walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

Relationship Roles, the Economy and Crappy Journalism

I wasn't going to post about this, because I'm such a predictable whiner on the topic I'm sure this will not add any insight to anyone who knows me. But I just cannot stop myself.

Here's the original article that annoyed me:


You might have to log-in to access this (free, and worthwhile). I subscribe to Women's E-news, so I get it in my mailbox and sometimes I even read it. As readers of the excellent _Two Income Trap_ by the Warren/Tyagi mother/daughter pair know, when a family which has one earner staying (mostly) at home hits a bad patch of any sort, they have the option of sending that additional earner out into the workforce full time. You can't find a time period where this wasn't true (I dare you -- _try_ to find one) or a place. So this article suffers from the Dog-Bites-Man problem. Further, whenever a woman is bringing home more fungible goodies than the man, the woman's status increases. This is the basis for virtually all developmental aid to women for the last several decades, both in this country and around the world. Again, Dog-Bites-Man.

Not sure why they wrote it. Really unclear why it's such a mediocre article. Whatever -- prepared to ignore it. It may be Dog Bites Man, but a lot of people out there forget that dogs do that.


There is even less excuse for this one, largely because of the tilt. Frank's take on this is not particularly subtle. To begin with, when confronted with this description he quotes from a woman:

“My job was to run the household and the children’s lives,” she said. “His job is to provide us with a nice lifestyle.” But his bonus has disappeared, and his annual pay has dropped to $150,000 from $800,000 a year. “Let me just say this,” she said, “I’m still doing my job.”

Then he says: "Setting aside the likely trials of her job versus his, the quote highlights the financial dynamic underlying their relationship."

Well, it may highlight the financial dynamic, but it also highlights the domestic dynamic. He provides money -- she provides a homelife. When he was making $800K, he thought it was worth it to support a wife and kids. She thought it was worth it to supply that homelife in exchange for that kind of household income. You can characterize this as mercenary, but you can also think of it as contractual. And the party of the first part has defaulted on the contract. In case this isn't clear enough, Frank then adds:

"What the quote ignores is basic economics: He can’t possibly do his “job” if the economy is collapsing."

The quote doesn't ignore that at all. The quote says he was buying what she was selling and now he can't afford it any more. If Frank is going to get up all in the marriage and kids shouldn't be for sale, I've got news for him: marriage and reproduction have _always_ been about access to resources and they always will be. Period. End. Love may or may not be.

Frank goes even further in siding with the defaulting party:

"Hopefully this marriage isn’t dependent on this mirage of finance."

I suppose, for the sake of the kids, we could hope that. But I'll just point out that John McCain left his first wife and their children because she was in a bad car accident which disabled and disfigured her. She defaulted on her contract to be beautiful and that marriage ended. You'd have to work pretty hard to convince me that it would be better for a hypothetical John McCain to stick around until the youngest kid turned 18 and then divorced her for disfigurement and disability -- I'm pretty sure as a mother I'd want that jackass gone sooner rather than later. If you want a marriage to survive for better or for worse, it had better be based on something like, we function better together than we do separately. That has some chance of surviving the vagaries of income, appearance and specific job skills and availability.

R.'s comment when I summarized this was to wonder where a hypothetical wife might find a replacement. I said it didn't matter. Plenty of these guys you can only stand to be around if there's $800K/yr to sweeten them. No money, you're better off alone with the kids. At least you don't have to listen to, look at or otherwise interact with the jackoff. Plus, he won't be hitting you, which is occasionally an issue. Mira Kirshenbaum aptly captures this issue in _Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay_. The hypothetical replacement guy is an interesting question, but the really relevant one is comparing the guy to no guy.

I really can't help but add that if Frank thinks the trials suffered from the $800K/yr guy are that significant compared to running the home front, he's _exactly_ the kind of guy who is only worth having around if he's got a lot of the folding green stuff to spread around. He should thank his lucky stars that _Richistan_ sold so well.

I could imagine someone who did not know R. and me well and did not know the origin and nature of the resources available to our family might well be concerned for poor R., being married to someone as cynical as me. I'll just note that I married him because he's who he is: a great father, and a pleasure to live with. I'm pretty sure he's safe from changes in the economy.
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