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Alimony & Sexism

76755050When the word sexism pops up, it’s common to tag it as a women’s problem; women face injustices in the workplace, and in home-life expectations. But sexism affects men as well. Questions and activism are on the rise regarding the fairness of alimony, and the regular handouts men are oftentimes required to pay ex-wives after filing for divorce. A centuries old system, alimony is beginning to be labeled as out of date with the changing times and gender roles of modern society.

Although every divorce case is different and requires special discretion, many states still require husbands to pay lifetime alimony, with few exceptions. It is especially deemed unjust by these husbands when the wife is fully capable of supporting herself if she so chose. The alimony law’s unfairness in these cases brings up the question of its value and promotion of a different kind of sexism that holds firm to strict gender expectations that are no longer appreciated.

“It’s not fair; it’s the law”

The main argument against lifetime alimony law is that ex-wives are reaping these monetary benefits for no good reason, other than the law states they should because it’s stuck in a 1950’s mentality. Opponents, consisting of both men and women, as discussed in an NPR article, are in favor of modifications, such as the new law in Massachusetts that customizes and determines alimony according to marriage length.

One such alimony opponent discussed in the article is Tom Leustek, a New Jersey based professor whose ex-wife has a Ph.D. Still, he was ordered by a judge to pay her lifetime alimony, since she had ended up quitting a high-paying job to start a less financially rewarding psychology practice. Leustek argues her earning potential is still alive and well. He quotes the judge, who said, “It’s not fair, Mr. Leustek; it’s the law.” That was the turning point leading him to take up activism through a group, called the New Jersey Alimony Reform, that seeks to modify the law in a similar way Massachusetts did.

Stuck in the 1950’s?

The term sexism comes into play when you consider the state of marital affairs of the past, in which most women in America stayed home to care for the house and children, while the breadwinning men trotted off to work. It was and continues to be a limiting stereotype that is still in the process of being eradicated as more and more women step into the workforce and increase their opportunities.

Businessman Raymond Posa is another alimony questioner who faced a similar situation to Leustek’s, agrees that the divorce law needs to change with the times. Referring to the assumptions made by alimony enforcement, he says, “It’s like you’re incapable of getting on your own two feet, and you need to depend on this person for the rest of your life?” If women are making their own money, it makes sense for the patriarchal notion of depending on a man to fall to the wayside where it belongs.

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