One of the challenges that first wave feminism encountered was a problem referred to as the disposability of women—I want to point out that this was a real issue that needed to be addressed and I take no issue with feminism’s attempts at creating awareness around it, that is its purpose. Unfortunately, as only one voice at the time was speaking on behalf of gender and equality issues, it was an issue that was handled very badly by each government. In the government’s defence, they made law based on what was brought to them as the issue.
Globally the response to this raised awareness regarding the disposability of women was to take into consideration one half of the issue—the difficulties attached to female gender role.
In laymen’s terms the disposability of women was a problem created foremost through the expectation of women to become mothers and nurturers without the possibility of career. To paraphrase the then feminist Warren Farrell, it led to a norm where a man traded in his forty-year old wife for two twenty-year-olds instead (divorce norms). This suddenly put a forty year old woman into the world, with dependants being automatically awarded to her, but no skillsets, no or minimal income and almost no opportunity to pursue an income of her own. To counter this, feminism rallied for the creation of strong laws providing women with new female protectionisms related to alimony and child support. The problem is, all this did was reinforce male gender role…
Rather than find new ways to empower women, the government found new ways to further obligate men.
For my father this suddenly created a situation where his alimony requirements were so significantly increased that he could no longer afford to live.
|Music, the thing my father did to relax, became another part of the burden presented by unequal law.
In desperation he took all the savings he had and paid 12 months’ rent in advance so that he at least was able to keep a roof over his head, but he could no longer feed himself or his children at his home, he could no longer clothe them anymore, he could no longer take them to the doctor when they were sick—he could only hand over alimony and child support and ask his ex-wife to bear all financial responsibility. Not that it mattered; the increased costs meant he could no longer see his children as he was suddenly required to work full time in a copper smelting factory during the day, and then work nights and weekends as a musician just to try and make enough money to pay alimony, child support and child care when his ex-wife did not wish to look after his sons. Alternatively, he faced jail time as a ‘dead-beat dad’.
My mother told me that when she went to my father’s house for the first time (after one of his gigs), the only food in his home was a bag of onions and a salt shaker—he’d been eating one onion per day to stop from starving. She made him onion soup, but then they were out of food. He eventually became so poor that he began to eat water reeds out of a local creek to survive, as he literally could no longer afford food. As they began to date, my mother did what she could to support him by bringing him food, but she already had very little money of her own.