Not long ago, while trying to explain some of the toxic effects of family law – particularly where it concerns low and middle-income people – I was asked how much of this could be ascribed to class and how much to feminist influence. I had to stop and think for a minute, because while I am acutely aware that feminist bias in family law is a real problem, class issues are undeniably there are well. After a moment, it occurred to me why it was difficult to answer the question: rather than being independent variables, class and feminism act in harmony in family law, influencing and amplifying each other’s effects.
Feminism is an esoteric ideology and lifestyle that only those above a certain income level can afford. For the woman working at Walmart, the woman on welfare or the mother with a working class husband, immediate needs trump issues like slut shaming and fat acceptance. Even income equality is beside the point; the kind of jobs feminists are concerned about leveling are unavailable to women at the average and lower education level. And besides, what good would it do the poor young mother if her child’s father can’t pay the rent or child support because he was kicked out of his job in favor of a woman?
So what you’ll find is that as education and income rise, women increasingly describe themselves as “feminist.” And, inevitably, these are the women who influence policy in legislatures and in the courts.
Because one finds a higher income disparity between men and women in the higher, educated classes, these women tend to have some sense that there is real economic injustice being perpetrated against women, despite the fact that as one gets down to the middle class this disparity diminishes, and in the lower classes disappears.
Higher class women, most of whom are supported by wealthy men, seek to preserve their own good fortune while enacting punitive anti-male policies that target males in lower classes. The result is that the effects of gender feminism are barely felt at the top, while they directly and disproportionately impact lower and middle income men and their families, often doing real harm to them and their children and thereby reinforcing inequality.
It occurs to me that there may be a subtle form of class warfare that cloaks itself in the “feminist” label. It’s hard not to draw this conclusion after spending some time in a courthouse and observing how family law actually works and affects people of different backgrounds. For example, the men lined up at the DV diversion window are overwhelmingly lower and working class, while the wealthy couples tend to have the resources to keep things relatively peaceful and not overly disruptive. Despite this, the feminists who infest the courthouses still parrot the line about the “patriarchy” and control, even while dishing out the most punishment to men who have no power to speak of, and live in a social milieu that doesn’t in the least resemble a patriarchy.