Sunday, January 02, 2011

Entitlement and Women's Work

A couple of weeks before Christmas I participated in some troll-baiting at Assistant Village Idiot's blog. One of the links he put up led to an article in which a blogger, towards the end of a post on various topics, declared that 70-80% of entitlement spending programs, like Social Security and Medicare, are simply transfers of wealth from men to women.

Men pay into the system, women reap the benefits.

I made some mild comment about the post needing a warning label that certain people's heads(mine, in particular) might explode upon reading such a post. That was all an anonymous commenter and aforementioned troll needed to begin personally insulting me. And, knowing from the outset the type of person I was dealing with, I engaged in some rhetorical, obnoxious troll-baiting. At times, I tried to comment fairly and seriously....but, as anyone who's been using the internet for more than 20 minutes can tell you, it was all for naught.

It's impossible to talk reasonably with unreasonable people.

I won't go into the entire discussion because I tediously repeated my points ad nauseum already on AVI's post.

However, the discussion did spark some more reflections on the nature of the relationship between men, women and finances.

My troll conversation partner stated that most wealth belonged to men. I asked how those men's wives and daughters would feel about such a statement, and he, in the midst of other things, glancingly referred to the sense of entitlement that my comment implied.

I had to think about that for a minute. Do I feel that women are entitled to the wealth their male partners produce? In today's day and age, many women work and have their own assets. They are not necessarily beholden to men for their financial well-being.

On the other hand, a woman like me, who has stayed home for many years raising children , or worked part-time in order to facilitate the family's needs and provide stability and a constant parental presence in the home, depends greatly on her husband to provide for her and the family.

When DH and I had children we had already decided that I was going to stay home in order to take care of them. This was a mutual decision. At first it was very uncomfortable for me. I was used to paying my own way for things and contributing financially to our marriage/family. I paid my own way through college, bought my own car as a teenager, and had been providing for myself since high school. Learning to be financially dependent upon someone else was disconcerting to me.

And it showed. I felt very constrained about spending money. DH and I are not big spenders anyway, but I still felt self-conscious, at first, about buying a new shirt, or a pair of jeans, or a book at the bookstore. In the beginning it felt as if all the money was DH's money and I was some hanger-on asking, "Please, sir...can I have some more?"

DH never made me feel this way....it was just how I felt because of not feeling as if I had any control over the situation and thinking that I wasn't making a real contribution to the family.

I knew that what I was doing was important, but I hadn't yet realized my worth.

I no longer worry about those types of things. When you have been married for a good length of time and have raised your children together and been through family and health crises together....you realize that marriage and family is all about partnership, working together to build something of value.

In the midst of this partnership you come to the realization that "equality" does not mean that at any particular point in time in a relationship that both parties have completely equal burdens and responsibilities and benefits. There is no such thing as a 50-50 relationship. Life precludes it. Many times it is an 80-20 relationship, or a 0-100 relationship. The hope is that those times of inequality flip-flop and the partner who has formerly contributed "more" will be on the receiving end.

To be comfortable with the inevitable inequalities in relationships, you have to trust the person with whom you are in partnership. They have to be reliable and responsible and aiming for the same goal, one that is larger than one person's particular satisfaction. In the context of such a relationship, "mine" and "yours" fades away. There is only "ours" or "the family's".

In that vein...I do feel "entitled"(though that word has negative connotations for me) to my "husband's" wealth...because I don't see it as his. We are working together. He brings in the most money....I provide our family a maternal glue that holds us together. The loss of either of us would devastate our family.....financially and emotionally.

When my husband gives up "his" wealth and I give up "my" opportunities to get my own wealth, we all benefit.

Dying to self, in the service of something greater than oneself, inevitably brings oneself something even better.

Self-sacrifice is ultimately self-serving...in a good way.

maybe more on this later....

4 comments:

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Well, you gained more from the conversation than I did, then. I did put it to rest at comment 63, after which there were no more replies.

terri said...

Well..I do actually try to learn something from even the stupidest conversations....even if what I learn is simply prompted by my own reaction to it.

I purposely didn't link to the post because I figured reigniting it would be a bad idea.

JS Allen said...

The whole premise is flawed, since women are carrying the economy right now. They are the ones paying for the unemployed men, *and* raising the kids.

terri said...

JS Allen,

Well, yeah...that too. The whole conversation covered some of that ground and also the reasons why there was a disparity in women and men.

It was a long, drawn-out, one-sided conversation. The response was usually just a form or "women suck!"...and "you're stupid!"

I wasn't exactly dealing with someone who wanted or hear actual facts or discuss societal relationships.

In fact, the anonymous poster was one of those Men's RIght's Activists who believes that men are discriminated and treated unfairly in just about every current societal set-up and that women are all scheming feminists out to destroy them and steal their wealth.

No reasoning with that.