Tag Archives: Men

PSA: Spreading the word

The fabulous Melissa McEwan of Shakesville has written a fabulous post about, well, why women don’t just trust men. But that doesn’t do it justice by any means.

The Terrible Bargain We Have Regretfully Struck

There are also individual men in this world I would say I probably hate, or something close, men who I hold in unfathomable contempt, but it is not because they are men.

No, I don’t hate men.

It would, however, be fair to say that I don’t easily trust them.

My mistrust is not, as one might expect, primarily a result of the violent acts done on my body, nor the vicious humiliations done to my dignity. It is, instead, born of the multitude of mundane betrayals that mark my every relationship with a man—the casual rape joke, the use of a female slur, the careless demonization of the feminine in everyday conversation, the accusations of overreaction, the eyerolling and exasperated sighs in response to polite requests to please not use misogynist epithets in my presence or to please use non-gendered language (“humankind”).

Please, go and read it. I guess that many people will have had a look already, because they read Shakesville themselves, or because Tigtog put out the word at Hoyden about Town, but I’m also guessing that many people in New Zealand won’t have seen it yet.

Dinosaurs thundering by again

“Wife wins in court property shock” shrieks the headline in the New Zealand Herald today. The shock? On the dissolution of marriage, the wife got to keep a significant share of the property. What’s the shock in that? This is normal procedure when a marriage comes apart.

But it seems that some barristers in New Zealand are of the same opinion as a m’lud in Australia I wrote about last year. The Australian judge opined that where one person has made a “special contribution” to a marriage (i.e. made lots of money), then the other partner shouldn’t get a share of that on dissolution. The New Zealand barristers go a step further.

Barrister Anthony Grant has described the case as involving “the annihilation by stealth of separate property”. He says the case is “shocking” and “a stunner”, not necessarily because it was wrongly decided, but because people had not been aware that “indirect contributions” involving something as ordinary as household chores could convert a spouse’s separate property into relationship property.

“In a typical marriage where, say, the husband has separate property from an inheritance or a prior relationship he is now liable to lose it if his wife can say that her doing the housework helped him to increase the value of the property. While he was at his desk working on his separate property affairs and his wife was doing the dishes, sweeping the floor, feeding the kids, and so on – she was simultaneously taking the separate property!”

Oh noes! Women’s work is actually valuable!!! No matter that the wife’s work enable her husband to pursue property development, no matter that in addition to running the family home and rearing the children, the wife in this instance also earned over $300,000 during the 24 years of marriage, money that kept the debt-wolf from the couple’s door, no matter that even though the husband brought some assets to the marriage, a huge proportion of the increase in value of those assets occurred during the marriage, not before. According to this barrister, all she did was ordinary old housework, and that is utterly worthless.

This is in incredibly vicious view of marriage. When people get married, they are setting up a long term partnership, agreeing to go ahead in life together, as a couple, not as two individuals. They agree to share homes and property and daily life and children. It’s a complete merger of interests, not a series of arm’s length transactions. All the more so when a marriage has persisted for nearly quarter of a century.

Grant has some solutions though.

Grant suggested three ways for spouses to avoid the loss of separate property: [(1)] A Section 21 agreement that specifies who owns what before the relationship and ensures indirect contributions don’t affect that arrangement. [(2)] Vesting separate property in a trust at the outset. [(3)]Get a nanny or housekeeper do the housework.

(1) and (2) – meh. That’s fine if marriage is just a transaction. But in that case, why get married at all. And in any case, why block your ex-partner from being entitled to owership of a fair proportion of the increase in value during a marriage. But (3) stuns me. A full-time live-in nanny, and a full-time live-in housekeeper? Not only does that cost an incredible amount, but it says that all that is involved in rearing children is cleaning and feeding and supervising them. It takes loving, engaged, commitment to rear children, to ensure that they are happy and secure, that they know they are loved for themselves, they know that a parent will be there for them, not for a wage. The loving commitment of parenting can of course be combined with childcare. But it cannot be replaced by full-time (as in, 24 hours a day) care.

Then the final little dig, but this time, from another lawyer, Andrew Watkins.

“It will certainly put the owner of the land on the back foot. It’s sending a signal to husbands, or people who have separate assets, to sign an agreement first. That’s the first and best thing to do.”

Spot the little slip of the tongue there? It’s men who own property, and it’s men who need protecting from those rapacious hordes of women who think that their work, and their contributions to a marriage, should actually be valued.

Dinosaurs. Alive and well in New Zealand.

Enough already with calling it “his” fortune

I’m tired of reading newspaper stories saying that Mel Gibson is set “to lose half of his estimated $1 billion fortune in the divorce.”

He ain’t losing anything because it’s not his fortune. It’s Mel Gibson and Robyn Gibson’s fortune, accumulated during 28 years of marriage, during which she supported him when he was an unknown, penniless actor, and then reared their seven children. For sure it’s all gone wrong now, but it was a genuine partnership, and the assets of the partnership belong to both members.

You might just try arguing that Mel brought some special talents to the marriage, and therefore deserves a greater share of the matrimonial assets. But one of the reasons that Mel could charge ahead with a high flying acting career was that he could depend on his partner to rear their children, and keep their home running. As I’ve argued before:

When you invite someone to share your life, you invite them warts and all, and more importantly, you offer yourself, special talents and all. If it so happens that you earn a whacking great amount of money through your special talents, then that is part of what you bring to the marriage. And upon its dissolution, that’s what gets shared out. Of course, you get to keep your special talent – no one can take that off you. But in the period of your life when you were in a marriage, then whatever you earned through that special talent is part of the marriage. All the more so, if you could only deploy that special talent because your spouse supported you.

So stop with the talk about Mel Gibson losing half of “his” fortune.

On rape and consent

Cross posted

A month or so ago, Anita wrote a fantastic post at Kiwipolitico: Friends don’t let friends rape, calling on men, and all of us, to call out rapists. She made what was to me an unremarkable statement:

The reality is that we all know people who rape, just as we all know people who have been raped. I’m talking about the fact some of the people we know have raped people they know, and they way they’ve talked about sex and dates and partners so we’ve had every opportunity to hear that true consent isn’t an issue for them.

But it inspired a long and agonising comment thread, with both men and women participating. As the thread developed, I began to hear people talking past each other, with the split mostly, but not exclusively, down gender lines. One group of people (mostly, but not exclusively men) was asserting that they did not in fact know rapists, and if they did, they would shun them. Others (mostly, but not exclusively women) were saying that of course they knew rapists, yes, they had had sex without consent, yes, they had been raped. But it seemed to me that the difference turned on what consent looked like. In fact, this was critical. Many of the people who were saying that they did not know rapists are people I respect, people I know to be people of good will, people who try to do the decent thing, to live good lives. Yet they clearly had a different understanding of what consent looks like to me and to others in the second group of people, that is, the people who had no doubt that they knew rapists.

I’ve been reflecting on this discussion ever since, and I’ve tried to write this post several times. I’m giving up on trying – I’m just going to write the damned thing.

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What about teh menz?

Cross posted

The Domestic Violence (Enhancing Safety) Bill is open for submissions, and as is usual, the bill has been reviewed to assess consistency with the Bill of Rights Act .

The bill proposes a significant increase in police powers. Specifically, police will be able to issue orders to force an alleged offender to leave the home (remember, this is a domestic violence bill) for up to five days. In effect, it’s a temporary eviction order.

Idiot/Savant is upset about the increase in police powers. He thinks they already have enough power to deal with domestic violence, via their capacity to arrest alleged offenders, and that given the history of police in New Zealand as heavy-handed, it’s a dangerous extension to their powers to punish people, and a serious infringement of the fundamental human right to due process.
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Father’s day (bltn*)

We don’t “do” Father’s Day or Mother’s Day around here. At least, not in the rather nasty commercial sense. The girls make cards, and the parent of the day gets breakfast in bed, or just coffee, if that’s what she or he prefers.

Last year on Father’s Day, breakfast in bed for the father in this house was made by the other parent in this house, our daughters being just a bit too young to be let loose in the kitchen. But times have changed…

Our younger daughters made a bowl of fruit salad, under supervision, although they did all the chopping themselves. Mr Strange Land made a valiant effort at getting through the entire bowl, but didn’t quite make it.

After a suitable pause – long enough for a cup of coffee – Miss Nine made scrambled eggs, all by herself. To be precise, she made the eggs, while I helped with the toast. She makes a fine batch of scrambled eggs, but she still has co-ordination problems when it comes to assembling the whole serving.

All made with love, for their daddy.

As for my own father, I couldn’t be there to make breakfast in bed for him. But as I have said before, he is a man of many parts. He is highly successful, and recognised, in his profession, to the extent that people in the field, and people in the province where he lives, when hearing my family name, say, “Hmmm….. not [so and so’s daughter], are you?” He came out of a farming background, but as a 16 year old lad, away at a single sex boarding school, in a small, conservative, rural town, found Jane Austen’s novels in the school library, and fell in love with them. He is adept at seemingly any physical task he turns his hand to (carpentry, gardening, wood turning, shoeing horses, cutting hair, whatever) and yet he is a very intellectual man. Given his success, and my mother’s success in her field, he has the ‘things’ he wants, and giving him more only clutters up their home. So it is always a challenge finding something for him. But this year, I found something that I knew he would never get for himself, simply because he doesn’t even look at magazine racks. I sent him a BBC History magazine, full of racy and compelling stories from the 11th century. I even resisted reading it myself first.

I can’t however, vouch for my daughters not having sampled their father’s breakfast before taking it in to him.

*bltn = better late than never

Dinosaur sighted in Australia

So nice to know that dinosaurs live here in Australia too, as well as back in New Zealand, ‘though I always suspected that would be the case. It’s when they get a public platform to spread the dinosaur word that I feel a little dismayed.

Today’s dinosaur offering? A retiring family court judge opining that in some cases, where one partner has made a special contribution (read: made lots of money) to a marriage, then if the marriage ends in divorce, the person who made the special contribution lots of money should get a greater share than the support partner.

THE legal notion that sports stars, artists and professionals with exceptional talent deserve better than a 50-50 split in divorce settlements is being watered down under pressure from the equal rights lobby, a top judge has warned.

Speaking before his retirement yesterday from the Family Court, judge Paul Guest said failing to take into account a husband or wife’s exceptional talent or skills in divorce settlements risked the “dumbing down of family law”.

Nice that he gives us the equal opportunity line, implying that it’s just as likely that it will be the wife who has the exceptional talent, but really, we all know just how gender differentiated the rewards for exceptional talent are likely to be.

Despite trying the “equal opportunity to be exceptionally rewarded for being born lucky” line, the two examples Justice Guest gives us are both male. (Do you think there might be something in that, m’lud.)

The tennis player:

But there comes a time when you have to look at other areas. If say, Pete Sampras’s divorce was coming through, is his wife entitled to half or did he make a special contribution?

And the geologist:

In that judgment, Justice Guest and another judge replaced the 65:35 division of a $36.7million asset pool with a decision to award 72.5:27.5 in favour of the husband, a geologist, who amassed considerable wealth through a series of business transactions.

The wife sought leave to appeal to the High Court, but her bid was dismissed.

Justice Guest told The Weekend Australian this week the husband “found a goldmine with his brains, his geological genius. He found the site. He put together the venture despite knockbacks. He got the finance. And he made a mine”.

“You’ve got to stand up for the doer, the one who tries, the person in the arena,” he said.

Well, gee, Mr Judge – did it ever occur to you that Pete Sampras’ chosen career, or indeed any sportsman’s chosen career, positively precludes his partner from doing anything other than tagging along behind. To be sure Mr Sampras has worked hard, trained daily, overcome the fear of failure, on a international stage, to become a top entertainer ( or sportsman, if you like, but really, they are just modern day gladiators, there to thrill the crowd). He was born with real talent, and he has applied the incredible effort needed to parlay that talent into a successful career. But the very nature of his job means that he must require any partner to allow his career to be the priority. His life-partner becomes very much the equal partner in his career, putting his career and his ambitions before her own, and as such, she should be entitled to an equal share of the rewards. That’s what partnership means.

As for the geologist, perhaps said geologist might never have been able to create the goldmine if he had not been able to rely on his wife to run the house, look after the children, do the washing, pay the bills, tuck the children into bed at night and reassure them that daddy really does love them but he just has to work late tonight / go on a business trip / make some important phonecalls / whatever and generally keep everything hanging together so that the geologist actually had the opportunity to make the mine. Moreover it’s certain that the wife would have shared in the financial disaster had the mine not eventuated; why then should she not share in the gains that came about through financial success.

Judge Guest takes refuge in the law. The 1975 Family Law Act (in Australia) says that:

In considering what order (if any) should be made under this section in property settlement proceedings, the court shall take into account:

(a) the financial contribution made directly or indirectly by or on behalf of a party to the marriage or a child of the marriage to the acquisition, conservation or improvement of any of the property of the parties to the marriage or either of them, or otherwise in relation to any of that last‑mentioned property, whether or not that last‑mentioned property has, since the making of the contribution, ceased to be the property of the parties to the marriage or either of them; and

(b) the contribution (other than a financial contribution) made directly or indirectly by or on behalf of a party to the marriage or a child of the marriage to the acquisition, conservation or improvement of any of the property of the parties to the marriage or either of them, or otherwise in relation to any of that last‑mentioned property, whether or not that last‑mentioned property has, since the making of the contribution, ceased to be the property of the parties to the marriage or either of them; and

(c) the contribution made by a party to the marriage to the welfare of the family constituted by the parties to the marriage and any children of the marriage, including any contribution made in the capacity of homemaker or parent; and

(d) the effect of any proposed order upon the earning capacity of either party to the marriage; and [some other stuff]

In English, what that means is that financial and non-financial contributions to a marriage shall be considered on their merits, whatever those are. And for Judge Guest, that means ‘special talent’. It turns out that he has published a paper arguing that where one person has more natural talent than the other, then that person should get more on divorce. (PDF downloadable here – 56k) Mere money doesn’t amount to anything special, but natural skills and talent do. So on divorce, those born lucky get to stay lucky, while those who worked hard, in the background, to ensure that the lucky could develop their talent, don’t.

I suppose that it’s reasonable to point out that Judge Guest is, properly, reading and applying the law. That’s what judges are supposed to do, ‘though infamously, judges can make the law work to reflect their own views. However, by and large, if we want judges to start making different sorts of judgements, then we need to change the law. It seems to me that there is a case here for changing the law. When you invite someone to share your life, you invite them warts and all, and more importantly, you offer yourself, special talents and all. If it so happens that you earn a whacking great amount of money through your special talents, then that is part of what you bring to the marriage. And upon its dissolution, that’s what gets shared out. Of course, you get to keep your special talent – no one can take that off you. But in the period of your life when you were in a marriage, then whatever you earned through that special talent is part of the marriage. All the more so, if you could only deploy that special talent because your spouse supported you.