Monday, July 11, 2016

Widows Aren't the Whole Story, Folks

It is a falsehood these days that women facing poverty in old age are widows who are "suffering" because they took care of kids and helped their aging parents. WHY is this lie allowed to stand? 40 or so years ago, women did drop out of the labor force to care for kids and even their aging parents, but nobody but the wealthy can afford to take much time off of work these days.

The women MOST vulnerable to impoverishment in old age are never-married women. Their numbers are growing, but you wouldn't know it reading this here. The REASON they are vulnerable (and in fact all women regardless of marital status) has to do with the structure of the labor force; that is, the concept of the "family wage," a relic from the industrial revolution and embraced by labor unions in the 20th century that says that men are the providers and women are dependents. Because of this, according to the notion, men deserve higher pay because they have families to support (whether or not this is true with individual men), while women don't need the money the way men do because they are or will be supported by men. Men are the primary wage earners while women are secondary earners. This is a FACT and is demonstrated all across all occupations, and female-dominated occupations DENIGRATED in pay and prestige because of this ""family wage" notion. It lies at the heart of sex discrimination in the workplace. Never-married women face the worst prospects in old age because they make less money, they don't have a second income unless they shack up with a guy (and many do), they are almost always shut out of the real estate market unless they are born to privilege (if they can afford "homes" at all, they are mobile homes or condos, not stick houses) so they don't have that buffer, and they don't typically become beneficiaries in life insurance policies, unlike married women. They can't piggyback on a husband's Social Security, like widows and divorced women who have been married more than 10 years. They are totally screwed.

But hey, people will say, you could have gotten married...Well, what these people are saying is that women have to prostitute themselves for some man in order to survive. That is not an argument and pretty revolting. Women should be able to have lives independent of men and not be forced making poverty wages because of some outdated notion some man is supporting them. Women, regardless of marital status, need financial dignity and respect before and during old age.

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