Jokes About Money Undercut Women’s Authority

Jokes About Money Undercut Women’s Authority by Fabienne Swartz

{3:07 minutes to read} In a recent article titled “Why Men Need To Stop Making This Joke About Women,” author Vanessa McGrady sheds light on a problem that is often covered up with uncomfortable laughter and avoiding eye contact. She relays the story of attending a special event where a man addressed the room for a toast and began to make jokes about how his wife is so good at spending “his” money. McGrady alleges that this sort of talk is bad for women, men, and children alike. 

She made the point that the unequal balance of monetary power in a relationship in and of itself is not as important as the implication that women are unable to handle money. This line of thinking feeds into a self-limiting belief that is passed on from women to girls, generation after generation—a practice which I am here to say is so wrong, on so many levels. 

First, a reality check on what “handling the money” really means. It’s addition and subtraction. We’re not talking about trigonometry or calculus; once you can add and subtract, you can deal with money.

It’s important to keep in mind that much of the guidance any investor receives comes from professionals. Many of the same men who make jokes about their wives’ spending are no more knowledgeable about the nuts and bolts of investing than they are about plumbing or electrical systems in the house. They rely on bankers and financial advisers to invest their money and often contribute nothing to the process besides a signature. Surely, anyone can do that!

There have been instances in my practice where the wife was paying the bills and never skipped a beat; she knew where all the money was, all the expenses, and the challenges associated with living in an area with a high cost of living. And let’s not forget: there is no short supply of cases where the husband was left managing money…and he did such a wonderful job that the family ended up bankrupt.

Belittling a woman’s ability to be a good steward of the family’s, or her own, finances is also an obvious way for men to exert a degree of power over women—perhaps in an effort to feel better about themselves or the life they have been able to build for their family. They’re also putting up a preemptive defense against people who may be happier with less money, like men who do not work in the private sector and choose instead a career in public service or working for not-for-profit organizations.

The courts expect women, or the lower-earning spouse, to support themselves after divorce. This is an excellent time to take stock of your financial situation and renew your faith in your own abilities. It’s also a reminder that you don’t have to sit still when hyperbolic jokes about your spending habits are made in the company of family, guests, or strangers.  

But that is not the only takeaway from this story. Not only do we need to work on ourselves and our daughters, we must pay attention to our boys and the messaging they are receiving from their fathers, and the media, which has the effect of making them view women as beautiful objects that need to be provided for.  

Fabienne Swartz JD (Belgium) CDFATM
Certified Divorce Financial AnalystTM
500 Mamaroneck Av.
Suite 320
Harrison, NY 10528
(914) 798-6940

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