Suzanne Venker's "pro-marriage" message on Fox News.

Suzanne Venker's "pro-marriage" message on Fox News.

“Financial independence is a great thing, but you can’t take your paycheck to bed with you.”

Thus speaketh Suzanne Venker in a charming apologia for domestic servitude published this week entitled “Why Women Still Need Husbands”. She’s the spokesperson for a US website called “Women for Men”, a social commentator unencumbered by an objective appreciation of reality, and an avowed anti-feminist. Venker holds the kind of convenient “boys don’t make passes at smart girls in glasses” opinions that get you on Fox News in the US

She’s back on TV this week discussing the interview in a clip that’s gone viral, advocating her latest skull-smack-wood brand of advice to American women. Her central message is that if you wish to be happy - drop your career, stop fighting for equality, find a husband and become financially dependent on him, while doing all of his housework and raising his kids. For Venker and Fox, you see, there’s just no girl as happy as an indentured domestic slave girl. I am writing this article so you don’t have to rage-blister your eyeballs by reading hers: Venker’s advocacy of women eschewing careers and financial independence cites benefits like the chance to “make more time for exercise”. I suppose this is because there is no man so unhappy as one paying for a slave girl whose buns are not tight.

Suzanne Venker appears on Fox News to discusse her article.

Suzanne Venker appears on Fox News to discusse her article.

Certainly, Suzanne Venker is posing the right question when she asks how women “can gain more control over their lives”, but her answer to allow one’s hunted-down husband to “bring home the bacon” so he can enjoy “a sense of purpose” while you scrub the skidmarks out of his underpants, stay buff and bang him for spare change is the nonsense of Opportunistic Fox Bananaland.

That so many women feel so disempowered and stressed by competing demands of public and private life is not, of course, an individual issue remedial with the application of one husband, but as a syndrome caused by social factors that have to be addressed collectively. Here are the four things women need far bloody more than any individual husband, boyfriend or man-bot could ever provide.

 

1. Free, Accessible Childcare

Government-provided childcare enables families to make practical and shared choices around parental leave, work commitments and career development as well as socialises children among one another, provides them with early-onset educational benefits, and creates networks for the families of an entire community. Why millions of dollars are being committed to a parental leave scheme that benefits only a handful of women well when it could be directed to childcare and therefore benefit the whole community extremely well is as suspicious as it is impractical. That the heavily female-dominated childcare work industry has just been denied yet another payrise is shameful in its disregard of the benefits that quality childcare provides everyone.

2. Equal Pay

“Unlike women, a man’s identity is inextricably linked to his paycheck. That’s how most men feel a sense of purpose,” writes Venker, for whom size really does matter as she equates a desire for more and more money an “integral part of masculinity”. Perhaps it's Venker’s persistent, dark ages belief that a penis is so “integrally” related to an income which is one of the other great causes of women’s stress – the gender pay gap which in her own home of the United States sees women, despite the law, receiving 23% less income than men for doing the same job. In Australia, it’s up to 32.3% in some industries – and widening.

3. Social Parity

While women remain underrepresented in cultural depictions, positions of leadership and in non-traditional industries, the social status of women remains less than that of men, making women vulnerable to insidious sexism, discrimination and gendered abuse. While women are portayed as objects and not subjects by culture – as “love interest” rewards for masculine heroic achievement in mainstream narratives and cum-canvasses in the overwhelming majority of porn – women are therefore treated as objects, generalized, stereotyped, and socially unconsidered. This leads not just to the stress of being invisible in the workplace, ignored for promotions, burdened with stereotyped expectations like a capacity for “multi-tasking” (aka doing more work for less money). It’s also the financial pressure of keeping up idealized physical appearances as well as fear of the ultimate gender objectification: rape and sexual assault. Suzanne Venker would do well to remember that majority of violent crimes against women are committed by the spouses she encourages us “to lean on”.

 

4. Reproductive Rights

It’s a significant cause of stress for women that their right to determine whether to become mothers or not is a choice that governments around the world are progressively trying to deny them. The demands of motherhood aren’t always chosen and sometimes not shared: gender roles purported by the likes of Suzanne Venker persistently represent parenting as a female role, and therefore culturally enable too many men to eschew equal parenting responsibility without consequence. To deny the right of every child to be wanted and every mother willing by denying women their reproductive agency for ascribing “personhood” to foetuses is fomenting in legislation such as Zoes’ Law in New South Wales and the activism of renegade anti-choice MP Geoff Shaw in Victoria. With a threatened return to the coathanger era of reproduction politics, is it any wonder women are stressed?