I'm all about finding innovative ways to make money, because the more weird ways there are to make money, the less likely it is that I'll have to work in a boring, nine-to-five office job when I'm older. Sometimes, however, weird ways to make money don't fall into the category of "quirky and charming," but rather into the category of "strange and possibly sexist." Take, for example, so-called "wife bonuses."
A few days ago, New York Times op-ed columnist Wednesday Martin introduced the wider world to the fascinating-to-an-anthropoligst, but scary-to-normal-people microcosm that is the uber-rich social circle of Upper East Side motherhood. A particularly shocking aspect of this world, at least to those of us who are uninitiated, is the wife bonus.
So, what is a wife bonus? Martin explains it as a financial arrangement, delineated either in a pre-nup or a post-nup, where women get incentives for being good wives (which often tends to mean being good mothers). Basically, women get their end-of-year bonuses if they do a good job with activities like maintaining the household budget and getting the kids into good schools. These bonuses, in turn, provide women with a sort of financial freedom to keep up in their social circles, where charity dinners and vacations with friends frequently come with a hefty price tag.
On the one hand, the very idea of a wife bonus inspires a pretty deeply seeded rage in me, because it's hard for it not to sound like sexist nonsense. However, my initial reaction may be because it's a cultural phenomenon that is simply foreign to me — which, obviously, doesn't make it automatically wrong. If everyone is on board with the arrangement, and we all agree that full-time motherhood is an extremely demanding job, then why not compensate women for it? If women and men both make educated decisions about whether or not to add a wife bonus clause to their pre-nups, that's their prerogative and I'm not in a position to judge that.
However, what I keep coming back to is this: At the root of the wife bonus is an insidious problem wherein the husband is set up as the "boss" in a relationship and his wife as the "employee." This serves to create and reinforce unequal power differentials, which may be why the initial reaction for many of us is to find this concept problematic.
What if the tables were turned, though? Let's imagine a world where husband bonuses exist, putting women in the position of power and men in the subordinate role. Here are some things my (future) husband might be able to do to earn his Husband Bonus.
1. Be Nice To My Friends
There's nothing more stressful than trying to balance time with your friends and your significant other. Maybe a little incentive is all he needs to be a little more friendly to my girls.
2. Read Some Feminist Literature
It's one thing to watch a chick flick every now and then. If my husband really wants to earn that bonus he might get familiar with Simone de Beauvoir and Bell Hooks.
3. Make and/or Bring Me Food
This one is pretty self explanatory.
4. Compliment My Harem Pants
They're comfortable and I love them, so he should love them too.
5. Don't Listen to Mumford and Sons
Mumford and Sons are the worst.
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