There are three undeniable truths of article-sharing on Twitter: a) the exact same handful of articles continues to resurface every so often; b) readers will almost only ever respond to the intentionally provocative title; and c) when they do, they will quote-tweet it with the exact same sassy responses as the last time this happened, with perhaps increased levels of snark.
An oft-discussed article on millenial women earning more than their male partners has risen from the dead and, with it, the inevitable disparaging choruses of “can’t relate”. According to the piece, based on a report by writer Ashley C Ford, in 2015 38 per cent of American wives earnt more than their husbands in the US, which, in some cases, negatively affected couples.
The overwhelming and entrenched ideas that men are providers and women caregivers means that, when the roles are reversed, couples were reportedly left struggling to cope. As Ford puts it, “these messages trickle down with almost unavoidable emotional and psychological consequence”, which usually conclude in men feeling emasculated and women feeling guilty. Alongside these feelings, some women reported feeling anxious about the situation and resentful toward their significant other.
"Unlike the traditional trajectory of men who earn more, or are sole financial providers, most of these millennial women either believe out-earning their partners is temporary, or lament the idea that it may not be," Ford wrote.
Lots of lucky people on the internet found themselves unable to relate to Ford’s report or, more realistically, unable to relate to the snappy headline they are more likely to have actually read, which summarised the write-up as “Millennial women are 'worried,' 'ashamed' of out-earning boyfriends and husbands”.
“This is honestly so laughable,” one user posted. “We are a team. If I make more than my SO [significant other] then we high five and move on.”
“If a man is making me feel worried and ashamed for my successes because he feels ‘emasculated’ instead of cheering me on and having my back, he sure as hell ain't ever gonna be MY man,” chimed in another.
We are embarrassed enough discussing money as it is, let alone the complicated set of feelings that can come with outearning a man in a patriarchal society
“I do not know one woman who is worried about this,” concluded another. Several others added anecdotes about their own positive personal set-ups, where they were either earning more than their male partner or were a male partner earning less. Which is all well and good, but sadly doesn’t negate the fact that there are women who have found themselves more financially fortunate and, thus, less fortunate when it comes to relationship struggles. “I just want to say that whether you agree with these women or not… this is what they said,” Ford tweeted in response to the continued write-offs.
The worries highlighted in the piece are not by any means rare – rather, they are backed up by statistical evidence that show for all it isn’t simply plain sailing. The report outlined that, on average, women are still generally paid less than men and are more likely on average to do more of the housework, meaning the burden for female breadwinners is not always simply financial – sometimes they are doubling up on responsibility as opposed to swapping places. More notably, The University of Chicago Booth School of Business found that often in these types of relationships, dissatisfaction increased and could lead to divorce. While this shouldn’t be the case, it doesn’t mean it isn’t for some.
“I'm surprised to see unanimous derision for this,” a Twitter user said. “Because they don't know anyone openly admitting this, people assume it doesn't exist.”
She has a point – we are embarrassed enough discussing money as it is, let alone the complicated set of feelings that can come with outearning a man in a patriarchal society, from both parties. As millenials, a generation characterised by liberalism and progression, we especially may feel like we have evolved past being tied down by such archaic and arbitrary rules around money. It might sound like a silly issue, but it remains an issue enough that, as Ford points out, when you google “I make more money than my boyfriend”, the results usually dredge up problem-solving articles that posit a woman earning more than her husband as a hurdle to overcome. We can only ensure it isn’t seen as an issue if we discuss why it is seen as one – and brushing off these difficult conversations doesn’t mean they aren’t taking place in whispers elsewhere.