Fish Eaters: The Whys and Hows of Traditional Catholicism

``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D

The Garbage Generation
Chapter VIII
The Weitzman Fallacy

Dr. Lenore Weitzman's book The Divorce Revolution argues that ex-husbands owe ex-wives far more alimony and child support money than divorce courts now compel them to pay. She deems it unjust that the ex-husband should walk away from his marriage with his earning ability intact while the ex-wife has little earning ability to walk away with. This male earning ability, the principal inducement the man had to offer the woman for marriage, is referred to as an "asset of the marriage," and therefore (by feminist logic) belongs equally to the unmarried (divorced) woman and the unmarried (divorced) man, while the children, the chief asset of the marriage from the man's point of view, are presumed to be the property of the woman by biological right.

The statistics Dr. Weitzman offers in support of her contention--the divorced man's standard of living is said to rise by 42 percent, the divorced woman's standard of living to fall by 73 percent--have become an established part of the folklore of feminism. The original feminist position, given in Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, had been that women ought to be independent, to stand on their own feet and face life's challenges on their own "without sexual privilege or excuse." Ms. Friedan withdrew this view when the cold winds of economics began blowing and her feminist followers began blaming her for the loss of their husbands' paychecks:

We did not realize the trap we were falling into [wrote Ms. Friedan in her 1976 book It Changed My Life]. We fell into a trap when we said, "No alimony!" because housewives who divorced were in terrible straits. We fell into another trap by accepting no-fault divorce without provision for mandatory settlements.

Being independent was great as long as it meant not having reciprocal responsibilities; losing the free ride was less great. It was accordingly necessary to devise a new justification for the ex-wife's retaining of the ex-husband's money, this being that most of the "assets of the marriage" consist of the husband's earning ability. The argument is thus stated by feminist Terry Arendell:

Most of these [divorced] women viewed their husband's earnings and earning ability as rightfully being a community property issue.

Ms. Arendell regards it as proper that ex-husbands should subsidize ex-wives but wholly unfair that ex-wives, if they re-marry, "would lose all financial help from their former husbands" while "their ex-husbands...could re-marry at will and still lose nothing of what they had taken out of their marriages." No matter that they had also taken their earning ability into their marriages. No matter that the first marriage no longer exists, having been dissolved by divorce. No matter that the second marriage does exist and that the man's earning ability is benefiting his second family, to which he is bound by legal and affectional ties. No matter that the ex-husband cannot suffer any deprivation by his re-marriage because the ex-wife never gave him anything of which he might be deprived.

The husband's economic-provider services were common property during the marriage because the wife's reciprocal services were also common property. But by divorce the wife has withdrawn her services. She doesn't go to her ex-husband's home to do his laundry, mop his floors, and prepare his meals. What Ms. Arendell's argument comes to is this: she agrees with Ms. Friedan that "society asks so little of women" that (apart from bearing his children) the wife's contribution to the husband bears no comparison to the husband's contribution to the wife. In withdrawing her services at the same time that she withdraws her really substantive contribution to the marriage, the children, she is withdrawing something so trifling that Ms. Arendell can truly say the ex-husband is walking away with most of the assets of the marriage.

Hence, according to feminist reasoning, the women who make themselves independent by divorce are entitled to perpetuate their dependence by alimony and child support awards.

Dr. Weitzman's statistics concerning the ex-husband's improved and the ex-wife's deteriorated standard of living are spurious. But suppose they were valid. What then? First, it follows that there are excellent economic reasons for placing children of divorce in the custody of fathers rather than mothers.

Second, it follows that during the marriage the husband performed extremely valuable services for the wife, so valuable that when they are withdrawn her standard of living falls by 73 percent.

(The wife's "unpaid" services to the husband during marriage are frequently referred to in feminist literature as something justifying compensation. How can a woman's standard of living be lowered by 73 percent by divorce if all she is losing is the non-payment of nothing?)

Third, it follows that the husband performed these services at great sacrifice to himself, so great that even with his continued subsidization of her by alimony and child support payments, and despite the ex-wife's withdrawal of her "unpaid services" worth $25,000 a year (Gloria Steinem's estimate), his own standard of living, once he is partially emancipated from her, skyrockets by 42 percent.

Fourth, it follows that during the marriage the husband had nothing to show for having raised his wife's standard of living by 73 percent at a cost of a 42 percent lowering of his own--nothing except the loss of his children and his motivation (not to mention the probable loss of his home, etc.). But this loss of children and motivation is an economic fact of the first importance. From the economic standpoint, the ex-husband's greatest asset is not his skill, not his degrees and credentials, not his customer goodwill, not his reputation, but his motivation, which in the typical case (since most divorce actions are initiated by wives) the wife herself destroys--and then demands to be compensated for.

Fifth, it follows that Dr. Weitzman is glaringly inconsistent in maintaining on the one hand that the wife's contribution to the marriage is the reason for the husband's (and ex-husband's) economic success, and on the other that he owes her a post-marital free ride despite the fact that she has been a ball-and-chain on him, lowering his standard of living by 42 percent. One is reminded of Betty Friedan's assertion that "There are, of course, many reasons for divorce, but chief among them seems to be the growing aversion and hostility that men have for the feminine millstones hanging around their necks."

Sixth, it follows that Dr. Weitzman disproves her own contention that the wife's contributions to the marriage account for the husband's financial success, and that his future earnings--"assets of the marriage" for which withdrawn services cannot be responsible--ought for this reason to be shared by the ex-wife. These contributions are said to consist largely of "moral support." Why is not this moral support as much community property as the male earning ability it is said to generate? Why is not its withdrawal by divorce a justification for the withdrawal of the earning which is said to result from it?

Seventh, it follows from Dr. Weitzman's estimate of the value of the wife's contributions to the marriage that the husband sustains a crippling loss from her withdrawal of these contributions. If they are the reason for the husband's economic achievement, then their denial entitles him not only to withdraw his earnings, but to be compensated.

Eighth, it follows that if the 42 percent statistic is valid, the ex-husband is entitled to compensation from the ex-wife for her lowering of his pre-divorce standard of living by that amount. (Such a claim would correspond to the demand made by ex-wives to be compensated for the careers they forfeited by marriage.)

Dr. Weitzman wants it both ways: the woman marries the man and demands post-marital recompense because marrying him was a favor; she divorces him and demands post-marital recompense because divorcing him was a favor. She asks us to believe that the motivations provided by the wife make the man an underachiever (by 42 percent) while they are acting upon him during marriage, but then function proleptically to make him an overachiever once they are withdrawn by divorce.

In writing of the predicament of divorced women, Dr. Weitzman complains of the "assumption that it is fair to divide family income so that the wife and children share one-third, while the husband keeps the other two-thirds for himself." There is no "family"; the woman is not a "wife"; the man is not a "husband." A family is created by marriage and destroyed by divorce. The economic predicament of the woman has virtually nothing to do with "no fault" divorce as Dr. Weitzman's book tries to prove. It is due to divorce itself. The greater misery of ex-wives today is not owing to change in divorce procedures (there has been none), but to the greater number of divorces. During marriage the wife did get from the husband what Dr. Weitzman wishes the ex-wife (read: non-wife) to have from the ex- husband (read: non-husband). The only unfairness is that to the children whom the ex-wife drags into poverty with her to be used as mutilated beggars. It is schizophrenic to insist on the continuing existence of the "family" as a means of justifying the destruction of that family itself. It is like feeding a cow its own milk--taking away its substance in order to nourish it. What such schizophrenia testifies to is Dr. Weitzman's own recognition that the family--the real, nuclear, patriarchal family--is the true source of the wealth she is grasping for, while at the same time she works to destroy it.

She complains of the predicament of "an older housewife who has spent twenty or thirty years in the family home" and then loses it when her marriage ends. This woman has spent twenty or thirty years living in a home she could probably not have provided for herself, enjoying a standard of living 73 percent higher than she could have earned, bestowed upon her by a husband who forfeited 42 percent of his own standard of living for her sake during marriage. Which partner is entitled to compensation?

It is a commonplace in feminist literature that women should be freed from what Zillah Eisenstein calls the "patriarchal image of woman as dependent on man." "In this view," she says, "she is still primarily a mother and therefore needs a man to support her." Dr. Weitzman's demand for the subsidization of ex-wives by ex-husbands constitutes a reactionary reversion to this obsolete patriarchalism, which keeps women from "learning to stand alone."

It was the thrust of Betty Friedan's Feminine Mystique that it is contemptible and infantile of women to be economically dependent upon husbands, that the childish "mystique" they affected for the purpose of perpetuating this dependence and jollying men into supporting them was stifling, undignified, inhibitive of women's growth, and that they should discard their economic dependence and stand on their own feet. "Why," asked Ms. Friedan, "isn't it time to break the pattern by urging all these Sleeping Beauties to grow up and live their own lives?" The thrust of Dr. Weitzman's Divorce Revolution is the precise opposite: that women must remain economically dependent on men, even when they divorce them and withdraw the trifling services upon which Ms. Friedan poured her ridicule and contempt. They must rely upon the Motherhood Card and the Mutilated Beggar argument which permit them to drag their children into the Custody Trap where they wallow in self-generated economic misery and self-pity.

Dr. Weitzman proposes that this parasitism should never end. Even after the children are grown, says Dr. Weitzman, "Long-married older wives must also be assured of an equal share of all of their husband's career assets." But "wives" are assured of their husbands' career assets, an assurance they enjoy because of marriage, the stability of which Dr. Weitzman is seeking to undermine by her attempt to make divorce into an alternative institution capable of giving women the same benefits marriage gives them. She cannot see where her own evidence leads. She urges women not to trust their husbands' loyalty (now eroded by the feminist/sexual revolution) but instead to trust feminist agitation, lawyers, bureaucrats and lawmakers. Trust in lawyers, bureaucrats and lawmakers is misplaced. Betty Friedan told women to trust themselves and to acquire the skills which would make them economically independent. Now Ms. Friedan, like Dr. Weitzman, is reduced to speaking of such an undeliverable promise as a "trap" leading women into economic disaster.

These women "deserve some special recognition and compensation for their contributions, not harsher treatment," says Dr. Weitzman. They receive special recognition and compensation in the form of a 73 percent higher standard of living; and it was one of the main contentions of The Feminine Mystique that this compensation was excessive and unmerited and that wives should be ashamed of themselves for taking it. Hear Betty Friedan:

In our culture, the development of women has been blocked at the physiological level with, in many cases, no need recognized higher than the need for love or sexual satisfaction. Even the need for self-respect, for self-esteem and for the esteem of others--"the desire for strength, for achievement, for adequacy, for mastery and competence, for confidence in the face of the world, and for independence, and freedom"--is not clearly recognized for women. But certainly the thwarting of the need for self-esteem, which produces feelings of inferiority, of weakness, and of helplessness in man, can have the same effect on woman. Self-esteem in woman, as well as in man, can only be based on real capacity, competence, and achievement; on deserved respect from others rather than unwarranted adulation. Despite the glorification of "Occupation: housewife," if that occupation does not demand, or permit, realization of woman's full abilities, it cannot provide adequate self-esteem, much less pave the way to a higher level of self-realization.

"The most glaring proof," said Ms. Friedan, "that, no matter how elaborate, 'Occupation: housewife' is not an adequate substitute for truly challenging work, important enough to society to be paid for in its coin, arose from the comedy of 'togetherness.' The women acting in this little morality play were told that they had the starring roles, that their parts were just as important, perhaps even more important than the parts their husbands played in the world outside the home." "Most of the energy expended in housework," she says, "is superfluous." It is this "underused, nameless-yearning, energy-to-get-rid-of state of being housewives" that is now said to be the justification for prolonging dependence after divorce. "The problem seemed to be not that too much was asked of them, but too little." "The husbands of the women I interviewed," says Ms. Friedan, "were often engaged in work that demanded ability, responsibility and decision. I noticed that when these men were saddled with a domestic chore, they polished it off in much less time than it seemed to take their wives."

Dr. Weitzman gives an example of how divorce arrangements perpetuate women's dependence (though Dr. Weitzman wants more, not less, of this dependence):

Consider the following situation as an example of the typical legal (and social) issues that may arise with remarriage. A remarried man is legally obligated to support his two children from a former marriage and the young child he has fathered with his new wife. At the same time, his wife's two children from her former marriage are currently living with him, and by virtue of their presence in the household (at his dinner table, etc.) he finds himself supporting them as well. While he is not legally obligated to support his wife's children if he has not legally adopted them--and let us suppose that neither he nor the children's natural father wants that adoption to take place--in practical terms, he inevitably contributes to their support because they are members of his new household. The situation is further complicated by the fact that his new wife's ex-husband has also remarried and started a new family, and has not been paying her court- ordered child support. Our man feels the law should either relieve him of his financial obligation to support his own two children by his ex-wife (who are now living in another man's household) or force his present wife's ex-husband to pay his support obligations. He is disconcerted to learn that there are no legal guidelines to allocate and apportion support responsibilities among several families.

Which is to say, because he is a male the legal system cannot be bothered about his rights. This man is paying the price for the liberation of three women: (1) the current wife, who deserves his support because of his marriage-vow to her and hers to him, in compliance with which she performs reciprocal services; (2) his former wife, who deserves nothing, since his marriage vow to her has been annulled by the divorce court and since she has withdrawn her services from him; and (3) the new wife of the old husband of his present wife, who gets a free ride because she is able to spend her husband's entire paycheck.

This man is perpetuating the ills feminism was created to end, by keeping these three women from growing up and standing on their own feet "without sexual privilege or excuse," with "self-respect, courage, strength," with "spirit, courage, independence determination...strength of character," "assuming true equality with men," "learning to stand alone," "launch[ing] forth, as men do, amid real, independent stormy life' doing "the work [they] are capable of, [which] is the mark of maturity," accepting the hard but necessary truth that "freedom is a frightening thing...frightening to grow up finally and be free of passive dependence."

Here is another of Dr. Weitzman's cases:

On the other hand, consider how the present system may provide a windfall for a second spouse while unjustly depriving the first. At age 58, a corporate vice president falls in love with his secretary and decides to divorce his wife of 34 years. (The two children of this marriage already have families of their own.) Aside from a substantial home the major assets of this marriage are in the husband's career, in generous company benefits (including full medical, hospital and life insurance and an excellent retirement program) and executive perks (a luxurious car, a large expense account, investment options and extensive travel at company expense). His secretary, who is 28 at the time of the marriage, has two young children whom the executive agrees to adopt. If, let us say, the executive has a heart attack the following year and dies suddenly, in most states, a third to a half of his estate would go to his new wife, with the remainder divided among the four children (two from his last marriage and his new wife's two children). His first wife will receive nothing--neither survivors' insurance nor a survivor's pension nor a share of the estate--and both she and his natural children are likely to feel that they have been treated unjustly. A legal rule that would allow some weighted apportionment between the two wives would seem more just.

Such a rule would defeat the whole purpose of feminism and reinstate the "patriarchal image of woman as dependent on man"--the idea that a woman "needs a man to support her." It would deny to women the privilege of standing on their own feet "without sexual privilege or excuse," "with self-respect, courage, strength," et cetera. It would turn the clock of feminist progress back a quarter of a century and revert to the ills of the old system--with the principal difference that patriarchal marriage, which formerly gave wives security, has now become so de-stabilized that the security no longer exists. The original feminist complaint was that "society asks so little of women." The new demand is that an ex-wife should retain her free ride even after divorce has emancipated her from the performance of that "little."

Dr. Weitzman sees no social value in the executive adopting his second wife's two children. In discussions of divorce, it is common to hear much about "the best interests of the children"; but such concern for children gets expressed only when the children are attached to Mom--when it is the rights or advantages of a man, not those of a woman, which a court or a lawmaker wants a pretext to ignore. Why shouldn't the man who earns the money and the perks be permitted to be magnanimous with them for the purpose of benefiting his second wife's children? For what better purpose could his money be spent? Dr. Weitzman would like to imply that the money and perks are not really earned by the man but accrue to him by virtue of his ex-wife's previous ministrations or are created out of nothing by lawmakers, lawyers and divorce court judges, whose generosity is generosity with the money of someone else, always male.

In this case, the best interests of the children are very well served by this wealthy gentleman--and also by the good sense of the young secretary who invests her assets--including her youth and attractiveness--in a new marriage, thereby becoming "assets of a marriage" in the fullest sense of the word, assets promoting the welfare of her husband, her children and herself. If the first wife has lost similar assets, this is principally the consequence of the weakening of the institution of marriage, a weakening, let it be remembered, which it has been one of the chief objects of feminists to bring about. Much is written in feminist literature about the predicament of divorced women, but nowhere in that literature is there expressed a wish to help women avoid this predicament in the only way most of them can be helped--by strengthening the contract of marriage. Dr. Weitzman would like to transfer some of the man's assets to the first wife; but her proposal (strengthening divorce as an alternative to marriage) would have the effect of further weakening all marriages and creating more cases like that of the first wife for whom she is concerned. (She loads the case by making the executive wealthy. Her principle, once established, would be applied to wealthy and non-wealthy alike, with the consequence that few divorced men could afford to re-marry--or would be worth re-marrying.)

Dr. Weitzman describes the scenario as a "windfall" for the second wife, the word suggesting that her marriage to a wealthy man is the result of chance, while the loss of this wealth to the first wife is "unjust." Chance had no place in the decision of either the second wife or the man. The plea that the first wife is unjustly treated has a justification only on the supposition that she had a right to expect marriage to be a stable institution. Neither Dr. Weitzman nor any other feminist desires the stabilization of marriage. What they do desire is for the benefits of marriage to be replaced by comparable benefits from divorce--in the present case by giving the first wife, who has withdrawn her services from the marriage, an unearned windfall at the expense of the ex-husband and his second wife, who perform valuable services for each other and who are therefore the ones entitled to enjoy the assets of the only marriage which exists, their own.

Dr. Weitzman's proposals for transferring the earnings and pensions and bank accounts and insurance programs and real estate and annuities and stocks and bonds of ex-husbands to ex-wives would lead men to take all sorts of socially undesirable self-defensive measures--squirreling money into coffee cans, renting rather than buying a home, opening a secret bank account in the Cayman Islands, reducing or liquefying attachable assets, minimizing take-home pay- -so that the wife would have fewer incentives for divorce. The possession of assets such as these formerly promoted marital and social stability. Dr. Weitzman, by offering them, or a moiety of them, as rewards to divorcing wives, is making them into de- stabilizers of marriage--in effect de-motivating men from creating the wealth she covets. A husband who creates such wealth and acquires such assets under the threat Dr. Weitzman is holding over his head is simply buying insecurity for himself. Dr. Weitzman makes much of the fact that a middle-aged divorced woman is economically disadvantaged. Her greatest economic disadvantage by far is the burden of child custody, which should indeed be taken from her and placed upon the father, for everyone's benefit, especially the children's. With this burden removed she might still claim to be disadvantaged in the sense that she has less work experience and fewer vocational skills and will accordingly probably earn less than the ex-husband. But her needs are less than his, especially if he has custody of the children. She is not going to have a second family, as he may have--and as wise social policy might well encourage him to have. She has only herself to provide for. Affluence will not make her more attractive to most prospective second husbands: a man contemplating marriage with a woman cares very little how much money she has. A woman contemplating marriage with a man is primarily concerned with his ability to provide for her. In particular, a middle-aged ex- husband will need an attractive bank account and stock portfolio if he hopes to be taken seriously by a prospective second wife, for without these she would prefer a younger man. He may need to finance the rearing and college education of children yet unborn-- and society might well encourage him to do so, for there are few more socially useful ways for him to spend his money. A second family would enhance his motivations, his wealth-creation, and his social stability in a way that subsidizing an ex-wife would never do. Dr. Weitzman, by creating "rules that require (rather than allow) judges to redistribute the husband's post-divorce income with the goal of equalizing the standards of living in the two households," would penalize the man and his second wife and their children and society itself by making the man into an under- motivated, rather than a highly motivated, worker in order to provide a free ride for the woman whom Betty Friedan, in The Feminine Mystique, sought to salvage from a life of meaningless parasitism.

Dr. Weitzman perceives the family in terms of what Vance Packard calls "the Peripheral-Husband Marriage":

[H]e is a bystander. He is economically useful but stands outside the basic family unit as perceived by his wife. This basic unit consists of herself, her children, and her home."

The problem of the feminist movement, as Dr. Weitzman articulates it, is to use the Motherhood Card and the Mutilated Beggar argument to get that peripheral male out of the home without losing his paycheck. The problem of patriarchal society and of the men's rights movement is to ensure that this separation of a man from his paycheck and his family does not occur.

Dr. Weitzman's concern is with the economics of divorce and how it disadvantages women and children. It does indeed. A minority of the elitist women addressed by Betty Friedan's Feminine Mystique have achieved the cherished goal of economic independence from men, though few of these women have children. For large numbers of women the skyrocketing divorce rate has meant independence at the price of poverty or near-poverty. Dr. Weitzman's book is a storehouse of data proving to the hilt that children would be economically better off in the custody of fathers rather than mothers.

But important as the economic argument for father custody is, it is less important than the greater likelihood of delinquency imposed on the children by mother custody, a fact alluded to earlier. A recent study of 25,000 incarcerated juveniles made by the Bureau of Justice Statistics indicates that 72 percent of them came from broken homes (read: mostly female-headed homes). 74 percent of the nation's children live with two parents, 26 percent with one parent (read: Mom). In other words, 74 percent, coming from intact homes, produce only 28 percent of the juvenile crime; 26 percent, coming from mostly female-headed homes, produce a staggering 72 percent of the crime. The ratios of delinquency probability in the two groups can thus be stated numerically by dividing the size of the group by the proportion of the delinquency it generates. 72 divided by 26 for the female headed group gives 2.76; 28 divided by 74 for the intact group gives .378. The ratio of the delinquency generated by the two groups is thus 2.76 divided by .378, or 7.3. If the findings of this study are to be trusted a child growing up in a single-parent home (usually female-headed) is seven times as likely to be delinquent.

The delinquency may be greater than the statistic suggests. According to the Los Angeles Times, "Researchers found that many of the young adult offenders had criminal histories that were just as extensive as those of adults in state prisons." In other words, when the careers of these youngsters have become as long as the careers of older criminals, they will have committed far more crimes.

Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Annex to chapter I
Additional note

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