die, kind of doubt I’ll ever get the chance), and I’d totally take a chance like you’ve been offered. I don’t consider it a feminist issue: I consider it an issue for people who have ambitions that don’t conform to the job market in their part of the world.

          My one concern for anyone – and I’m going to use pronouns appropriate to your situation, but I’d caution a man in your position just the same way – is this: you must be very sure your partner is not a narcissist (the psych designation for most abusive personalities). This type can be lovely and charming until you become especially dependent, then the power monger abusive side comes out. It’s hard to recognize a narcissist UNTIL the ugly comes out, so it’s a catch-22. So maybe the best thing is to make sure you have an exit plan if suddenly the marriage comes to an end and you can no longer count on his support. If you can swing that – have some money put aside that he can’t access, keep up your working world contacts, etc. – then it’s about as safe as life gets (considering one could find oneself working for a narcissist who would be in a position to abuse one nearly as much as a partner, even making it difficult for one to simply leave and get work elsewhere).

          If I sound paranoid, well… I learned this stuff in early childhood, and I learned it the hard way. But it is a legit concern for anyone. BUT: it is the ONLY concern. I don’t think it’s remotely anti-feminist, because you can be a fairly successful novelist and NEVER get to the point where you’re earning as much as you’d make as an administrative assistant, so I’m aware that a lot of known male novelists are only prolific because they’re supported by their working wives.

          • Anka says

            This advice is very relevant and spot-on for me! I hit the jackpot with both parents–my father has malignant NPD (with a likely sprinkling of ASPD), and my (late) mother had high-functioning BPD/NPD (they often overlap, apparently). My husband is the first significant other I’ve ever had who truly ISN’T a Narcissist, and it took me about six years to really trust him, because I assumed on some level that all people turn into Narcissists once you care about and/or depend on them, and my early dating experiences with other people seemed to confirm that. With my husband, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop and it never did. One of the many reasons why I like The Hathor Legacy so much is because of your writing about Narcissists, which I think the world can’t ever know too much about.

            I also really appreciate the reality check that having private funds and maintaining my professional contacts (both of which I do, without really having thought about it) are legitmate parts of a potential backup plan if necessary, and that it’s not an all-or-nothing, be-completely-independent-or-else-totally-submit scenario. :) It’s also great to be reminded that there are male artists who have working wives and aren’t getting flak for it, or at any rate not quite the same kind of flak, and that the situation of a female artist with a working husband shouldn’t be that different.

            • says

              Oooh, ouch re: your parents. You and I totally have a thing or two in common.

              I’ve finally gotten very good at recognizing narcissists (had this confirmed by psychologists, to make sure I wasn’t delusional), and all my errors in the past decade or so have been false positives. That’s the only reason I ever convinced myself to trust anyone. I think you’ll be well-prepared to (instinctively) take steps to protect yourself while still taking advantage of this great good fortune that’s become available to you. Congratulations!

              PS – I relayed the gist of this to my mom, who reminded me a lot of working wives put their husbands through several degrees. Why are doctors not stigmatized for letting their wives put them through medical school? Why don’t people just decide none of this is any of their freakin’ business?

        • says

          I am currently an unemployed comic artist! The unemployed part is kind of involuntary, though. Lard knows I’ve tried.
          I too wrestle with the dilemma of me basically living the life of the stay at home mom while my husband is the one working. He’s in the military. Sometimes I feel like I am betraying my feminist ideals BUT, then I think about this:
          I worked many an unsatisfying job to help put him through school so he could go through the officer program. I take care of everything while he fulfills his military obligations and I am damn good at it, too. So it isn’t too much to ask for him to support ME while I do arts. We support each other.

          • Maria says

            You know, I never thought I’d see a day where financial planning books for young couples would be more feminist than public perception — one of Suze Orman’s big points is that being mature about money in a couple involves thinking of your finances as a shared pot, not as one person supporting the other or whatever. You SHOULD support each other, and if there’s resentment or allegations of mooching? Think about breaking up.

        • sylvia says

          Anka – Please be aware that whatever path you choose, you will be judged and found wanting :(. Many people wear vomit-colored glasses, and cannot see the good in anything that strays from the very narrow ‘one true path’.

          Quit your good job to fool around with artsy fartsy stuff? what an idiot!
          Blighted your very soul to keep running the rat maze of corporate slavery!

          Although you’ll offend someone no matter what you do, remember that you’ll also please someone no matter what you do! Having a supportive husband is wonderful. Just make sure you recognize the ‘voices in your head’ that replay past conversations are in fact other people’s opinions, not gospel facts.

          it took me forever to shut off some negative opinions /inside my own head/ even though i didn’t agree with their ideas :(

  4. Mel says


    My partner (we are not interested in marriage) and I are barely getting by on two incomes–and of the two of us, I’m the only with the BA and MS (he has a high school diploma) and the potential to actually someday earn enough to potentially support most of us, or at least ensure healthcare and retirement for both of us if we last that long. I’m the one with health insurance (usually paid for out of pocket, but I finally have a job that provides insurance and hope to keep it that way) and retirement (I’m also the one with more student loans, and a car loan).

    If I quit working, we’d end up homeless very quickly. I hardly know any couples who can survive comfortably on one income–of those few who can (although not all do), it’s usually because one partner is in software development or engineering or Defense, and the other is significantly less educated. In many cases, they have one or more children and the less educated partner would only be able to earn enough to pay for childcare in the current economy, so it makes economic sense for them to stay home (obviously taking care of children, cooking, cleaning, taxes, finances, home repairs, etc.–not lying on the couch). More than a few of them wish they could be working outside the home so they could interact more with other adults. Just about everyone I know who stays home with their kids is doing it out of economic necessity, and yes, it’s often–but not always–the woman who is the less-educated partner and hence who has to replace job with children because of the cost of childcare. Funny, that pattern…it couldn’t possibly have anything to do with systemic sexism, could it?

    I’m sort of boggled at the assertion that modern American homemakers (for lack of a better term) only have to “heat TV dinners.” I grew up with two retired parents, not so long ago–so they were both at home, and in theory could contribute equally to the household, right?

    My dad’s household duties were these: putting dishes in the dishwasher after dinner (the rest of the time people put their own dishes in the dishwasher), mowing the lawn (delegated to me once I was big enough for the push mower), very occasionally cooking breakfast. The rest of the time he sat around and read, went for walks, hung out at coffeeshops, and sometimes played chess with me.

    My mom’s household duties were these: cooking food, doing laundry (sometimes delegated to me once I was older), ironing (ditto), doing the taxes (many people pay a pro for this), handing all of the family’s finances (including my dad’s alimony payments to his ex-wife), handling all family scheduling (doctor and dentist appointments for the three of us, classes and school for me), taking me to school and picking me up when I was in high school (when I didn’t take the bus), cleaning the gutters (I helped when I was older, and her friends and I only talked her into hiring someone to do this when she was about 60), basic electrical and plumbing repair, calling a plumber or electrician for the bigger stuff, general yard maintenance (I helped), and about at least 80% of the parenting. I’m probably forgetting quite a bit.

    Now, sure, if someone wants to live on TV dinners, that takes out that duty. If one rents, one doesn’t have to do so much of the maintenance. But everything else? Someone has to take care of that. Does anyone really believe that in a relationship where one partner works 40+ hours a week, they are ALSO taking care of taxes and finances, coordinating all home maintenance, arranging all life logistics, and doing the majority of childcare and parenting?

    If so, I have some property on Mars to sell you.

    After my parents divorced, my mother, in her 50s, went back to work. She had been an engineer, but out of the job market, she had to go for low-paid office work. She’s in her 60s, heading towards “retirement” age, and will likely have to continue working quite a bit longer. My dad proved very bad at taking care of himself, since he’d never bothered to learn the basic tasks of life (like handling his own finances and feeding himself regularly) that the Marines, a wife, or a girlfriend had done for him since age 18.

    Sexism absolutely does hurt men. But not because women can all blithely quit their jobs to be supported by men, and not because male privilege doesn’t exist.

  5. Gategrrl says

    Because not everyone is familiar with “cis gendered”, here’s the definition via Wikipedia:

    Cisgender (pronounced /ˈsɪsdʒɛndər/) is an adjective used in the context of gender issues and counselling to refer to a class of gender identities formed by a match between an individual’s gender identity and the behavior or role considered appropriate for one’s sex.

    And just a note: I’m one of those SAHM mothers with two kids, a dog, and a house to take care of. With a self-employed husband, we agreed before we married that when we had kids, I’d stay home with them. Neither of us wanted to leave our children with strangers (we have some control issues), and although I have at times gone back to work temporarily, he’s managed to do pretty well overall. He’s got the arts diploma, I’ve got the BFA. I don’t eat bon bons and watch TV all day. Laundry, budgeting, food shopping, menu arranging, taking care of constantly sick kids during flu season…if I *had* a paying job, I wouldn’t have one any longer, what with all the days off I’d have had to take just since January kicked in. I’m lucky, though. I can stay home with my kids. Lots of women can’t. My mother couldn’t, though she wanted to be a SAHM.

      • Maria says

        Probably snoozing while watching a soap and letting your nails dry. It’s not your potential rich husband’s fault if you can’t make it work!

        • Chai Latte says

          LOL, indeed!

          Although I think I dreamed the whole ‘snoozing in front of the TV painting my nails and watching soap operas’ while I was working myself to the bone taking care of rich people’s children.

      • M.C. says

        I now feel the need to quote Jane Austen (because every time is the right time to quote JA):

        “There are such beings in the world, perhaps one in a thousand, as the creature you and I should think perfection, where grace and spirit are united to worth, where the manners are equal to the heart and understanding, but such a person may not come in your way, or, if he does, he may not be the eldest son of a man of fortune, the near relation of your particular friend and belonging to your own county.”

        • Chai Latte says

          I admit it, I squee’d. I am such a JA fangirl. (I know some call themselves ‘Janites’, but I prefer ‘Austenista’–it sounds hipper somehow.)

          Hmm, perhaps this is a good time to reread Pride and Prejudice. XD

    • Gategrrl says

      Dunno, every person I know with any amount of money worked their asses off for it, or got extended degrees in order to earn the big bucks, or both. Where do you find these rich guys with inherited wealth? Certainly not at the middle class level I grew up in.

  6. Lika says

    Her comment dismissing class privilege was telling:

    As to class, I find it to be completely irrelevant. People marry into different classes all the time. I have a friend who is from an indigent immigrant class. She married an investment banker and now sits there doing her nails all day long. Again, notice that I used third person singular, not plural.

    I call foul on her claim that using third person is her saying “I’m not projecting one experience on all women” when she she uses the one experience to wipe out the concept of class privilege for everyone. Not every woman gets to marry rich. Doesn’t she realize it’s numerically impossible as there’s not enough rich men for every woman? What planet is she living on?

    I wonder if she has some contempt for her immigrant friend who married the banker, and for other women that the NY Time talks because she sees them as having an easy life and she’s taking that contempt out on all women. She reminds me of Childfree Abby (who makes me want to jab forks in my eyes) with Childfree Abby’s view of “women’s independence” being that we freeloading,hysterical, baby-obsessed women need to learn that we need to “be responsible” and “stop whining” if we want respect.

    • says

      Also, by what logic does she call class irrelevant while talking about marrying into a different class? Class would only be irrelevant if class differences didn’t exist at all, but they do, which she acknowledges.

      Dismissing something as irrelevant while being aware of its existence… now what do we call that again? Oh yeah: privilege.

  7. Elee says

    What boggles me most (not that the rest isn’t mind-boggling on its own) is that she apparently believes that once married a woman automatically reaches a neverchanging status quo. Umm, in what world does she live, that men never divorce? That a divorced partner gets alimony payments until the end of times or that the other partner will cough up the money, regularly, without delay, always the same sum? (I know there are differences in law, but my unterstanding is that in US like in Germany alimony payments nowadays exist only for children, not for divorcees.) Or was it meant ironical, judging from the comment? I don’t even unterstand.
    That aside, there wouldn’t be a greater horror for me to know that I would have to stay at home until the day I die, doing nothing but polishing my nails. I mean, I wish to have enough money someday so that I wouldn’t have to work for a living, but only because I would be able to work on something I like and doing volunteer work. But also being completely dependent on someone else while I am dying from boredom? Hell, no.

    • says

      Additionally, a world where fortunes never reverse – no one ever loses a job they can’t immediately replace, no one ever gets sick and discovers lots of the expenses aren’t covered and they’re just outta luck, etc.

    • says

      In the US, child support is for children and alimony is for ex-spouses. However, it’s a lot easier to get child support and it’s somewhat stigmatized not to pay your child support, being shamed as a “deadbeat dad”. Alimony, even when granted by the courts, is seen as your gold-digging, blood-sucking ex mooching off you and it’s a lot more acceptable to not pay, pay late and pay short.

      • Attackfish says

        In fact, men who mess with alimony payments frequently get congratulated for “sticking it to the bitch”.

        Though plenty of deadbeat dads justify not paying by saying they won’t give a dime to “that bitch” again making it all about the ex-wife. And guys who have kids out of wedlock? The selfish bitch got pregnant for the money. Stiff her.

        Men can win alimony if they were not the primary breadwinners, but it’s even rarer, partly because fewer men are in that situation upon a divorce, and partly because of the stigma against it. It’s considered emasculating, a disgusting concept in and of itself.

        • says

          Deadbeat dads are somewhat stigmatized, but unfortunately not stigmatized enough. A guy can always spin it that his ex-wife could support their children by herself, she doesn’t need him to do it. Never mind that they’re his children too and in most cases he isn’t putting in the time and energy that the mother does. Who’s getting up at 3 AM when the kid vomits and who’s walking them through their bedtime temper tantrums?

          • says

            EXACTLY. Too many men can father children, then still live the carefree single life. No sitters, no teacher conferences/homework, no driving to activities, no illness, no 24/7 parental “on-duty” mental state. Writing a check every week/month is not the same as being responsible for a kid most of the time where you can’t come and go as you please and your choice of job is severely dependent upon available child care.

            Anecdotally, even the newly separated couples I know where the dad gets the kids 4 days a week, he STILL avoids doing things like plan b-day parties, school shopping, doctor’s appointments, and making sure the kids see their grandparents. That’s all mom’s job.

            My spouse is in the military, so I live the life of the single mom for months at a time. It’s not easy and I can’t imagine trying to do it with no monetary support or grief for what little support I would get.

            • Maria says

              EEEEEEEEEEEEEEE another feminist military spouse EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE you’re like a unicorn let’s be friends forever!

              • says

                Yesyesyes!! You’re right, they are like unicorns! I have tried to be friends with a few, but they have largely not been interested in my geeky feminist self’s awkward attempts to be one of them. Come to think of it, same with the other moms at my son’s school. In my younger years, I used to say “I don’t get along with women!” because I was one of THOSE women. Now, I *want* to get along, but it is hard to find someone that 1)shares my values OR 2) doesn’t share my values but is okay with me having my own values and doesn’t mistake my unwillingness to martyr myself with ever-mounting and unappreciated duties to show I am the best mommy evar as being a slacker who hates my kid. Well, okay, I’m a little bit of a slacker…but there’s principle behind it, dammit!

                I would LOVE to read another sweet feminist book! I eat ’em up like candy. :) Recently I finished up the Mommy Myth by Susan Douglas and Meredith Michaels.

                Feel free to email me anytime at jt underscore petro at comcast dot net.

            • Maria says

              I just read a GREAT article on feminist co-parenting and the military by Pamela Aronson! <3 <3 <3

              My enthusiasm! LET ME SHOW YOU IT.

      • says

        I work for Child Support Services up here in Alaska…I guarantee that despite our best efforts, a lot of people simply do not pay. I’ve seen cases that were tens of thousands of dollars in arrears.

        • Elee says

          I might be biased because of my work background, but if nearly 40% of my cases consist of single-mothers, who can’t get their exes to pay child support even when the court ordered them to, I don’t see how the scenario would work. (I got a little confused about alimony and child support, because here alimony for ex-spouses is nearly extinct for “normal” couples, sorry about that, but I’m extrapolating that it would be even worse when a woman would – theoretically – be able to take on a fulltime job, even if it is a low-pay sector. And if there are no children involved, good luck finding a judge who won’t tell exactly that.) Ironically, nearly another 40% of my cases are families with at least one spouse working full-time and not making enough money. Gosh, what were these women thinking, not holding out for a millionaire?

  8. Charles RB says

    I remember back in 08, there was a Guardian or Times article on families that did happily exist on a one person income where the woman didn’t work – until the recession hit. And the marriages were under great strain after that, especially if the husband couldn’t get a new job but the wife could. It’s a set-up that’s more vulnerable to our old friends, Shit and Happens.

  9. says

    Another point is that these sugar daddies aren’t supporting you for free. If you’re not managing the household and the children, then you’re probably paying with sex and attractiveness. This guy will feel that you owe him sex and don’t have the right to say no, because after all you’re not doing anything else to earn your keep. And being a trophy wife is a full time job. Constant self-maintenance at spas and salons, always being up to date on fashion and never being allowed to look less than perfect. Not to mention dangerous cosmetic surgery.

    It sounds nice, having a sugar daddy pay for your pedicures and shopping trips, but heaven help you if he thinks you don’t look as good as Bob’s wife or you embarrass him in front of his boss by wearing last year’s shoes. If you are a symbol of his status, then you must always be the best trophy you can be. And it’s ultimately futile, because we all age and there are plenty of younger, better-looking women ready to replace you on his arm. When you no longer have sex and attractiveness to trade, you’ll be out on your ass with nothing (bet you wish you hadn’t signed that pre-nup, but such is life).

    • says

      I just like everything you say, lol. :)

      Even with a nice guy, there’s still un unspoken expectation that he’s “taking care of you” so you better be accomadating. Wink wink. Even if HE doesn’t demand it, others will, like family and friends.

  10. Casey says

    This thread reminds me, I guy who works for my dad got drunk at my house and blabbed to me that my dad is always complaining to him behind my mom’s back about how she’s “just” a housewife and doesn’t have a “real” job. “SHE WANTS AND WANTS AND WANTS SO MUCH BUT SHE DOESN’T DO ANYTHING!” (the drunk guy’s quote)

    A.) All she WANTS is for the bills and rent to be payed
    B.) She can’t get a job not only ‘cuz of that 9%+ unemployment rate but because SHE HAS A CRIMINAL RECORD YOU IGNORANT FUCK-HEAD

    (it’s a really stupid record for pot possession, too)

  11. says

    Casey: B.) She can’t get a job not only ‘cuz of that 9%+ unemployment rate but because SHE HAS A CRIMINAL RECORD YOU IGNORANT FUCK-HEAD

    You reminded me of another type of abuse I’ve seen. (Not suggesting your father’s abusive, I wouldn’t know.) A friend of mine was trapped in an abusive marriage; one of the ways he abused their two teenagers was to give them drugs and order them to take them. They were prescription drugs, but bought off the black market and not prescribed for the teens legally. When the wife finally filed for divorce, the husband called children’s services and told them she was the one who gave the teens the drugs. The social workers did a piss poor job of investigating (which is not a new pattern; it’s scary how much law enforcement will help an abuser maintain his control when he is calm and rational and his victim is visibly upset). They interviewed one of the teens but didn’t listen to her answers and didn’t even bother talking to the other child. Now the wife has a record that prevents her from working with children.

  12. sbg says


    People are always telling one of my sisters to stop complaining about how they have zero money and “just get a job” to help fill the gaps created when her husband lost a good paying job and chose to strike out on his own (and is still consistently in the red five years later). Yes, certainly. Because jobs are simply being handed out and at the top of the list to get them are housewives who haven’t been in the “real” job market for 16 years. ::eyeroll::

  13. says

    Sylvia Sybil,

    It’s mind-boggling how many cases would have more just outcomes if the law enforcement people involved were simply told: “Believe the hysterical ones, not the calm ones. Just trust us.” While that’s a HUGE oversimplification, it’s much closer to the truth than the huge simplification these people are operating under currently, which is precisely the opposite.

  14. Casey says

    Sylvia Sybil,

    Don’t worry, my dad’s not really abusive, he’s just a jerk (well, both my parents are kinda jerk-asses, I’ve explained why in the “What it means to be a woman” article on What Privilege), it’s just…a sort of jerk-mentality that I personally don’t feel qualifies as me being abused.
    This is OT, but I just realized that one time in 3rd grade, my teacher physically assaulted me (technically speaking, I was in a pissy mood at the beginning of class because the late bell hurt my ears; I was very sensitive, especially back then), I ended up sulking at my desk with my fingers in my ears when we were supposed to do the pledge of allegiance and apparently the teacher was hollering at me to get up. I didn’t hear her (‘cuz of the ears being plugged and whatnot) so she grabbed me from behind and jerked me to my feet, dragging me to the front of the class. That scared the shit out of me ‘cuz I couldn’t hear….hmm. Aside from that one instance, she and all my other teachers were cool. :S

  15. MB says

    Wow, great blog…so many valid points! So I’m obviously late to the party but I would like to share my thoughts.

    I am 30 years old, married at 24. My husband is 13 years older than me. We have no children because he doesn’t want them and because according to him, our financial situation doesn’t allow it.

    Finding jobs has always been extremely difficult for me for various reasons…my location, a severe learning disability called dyscalculia, and crippling anxiety/depression. I am now battling physical health issues as well. I’ve had a couple of part-time jobs and one unpaid internship in the past, but nothing permanent or secure. Being unable to find work means that people often feel it is their right to shame and belittle me for being “lazy”.

    None of these people understand my situation but they have no problems with talking shit. I can relate to Nonny who posted above, because that is my experience. My husband is the sole breadwinner and I feel incredibly guilty as it is. One of my aunts has been making comments lately about me being “just” a housewife who supposedly sleeps all day…not true.
    My husband has these friends who aren’t necessarily bad people, but they tend to be a bit overbearing. His friend’s wife and the friend’s mother have actually confronted me on numerous occasions about why I don’t have a job, how I should be looking for a job and how I should at least have babies to keep me busy since they *think* I don’t want to work. What’s funny is that the friend’s wife is a stay at home mom of two school-age children AND she is married to a millionaire…privilege at its finest. Plus, unlike me, she is white and didn’t grow up in near-poverty and an abusive environment. The judging never stops.

    Then last year, my husband and I had an argument about me not having a job…despite the fact that only a few days before, I was in tears because I was so desperate, and I pleaded with him to help me put a resume together. He said it was unfair that he worked all the time while I supposedly was living the good life. So we had a few heated words and then later we sat in silence watching TV. There was this show about a guy who took advantage of his wife, didn’t work, and was also not a decent person in other ways. My husband said something about the guy being a “moocher”…I could see him looking at me while he said it. I didn’t say anything in return but that comment still hurts. He didn’t actually come out and call ME a mooch, but it was definitely implied.
    I understand that maybe it was said out of frustration but it still haunts me. I don’t ask for much at all, from anyone. I learned from an early age that my feelings and needs were unimportant to most people. I know it must be very difficult and stressful for my husband to do it all by himself…I’m grateful to him for what he’s done. We’re not rich but we do OK. But at the same time, it hurts to know that he resents me and that some people think he could have done better than marrying me and that he feels I’m a lazy mooch.

    Let’s see…I might get the occasional pedicure but otherwise, I don’t get beauty treatments. Most of the makeup I own is drugstore stuff, with the exception of one high-end product. I don’t shop a lot either, although he seems to believe otherwise. I wore the same pair of blue jeans for 3 years until they fell apart. My jewelry is all costume stuff and my clothes/shoes mostly come from discount stores. I don’t mind when he takes me out to eat, but sometimes I feel like he blames or resents me. Obviously I’m not a trophy wife and I don’t look the part. I’m not eating bon bons at home or out to lunch with “the girls”.
    I’ve become an overweight, unappreciated wife…my hair looks like crap most of the time because few people know how to deal with Black hair where I live and contrary to what he thinks, I’m not spending money on myself all the time. Maybe once in a while I’ll buy a lipstick or a pair of earrings but that’s about it.

    Oh, and during the holidays last year his sister made a snide comment implying that I’m a gold-digger. Why? Because one of the movies I received for Christmas was the romantic comedy “How to Marry A Millionaire” starring Lauren Bacall and Marilyn Monroe. It is just a silly movie that I happen to love, nothing more. It bears no reflection on my morals or character. I was taken aback by what she said. It was completely uncalled for but that’s how many people think. No matter what a woman does, somebody will always be there to look down on her.

    • says

      Your situation is so unfair. In addition to everything else you mention here, a positive attitude is critical in job interviews, and in my own experience, when you feel endlessly judged for not having a job, you can come off as desperate in interviews. So these people in your life are actually making a tough situation even harder for you. :(

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