I posted two of my previous "reflection papers" for MacKinnon's Sex Equality class here ("Am I a Woman?") and here ("Reflecting on My Marriage"). This is a third paper in the same series. It raises issues that have nagged at my brain for sometime now. I am not entirely happy with this paper from several perspectives. Primarily, it does not resolve the tension that exists, at least in my own mind, between what I perceive as society's failure to achieve equality between the sexes and an individual's role in that. Perhaps that is too much to ask for so short a paper -- or from someone so intimately involved in the situation. Although this paper is very personal to me, I invite you to read it and think about the issues it raises. We have a problem in this society. Women are undervalued in many regards -- and there is a clear connection between divorce and poverty in women. What role do individual husbands play in correcting that imbalance? Is there a better solution? Ms. MacKinnon argues that, on the whole, there is an inherent sex inequality at play here (and, clearly, there is). What remedy? Does the 14th Amendment have a role? Alimony -- through court order -- is arguably state action.
[UPDATE] - Interesting, related article here (Tampa man upset that he has to pay alimony to his ex-wife who has transitioned to being a man).
"There can be no question that the biggest engine toward the impoverishment of women is marriage and raising a family." -- Catharine A. MacKinnon - 9/13/06
When I was 21, I married a bright young woman, Sarah, 23. Sarah already had a Master’s degree and a year of work experience; I was a high school drop-out, just out of the Navy. She had very definite ideas about the relationship between the sexes -- which I shared -- neither of us would be subordinate to the other. This was in 1976, and the women’s movement was finally beginning to gain traction.
From the outset we shared everything. We had joint checking accounts; our cars and our homes were titled jointly. We both changed our last names to a common, hyphenated name. After six years of marriage (during which time we both worked full-time and I also went to college), we decided to have children. Sarah’s plan had initially been to take a maternity leave only and return to her career. Prior to the arrival of our first child, however, she approached me with a new idea. She wanted to be a “stay-at-home” mom, and she wanted to home school our children. Although this would be a dramatic change in our roles toward the “Cleaver” model we had earlier rejected (as well as a complete shift of the financial burden of supporting the family onto my shoulders), I agreed. This was what she wanted and I wanted to give it to her. Moreover, I was raised in a culture that said this was what men did. I was trying to live as a man at the time and it seemed, therefore, that it was my role to assume.
Ten years and three children later, and despite 17 years of harmonious marriage, we separated. It was entirely her decision to separate, for a number of reasons not relevant to this paper. It was then I began to realize the true cost to me of Sarah’s choice to stay at home -- my children and I had not developed the intimate bond that comes from daily care, as I instead worked long hours to provide the financial resources for my family. There was no question that they would continue to live with (and be raised by) their mother, and life for them was practically unchanged. I was on the outside looking in.
 Now, more than a dozen years after our divorce, and with our children all grown, I see even more clearly this trade-off as marginalizing me (and possibly other “bread-winning” fathers) in the lives of the children.