Article written by Michaela Madden
March 8th is International Women’s Day: An annual holiday celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women around the world. The day dedicated to empowering women also shines a light on the current state of women’s rights. This draws attention to issues including gender equality, reproductive rights, and violence against women. In the family law industry, we see women face a variety of challenges during the divorce process. Most frequently, we see them face double standards.
Divorce double standards date all the way back to the 1800s. A prime example of this is the Divorce and Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857. This law allowed men to end a marriage in the case of adultery. Women, however, could only divorce their adulterous husband if he committed another marital offense alongside his cheating. While we’ve come a long way since then, society still enforces these double standards. For example, by putting more shame on women who are single or blaming the woman for "breaking up the family."
This International Women’s Day, we want to highlight a few double standards we often see women face in their divorce. Additionally, we want to look at ways that we as a society can avoid playing into these gender biases. Keep reading for 3 Divorce Double Standards to Ditch this International Women's Day!
1. Marriage As a Measure of Success
It is frequently assumed that all women have the same end goal. To find a guy, get married, have a few kids, and live happily ever after. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that! But success shouldn't be defined by your marriage or the number of children you bear. Men are seldom defined by their marriage or divorce and are never questioned about their single life. The standard for women should be no different. Using marriage as a measure of a woman’s success often leads to the woman being blamed for the divorce too. Let’s remember that many things make for a successful woman. Divorce plays no part in measuring that success.
2. Custody & Childcare Expectations
While it may seem like a thing of the past, women are still widely expected to manage the majority of childcare responsibilities. In fact, nearly 2.5 million women had left the workforce a year into the pandemic compared to just 1.8 million men. Even worse, we far too often see men being praised for childcare. Women on the other hand are expected to abandon their jobs to be natural caregivers. This double standard even comes to light during the divorce process and custody battles, where many expect the mother to take on a majority of the child’s custody and caregiving. Instead of playing into gender roles, we can promote healthy co-parenting relationships that place equal responsibility and expectations on both men and women.
3. Moving On Too Fast
Whether they’re going through a breakup, separation, or divorce, it’s no secret that women are judged more harshly than men for moving on too fast after the end of a relationship. In fact, men are frequently granted more sexual freedom than women, with “slut-shaming” being experienced by 50% of women but only 20% of men. However a person moves on and whoever they do it with should be a highly personal decision that has nothing to do with gender. So, let’s give everyone the grace and space they need to move on with their lives and be happy.
Happy International Women's Day
While we have made many strides towards gender equality, a gap still exists. Seen across all industries, including family law, join us in addressing these double standards and making a difference.