I suppose I shouldn’t expect much from a discussion about women, men, and money that includes the authors of Unhooked Generation: The Truth About Why We’re Still Single and Smart Man Hunting: A Fast-Track Dating Guide for Finding Mr. Right.
Correction: I shouldn’t expect much more than consternation and forehead-slapping. Because that’s exactly what I got.
This article, Does a man’s salary matter?, is barely worth reading, let alone shredding, but the topic is worth discussing in a feminist space. I’ll admit that money is a sensitive topic for me (that happens when you don’t have much), and one that is looming larger than usual these days, given my underemployed state. Love and money are often fraught, even when they’re not all mixed up together. And when they are? Hoo-doggie.
I have multiple specialized degrees, and currently am unable to support myself in the field of my training. (Or, it seems, any other field.) The Dude has one specialized degree (a BFA), and has been consistently employed, and consistently better paid than me, in a small number of jobs that have absolutely nothing to do with his training.
While I’m mostly pissed that I a) was horribly duped about my prospects or b) am utterly worthless, professionally speaking, I’m also really troubled about being dead weight to this guy who threw in his lot with me lo these many years ago, when we both thought that at some point in the not-too-distant future I would be the steady one, earning enough that he could go and pursue his risky dream profession. I appear to be, most unhappily, unable to make good on my plans. We used to split everything 50-50, now I am in growing debt to him. He doesn’t complain, but we can’t live in New York without a second income.
Even as I am deeply grateful to the Dude for supporting me with health insurance, and now subsidizing my very existence, I fucking.hate.it. I’m not going anywhere, but having my own money is crucial to my sense of well-being, and not being self-sufficient is doing a serious number on my ego, if not my relationship. I want to be cared for, sure, but not “taken care of.” So I guess I don’t understand the bean-counting stuff the article mentions, or any major concern with how much a prospective partner (regardless of hir gender) earns. I mean, I get that you can’t eat love (boy do I), and that money does buy comforts. And I know that partnering with someone who can’t hold a job, budget, or live within hir means is inviting grief.
But straight women not accepting a partner because he doesn’t pull down more than they do? The more I think about it, the more I think that’s some kind of weird, internalized misogyny. If a man doesn’t earn more than a woman, he must be some kind of failure? If he works in a field that isn’t well-remunerated (keeping in mind that many such jobs in the caring professions and the service industry are/were considered “women’s work”), he’s not attractive or sufficiently manly?
Of course, if you want kids, and you plan to take a break from paid work to do focus on them for whatever length of time, these considerations get a bit more complicated, but I think the point remains: if earning power is one way we assess gender-compliance, and if women don’t buck the find-a-man-who-can-support-you bullshit they’re fed with their zweiback, it seems like we’re adding to the inequities that are built into our heartless, fucked-up, kyriarchal-capitalist system, rather than questioning the system itself. (Poverty is radicalizing me, yo!)
So, commenters, tell me about your experiences. When dating, how much do/did you take your honeypie’s earning power into consideration? (Do/did you even think about it? I never did, although that could have been because I was young and idealistic.) Do you expect–or even hope–that he’ll outearn you? And if so: why? Because you’re a public school teacher, or a freelancer, or are some other ill-paid or financially risky job? Or is there something else? If you out-earn your partner, how do you think that affects your relationship? What’s the financial dynamic in your household?
I’ve been with with the Dude for most of my adult life, and I only know what I know. Please explode my brain with your anecdata.