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I am looking for feminist theory that examines the economic impact of divorce on women.
October 26, 2011 6:22 PM   Subscribe

FeministTheoryFilter: I am looking for feminist theory that examines the economic impact of divorce on women.

(Asking for my wife)

I'm writing a paper for my Feminist Theory class about the economic impact of divorce on women. It is my contention, generally stated, that feminist theory examines several ways in which the negative economic impact women suffer post-divorce is institutionalized. Is there any piece of theory or a particular theorist that one might point to in the intelligent discussion of this topic?

While I am looking specifically for supporting evidence, I am always willing to hear respectfully-stated, convincing evidence to the contrary. However, at this moment, it is my goal to compile a cohesively-argued paper.

So far, I have started reading Lenore Weitzman's "The Divorce Revolution". I have some unread resources as well: "The Main Enemy" from Christine Delphy, "A Feminist Perspective on Divorce" by June R. Carbone, "Implications of Feminist Scholarship for the Study of Women's Post-Divorce Economic Disadvantage" by Beth Skilken Catlett and Patrick C. McKenry.

Do you have any other suggestions for scholarly works (as much as I would like to hear your personal opinions, I can't cite them in my paper)?
posted by paulus andronicus to Society & Culture (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't mean to nit-pick, but if you're looking for data, you're not looking for feminist theory per se. Work that is feminist in perspective, perhaps, but not theory itself.

Also, this:

It is my contention, generally stated, that feminist theory examines several ways in which the negative economic impact women suffer post-divorce is institutionalized. Is there any piece of theory or a particular theorist that one might point to in the intelligent discussion of this topic?

While I am looking specifically for supporting evidence, I am always willing to hear respectfully-stated, convincing evidence to the contrary. However, at this moment, it is my goal to compile a cohesively-argued paper.


might be phrased more clearly. I think you're saying that you suspect that there exists (some) feminist work which regards the economic effects of divorce on women as institutionalized; which I guess means that these economic effects, whatever they are, are built into formal social mechanisms? Like, alimony statutes? I'm not sure what you are referring to.

Maybe I'm just being dense, but I suggest you (your wife) find a more direct and lucid way to state the thesis of this paper.

Also, I think you might want to reconsider the approach to literature review implied by the sentence "While I am looking specifically for supporting evidence, I am always willing to hear respectfully-stated, convincing evidence to the contrary" because it really seems like you've decided what's true before you actually know whether it's true or not, which is not how good sociological or economic research is done.
posted by clockzero at 7:36 PM on October 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh, I'm an old lady now, but when I was in school, Marilyn Waring's If Women Counted was the go-to for feminist economics.

For data--Statistics Canada? Or whatever the USian equivalent is.
posted by looli at 8:13 PM on October 26, 2011


This article by Johnnie Tillmon doesn't focus on divorce, per say, but it is a classic essay about feminism and economic hardship that may prove helpful as a jumping off point. You may also thumb through Susan Faludi's Backlash for some data and analysis of women's earning potential compared to men's, and of average household income as that has shifted since most families became double-income families. It's been a long time since I read the book, but I seem to recall the argument being made that divorce is systemically biased against women.

Also take a look at some of Gloria Steinem's articles, particularly her piece, "The Rise of the Pink Collar Ghetto," and the June 1973 article in Ms., "Women and Money – If We’re So Smart, Why Aren’t We Rich?" The argument about women's work versus men's work broaches the question of how a woman can support herself and a family when her earning potential is not on par with a man's.

Those are all old resources, but they may give you a starting point. (For what it's worth, you can go as far back as Elizabeth Cady Stanton to find feminists who had problems with the inequalities of the American divorce system. And actually, Stanton is a very good person to start with, as she advocated for a woman's right to file for divorce, and for women's property rights in general.)

Good luck! This sounds like a fun paper to research.
posted by brina at 9:40 PM on October 26, 2011


She writes:

clockzero,

Thank you for your reply. As I appreciate your input, allow me to clarify a few points. Perhaps this will be helpful to other readers as well.

First, I *do* actually want theory. It is a paper based in theory. I am in the preliminary stages of my research, still, but I am trying to support a hypothesis that I have developed based on my readings thus far (this is my minor). I didn't want to make the post too dense, but perhaps that was a mistake. Yes, my basic thesis is that women suffer a sharp decrease in economic status after divorce, and that decrease can be accounted for by feminist theory. Specifically, the patriarchal system in place assigns children of a marriage to the mother, as it is her "role" to raise them. (There are other issues in that statement that could -- but are not -- being addressed by this paper.) However, that penalizes her a way that prohibits her from traveling with work, forces her to miss work when the children are sick, requires that she feed and house the children all while receiving child support (if any) in an amount that does not pay for half of the cost to raise the children. Additionally, it often doesn't account for the workforce penalty that married women suffer by allowing their career to take a back seat to their husband's career while they are together. As such, when a couple separates, the female is often left with less work experience, less seniority, less accrued time off, and a lower salary. Thus, the distribution of assets is not as "equal" as the courts would like to think.

No-fault divorce has been examined by a number of theorists, especially as it views spousal support (formerly called "alimony") as "rehabilitative" and is only awarded sparsely. Women are expected to immediately return to work with all of the disadvantages listed above and then spousal support ends. Even then, few courts treat spousal support as a serious option.

I'm not attempting to decide what is true and not true before I read it, I'm simply saying that my experience with feminist theory has been such that most of what I have read points me in this direction. I would like to find additional, supporting research. The only reason I included the other statement was to indicate the exact opposite of what you're accusing me of. If I look into the topic and there is no support (which is not the case, as I already have some) for my position, but instead there were mounds and mounds of theory to the contrary, I would be willing to reconsider my position.
I am non-traditional student in an undergraduate in a class that is way over my head (this is my 2nd Women's Studies class ever and it's at the 450 level); I'm just trying to make it through.
posted by paulus andronicus at 10:39 PM on October 26, 2011


Ah, I understand more now. I didn't mean to be accusatory about how you're doing this work, I was only voicing my own impression, and if it was inaccurate then please disregard it. This sounds like an interesting topic. I'd like to make a few more remarks/suggestions if you don't mind.

So, your thesis: my basic thesis is that women suffer a sharp decrease in economic status after divorce, and that decrease can be accounted for by feminist theory.

It's helpful to distinguish between social phenomena that can be plainly observed and those that require ideological explication. For example, if it's demonstrably true that there exists a social trend whereby women's socioeconomic status tends to decrease after divorce, then you might consider starting with that verifiable fact and then researching explanations. The reasons you give for why this trend might exist sound very plausible and I'm sure there's a great deal of extant feminist scholarship on it.

Try using google scholar. use phrases like "work/life balance feminism" as search terms. Make note of the scholars who write the papers and also who they cite, and go from there. If you're just writing a regular paper and not a bigger project, consider using more academic papers in conjunction with the books, too.

I hope that some of this proves helpful to you. And being a non-traditional student can be a big asset -- I bet you have far more experience with which to temper the academic work than your classmates. Good luck, I'm sure you'll do a great job!
posted by clockzero at 7:20 AM on October 27, 2011


Martha Fineman, a feminist legal theorist, has written about this extensively. Here is what a casual google picked up, but there's much more where that came from. (Disclosure: I worked for her.)
posted by *s at 8:33 AM on October 27, 2011


Just one more thing, to be clear -- I'm not sure upon review if your intent with the paper is to demonstrate something about feminist theory (i.e., that this topic has been addressed by feminist scholars) or something about women's post-divorce socioeconomic outcomes (which amount to verifiable facts that can be interpreted through different ideological lenses, including feminist). The reader of your paper should be able to easily discern which of the two you're interested in examining, or at least should not wonder if it's one or the other or both.
posted by clockzero at 12:07 PM on October 27, 2011


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