A Continuing Cultural Upheaval Pertaining to Women in Divorce
Key Points
  • Emancipation of women opened a pathway for employment but they still struggle with every day burdens of housework, wife and mother.
  • Feminism paves the way for equality in the workplace but still disproportionate in divorce court.
  • Equal pay for equal work does not apply to the household.
  • Advances in careers for women does not equate to struggling less in a divorce proceeding.

That cultural upheaval draws energy from two bodies of thought about the place of woman in society. One, equity feminism (sometimes called liberal or classical feminism), asserts the equality of man and women through political and legal reform, and the other, gender feminism, an ideology, argues the psychological, moral, spiritual, intellectual and biological superiority of woman. Socially and culturally, the women’s movement and victories by equity feminists began the gradual emancipation of women from their traditional domestic roles - childbearing and homemaking. This redefinition profoundly affects marriage and family law and, by extension, family life in America.

Equity feminism, which is the mainstream in American life, embraces issues including "equal pay for equal work," reproductive and abortion rights, relief from sexual harassment, opportunities in education, affordable childcare, and protection from domestic abuse. "Equity feminism demands for women what it demands for everyone - fairness and equal opportunity," writes Christina Hoff Sommers, a writer and prominent equity feminist.

The women’s movement and feminism, which enlists the force of law and politics, has helped move the Western world towards a more equalitarian society. Like the civil rights movement that opened opportunities for minorities, the women’s movement threatens some people. Consider preacher and former presidential candidate Pat Robinson, who said, "Feminists encourage women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, become lesbians and destroy capitalism."

Ironically, the emancipation of women, which has opened doors for women in the workplace, results in complaints from many women who contend that they struggle with unfair burdens of housework at home. Many, many women struggle heroically with the demands of being a wife, mother and worker, and the heady days of the women’s movement, when some enthusiastic feminists talked of "having it all," have given way to the more realistic assessment that a day has only so many hours. Even in intact marriages, working mothers complain that the demands upon them are enervating. And many woman who relish their jobs as stay-at-home mothers feel that their choice is as worthwhile as the decision to pursue a career.

For sure, the road to that level playing field of equality goes uphill, and ruts and potholes remain. While women have made advances in access to careers and opportunities in the workplace, the economic gains have been slower in following, and this lag comes in consideration of divorce or its aftermath.

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