Senior year of high school I took a college level Spanish class. We read novels, news articles, and even some academic works to practice advanced vocabulary and communication skills. One article we read concerned a hypothetical plan to legally mandate husbands to allocate an allowance to their wife if they happen to be a housewife. The author argued that housewives provide labor and services that individuals normally pay for, but husbands are receiving them for free. In a class discussion I blatantly told the professor that I do not support such a mandate and she immediately branded me “El Machisto”. I never got an opportunity to explain my reasons to her and as a staunch advocate of gender equality I assure you my reasoning concerns economics and the practicalities of government policy.
A very basic problem is that the author was not neutral in defining her mandate. By that I mean a housewife will be guaranteed an allowance, but what about a stay at home husband who fills the same role? The policy should not discriminate based on gender. However this is quite trivial and can be easily fixed.
More importantly, I want you to consider the root of the problem concerning the power dynamic between a housewife and her husband. Being the primary income earner in this scenario grants the husband a great deal of power. Housewives may prolong their marriage even if they are unhappy because their marriage provides financial stability. Some housewives also feel guilt when spending money they did not earn themselves. The housewife may feel hesitant buying a new dress or purchasing cosmetics due to the fact that her husband could question her spending decisions concerning money the housewife did not earn herself. On top of that, husbands are capable of criticizing activities housewives partake in throughout the day. Going to a movie during the day or meeting a friend for lunch may be frowned upon when chores around the house are left unfinished. This establishes that housewives may face immense criticism from their husbands if they feel their spouses are not contributing equally to the success of the family.
The root of the problem seems to be poor communication. My mother was a housewife for several years when I was a child and my father never clearly communicated his expectations to her. At the same time good communication requires that the power dynamic is equal. Setting unrealistic expectations for the amount of work your partner can accomplish in a day can be very damaging for their sense of accomplishment and self esteem.
I will concede that the author was correct in that services provided to the family by a housewife have real economic value. Raising children, cooking meals, grocery shopping, cleaning, and laundry are all expensive tasks for a family to outsource. It is important that husbands recognize these services would incur a high cost when outsourced to a third party. However, I think an allowance is not the appropriate decision in this case.
If the source of the problem seems to be poor communication, financial decisions will not solve abuse, insecurity or an imbalanced power dynamic. Therefore I do not believe that government interference here will help at all. Temporarily a housewife may feel greater financial security and freedom, but many of the power struggles and criticisms remain. A husband who was previously criticizing his spouse will probably continue to do so under the mandate. Only now he has reason to state that his wife is allocated a portion of his hard earned money in return for being lazy. In that case the problem was only exaggerated. Having the government make this decision for a couple only hides a bigger issue, which is the stigma and criticism many housewives face. Any financial strains are only exaggerating the results of poor communication. Husbands need to realize the value that productive housewives bring to the table.
This is a very controversial and complicated topic, I would love to hear your opinions in the comments below!