WARNING: I have been told I do not write softly. Take a deep breath.
Some conversations and interactions are tiresome. Including the age old one which includes a narrative something like this (a recent conversation I had):
Me: Hmmmm I really want a new pair of flats for work.
Them: Then get them.
Me: I have researched it and the pair I want is spendy. I will wait for the next big sale.
Them: Or you could just make HisFI buy them for you.
Ugh. I will not be “making” HisFI do anything of the sort. I am my own person with my own income. In addition to this, why is the default for anything expensive to have the male partner in your life buy it? The assumptions here are muddled with multiple layers of our patriarchal society.
Don’t believe me? Take it from my Co-Worker Katie. I approached her about this post asking for input on scenarios with money that she felt connected to the same underpinnings of our traditionalist and sexist society.
She quickly responded with a common occurrence that irritates and undermines what she brings to the table. Literally. Katie is gay and when she and her partner, who appears to be more androgynous than herself, go out to eat….yes some of you have already guessed it…the check is STILL placed in front of her partner.
Despite being two females, the engrained ideas of who will be paying, who is in charge of funds or who makes more money falls to more masculine individual at the table.
So what do the loud liberal feminists have to do with this?
These stories hold the subtle or not so subtle ways that we as a society consider women and their connection with money. This implies a serious imbalance. That is where feminism comes in.
Feminism is the belief that all sexes should be equal.
Feminists typically fight for this equality and are advocates for womenkind. They are not man haters, bra burners, or insane liberals (only normal liberals ;)). It is not to say one sex is better than the other either, which is the most common offense I hear from others when stating I am a feminist.
Equality in finances is therefore a pivotal part in women’s issues. The wage gap is real, the amount of women going into careers that are “more suited” for the “feminine nature” is real, and the notion that men run the finances in a relationship and life is real. To see the stats on this specifically hop over to Why it is Harder for Women to be Financially Independent.
The Root of the Imbalance
However, I did not want to make this another post crammed with statistics about the disadvantages women face. Instead there are some deeply rooted belief systems that are feeding the nasty weed of financial inequality.
Belief #1 – Money is power or Money gives power.
Power. An idea that is both positive and negative in connotation depending on who is using it. The power of speech was highly inspirational and positive when Martin Luther King Jr. gave “We have a Dream”. The power of speech was highly destructive and manipulative when Hitler convinced a nation to commit mass genocide.
Power is an intangible idea. Meaning I cannot hold power in my hand….except in the case of money. Cold hard cash in the hand allows for one to be powerful in many ways. To influence those around you, to get what you want when you want it. It gets you places and gets people to listen to you.
This is where feminism comes in. Feminism is not about one thing, its about the big thing: power imbalances. These are what leads to inequality. The wage gap, meaning women receiving less compensation for the same work, is a perfect example of a power imbalance with money. If men have more money than women they will inherently have more power than them as well.
So what “power” do women resort to if they cannot have the kind that comes with money? Let’s bring this back to the scenario at the start of this post. Remember when it was suggested I “make him” purchase the expensive shoes for me. There it its. The common adjustment to make the man or male figure pay for something means that I am using some kind of female power. This is a type of power has a negative connotation and in this case it is manipulation.
When power is associated with the female it is done so in a negative way. I think that we fear powerful women. When a structure has relied on the control of 50% of its population for so long, it would be pretty shattering to loose this giant stroking of the ego and feeding of the power structure.
Not to say that women have never had power. Of course certain women have the power that comes with money. In this case I am speaking on a large scale. Also not to say that women can’t have positive power with their actions and voices. (Duh!) However, money still gives or insinuates power, and until women have and make in equality to men it will remain an imbalance.
Belief #2 – Money means success
You went to college, you found a job and you now have a career. You have made it! How do we know? You have a car, a house, a large TV, a nice pair of shoes ….oh yes, you have money. I know these things point to a sickening amount of consumerism, but they also stand as symbols of success…for men.
You may be thinking, well success means different things to different people or “real” success is about conquering fears. I am talking about whats success means now, not how it should be or what will be long lasting. The definition of success is achieving a lot, becoming popular, having a lot of money (occasionally prosperity is used depending on the dictionary source).
What makes a man successful does not make a women successful and here is where the imbalance lies. At one time in our history, having children and caring for the home made a woman successful. After all, she has achieved a lot. Thankfully it is no longer that time.
Or is it? From cave woman to housewife, a woman’s success is prioritized by her work as someone who serves. Serves the home, the man and eventually her children. While noble work, it is never a measurement of man’s success. Instead he is a hero for considering taking on some of the same challenges. [For more on this and Emotional Labor click here]
Success in the workforce for women also comes from a different place. According to a study in 2016 women who style their hair, clothes and makeup earn higher salaries than those who do not spend as much time getting ready. I’m not kidding. This is insane, but also points to the other station of success for women: beauty. Women in the workforce must not only do the job well, do it while looking fabulous, they will also have to ask for that raise instead of being given one. [For more on the Women as Leaders in the workforce see this slightly outdated but still relevant TedTak]
If success for females is not tied to money then what am I talking about?? 1. It is the fact that success for men IS tied directly to money and 2. That success for women is NOT tied to money. Another major societal imbalance that is two fold on what success should be and who should have it with money.
Belief #3 – Money means security
This is a belief and a truth in the FI communities. Money provides stability; meaning food, clothing and shelter. Once our basic human needs are met in the moment, the future is soon on the horizon. Funding a emergency fund, savings, and retirement all provide additional support for that security.
We know that money provides the items or stash’s of cash for security. What is not looked at right away is the feeling that comes from having this security. Some may describe this as peace of mind, FU money, freedom…or independence.
That is the key word when it comes to women and security: Independence
While women can and so easily provide their own basic needs with a day job. It is the future piece, the one that FIRE’s find so important that becomes a further reach.
In the instance of retirement, not an early one, but a “normal” one, women are not prepared. As of 2017, over the 62 million wage employed women only 45% participate in a retirement plan. Not only do women live longer than men, women also tend to work less than men due to having children and/or working multiple part time jobs (also more common for women). All of this means less money, less savings, and minimal retirement. Thus, for women finding security can mean “finding a man”.
Let’s circle back to that concept of independence that comes happily in hand with security. As a whole for many year independence was viewed in a negative light. Women are and were socialized to be dependent on the nuclear family structure. Thankfully this scale is tilting slightly as women proudly wear the label of “Crazy Cat Lady” across their chests instead of single, sad and in love with cats being whispered across the church pews.
This idea of independence is a craving for some and path straight to hell in the eyes of some women. However, it should be a viable option both emotionally, socially, and financially.
The Era of Financial Feminism
Here we are in the midst of belief systems that perpetuate a place we have put women for decades. A series of systems that is nuanced and provides challenges financially for women, especially women of color or women with disabilities.
Financial Independence is about more that early retirement and funding your FU account. It is about more than that because we do not play on a even field with set rules. Women still play on the sidelines and it is time that changes.
Ways to Tip the Scales
It is through awareness and action that things can change. If you have made it this far in my post you may be angry or considering how to refute my statements or you totally loved it and are ready to don your pink pussy hat.
But before you do either of these things, consider the ways we can tip the scales together as men for women and women for women.
#1 Sisterhood and Support- Adopt the mantra Her Success if My Success. Or better yet get out there and fight for her success too.
#2 Direct Purchases- Consider who you buy from and who benefits from it. If you can direct your purchases for women and women owned companies. Do so.
#3 Direct Investment- Your own investment. Choose where to invest and do it for yourself EVEN if you are in a relationship that provides the future plan.
#4 Understand your Funds- Know where your money is and how much you make. Also, know how much your co-workers make. Perhaps you are due for a raise.
#5 Conversations- This is perhaps the most simple and ties into sisterhood. Talk to people about money, specifically your feelings with money. This is one of the most challenging conversations to have, and primarily because of the stated stigma and beliefs above that tie into how both men and women are perceived.
As I was writing this post, I stumbled across a post on Bravely that lists the Ten Financial Commandments for Women. This covers similar suggestions I have mentioned above and a few more.
On this note, I would love to know the stigma or deeply rooted belief you feel is tied to money? How has this affected you or your path towards FI?
Everything is very open with a really clear clarification of the
issues. It was definitely informative. Your website is
very useful. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you! I am so glad that you it resonated with you. It is good to hear feed back as I do not want these to be viewed as rants, but instead “open and clear” thoughts on the issue. Thanks again!
The work hair and makeup thing irks me to no end. I’ve done a decent job getting around this by wearing nicer clothes than the rest of my coworkers, but I still get comments about how “nice” or dressed up I look on the few occasions I actually put make up on. Which is frustrating, because men never have to spend time on makeup!
This really resonated with me. I have way less in my retirement account than my husband because I worked part-time for so long and then took time off for the kids. I wish it wasn’t like that but I also am totally ok with having one parent home as much as we did. There really should be more balance though.
Jennifer, thank you for sharing, I cannot tell you how much it means to here other women’s stories. The life balance is always hard and even harder for women.