Women, Money, Power: The Currency of Love Revisited

by Ouida on March 15, 2010


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When I was 10 years old, my mother took me on a drive through our neighborhood. My upbringing was solidly middle class. The homes were nice, the cars were large and there was usually more than one in the driveway. My mother showed me a home and asked me if I liked it. Sure, I said. You like that car? she asked. Sure, I said. But by now I was beginning to feel uneasy. After a few minutes of this my mother hit me with the punch line: If you like these things, you need to make sure you can buy them yourself. Today all I really want to buy myself is an iPad, but this was the 1970’s when Apple was just an idea in Steve Job’s mind, the dollar was worth more than it is today, equal pay for equal work was becoming a popular slogan and women were very often dependent on men for their measure of financial security. About a week or so ago I blogged about The Secret Currency of Love, a collection of essays written by women on the topic of women and money. These women shared the ways in which money is used and abused in their lives. They share the Hobson’s choices they have made because of money. The portraits are intimate. The thing that has amazed me is that more than one woman in this collection of essays baldly stated that at her very heart she just wants to be taken care of. Accomplished authors and journalists with a single confession: that at the end of the day they want the burden of caring about money, how it is made and spent lifted from their shoulders. This is 2009! I have seen so many women finding themselves divorced at middle age and having to declare personal bankruptcy even though they had jobs because they had no idea where the money was and what their debts actually were. I have met women, high income earners, who spend with no thought for tomorrow because they not so secretly hope that they will meet someone who will take care of them and relieve them from the burden of having to work and, finally, I have met women intermittently employed while married because they were raising a family only to find themselves divorced without even a basic understanding of how to re-enter the work force or how to apportion their settlements to create a modicum of security for themselves. I have worked with enough women and seen enough among friends and family to believe that expecting someone else to do the heavy financial lifting is simply a recipe for disappointment at best and disaster at worst.
When I think about the imbalance of power being dependent on someone else for information and security entails, I get chest pain. What are we to do? Ultimately many essays conclude that there is nothing wrong with wanting as long as we take care of business. And take care of business we should. I am getting that iPad and I am grateful that I won’t have to get permission before I buy.

Please comment. Am I being too radical?

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