Boxing Clever

I wasn’t planning on any Christmas blogging. There are better things to do, like drink sloe gin, eat vast amounts of all sorts of things, and play with the childrens’ new toys. But then my Xmas was intruded upon when a family law related “news” item wafted into my dreams when the radio alarm went off at 6. I pretended I hadn’t heard it and went to make a turkey curry, but the one time I go to check my phone I see Adam Wagner has flagged it for me via twitter (damn you Adam ;-)).

So darn you Coleridge J with your festive gay marriage bah humbugs. It’s because of you I’m christmas blogging. Thankfully my children have lapsed into an early sugar induced coma so I have not had to cut short my playtime, but I have been ignoring my spouse in preference for my laptop screen just like an ordinary night, when really I should be cajoling him into playing monopoly or scrabble against his will (he escaped from the post it note game this afternoon by volunteering to wash up).

I’ll keep it short, Johnny Depp is on the telly. To summarise, what Coleridge said I’ll quote from the BBC report:

Sir Paul told the Times newspaper: “So much energy and time has been put into this debate for 0.1% of the population, when we have a crisis of family breakdown.

“While it is gratifying that marriage in any context is centre stage… but it [gay marriage] is a minority issue.

“We need… a more focused position by the government on the importance of marriage.”

If you’re running an argument that family and wider society is breaking down because people don’t know how to make long term commitments to one another any more, and if you think that the celebration and encouragement of an institution that allows couples to make a public, legally binding and lifelong commitment to one another is a good thing, it doesn’t make any sense to limit your efforts to promote membership of that institution to certain parts of society only.

And if your view is really that equal marriage is a minority sideshow that doesn’t matter why engineer a situation where it becomes front page news on Boxing Day again? When I first heard Coleridge speak about the Marriage Foundation the message on gay marriage was “we’re not going there” (see here where the FAQ still says “We have nothing we want to say in the current debate”). Now the plan seems to be to slipstream on the gay marriage press coverage whilst still not coming out with a position on it. Or perhaps alternatively its less of a plan and more a case of one too many sloe gins before bumping into a journalist on the tube. Who knows. The result is much the same. Continue Reading…

Marrying Up is Down

DISCLAIMER: I’m not a social scientist, a statistician, an economist or a politician. So I may be talking out of my hat.

Again.

 

The IPPR has published a report on marriage patterns, and it shows that fewer women are “marrying up”. According to the report I read in the Observer today “IPPR director Nick Pearce said class had “tightened its grip” on families: “This shift has implications for inequality, as well-educated, higher earners marry each other and pass on the fruits of their success to their children.”” The paradigm example given in the article is a female secretary marrying the male boss. In fact it appears from the equivalent article in The Independent that Nick Pearce is slightly misquoted – the full quote is that  ”social class has tightened its grip on marriage” not family, which is not quite the same thing.

This report sounds actually really interesting but irritatingly I could find no link to it or even any press release about it on the IPPR website. And so it isn’t really possible to drill down into what it is all about, and I was left with a glimpse of the statistical information and a few odd quotes, the context of which was unclear.

I’m not sure what the implications of this report actually are because I can’t actually read it (ggrrr), and am imagining it through the prism of what the press thinks is newsworthy, but reading this article left me with a slightly odd sensation that I should regard a change in such patterns is a bad thing. Am I missing something? I understand the argument that if more people marry within their own class, wider income inequalities are exacerbated. But aren’t we simply talking about more women achieving an upward movement by means other than marriage? And more of those women marrying partners who are like them rather than their seedy old boss?

A social scientist (author of a thing called Honey Money, whatever that may be) is quoted in the article as suggesting that “there is plenty of evidence that most women aspire to marry a wealthy man”. Really? Most women? Speak for yourself love. If I can’t make my own money I certainly don’t want to be beholden to any sugar daddy (Just as well, ‘im indoors most definitely ain’t loaded).

That most women who aspire to “move up” now aspire to do so by dint of their own hard work and intelligence rather than their ability or willingness to catch the eye of their seedy male boss is surely a known phenomenon and something that we should embrace?

And that many women may be motivated by factors other than wealth or career is surely not so difficult to comprehend?

And that some successful men may be wary about the financial risks associated with marrying “down” is surely not a controversial proposition either.

But, continues the social scientist:

“As women become better educated, and start to outnumber men among higher education students, it becomes impossible for all to marry an even more highly educated and high-earning spouse, so they are increasingly forced to marry equal or down.

“This is going to have a huge impact in the long term, as wives become equal earners to husbands, even higher earners. So sometimes couples will decide that it should be the husband who stays at home to look after the kids and the home, and you get an increase in role-reversal households.” Such families suffer higher divorce rates, she said.

Do you see what I mean? Forced to marry equal or down? We can’t all be Kate Middleton, eh? What a load of “Prince Charming” aspirational B.S. (I know, I’m over-reacting a tad – I understand that the statement is logically accurate but the use of the word “forced” implies aspiration disappointed).

Maybe this has hit a nerve because the role-reversal household model she goes on to describe reflects my own household, and maybe I’m coming from the perspective of women “like me” (whoever they are) – but the way this is put grates. I’m not aware of any research that “such families suffer higher divorce rates”. I’ve had a good old google and I can’t find anything (if there is some please set me straight in comments – I’d be genuinely interested in reading it). Even if the proposition that role reversal families suffer higher divorce rates is correct, one would need to go beyond mere correlation in order to show causation.

Ah well, spare a thought for the poor chaps who can’t find enough good girls to marry “down” to. There’s only troublesome independent ones to be had these days. And it’s our fault that financial inequality is on the up because of our selfish insistence on equality, right? Arguments that “feminism has trumped egalitarianism” are not new (e.g. here).

I sense (in fact I know) that this is all rather more complicated and less clear cut than I would like it to be. But surely there must be a way to achieve social equality and minimise poverty other than “marrying up“? (more reality TV shows perhaps?)

The Daily Mail and the Moral Crusade

Sir Paul Coleridge may not be on a moral crusade but his Marriage Foundation has certainly inspired the crusading spirit in the Daily Mail (download pdf of article here: It’s down to the judges to mend our divorce laws – they trashed them in the first place By STEVE DOUGHTY if you don’t want to give google juice to the Daily Mail, but if you must see it in situ here is the link).

The Mail’s Steve Doughty has written an article with a true identity crisis. When I read the words “A judge simply cannot launch controversial political campaigns, and particularly not about matters on which she is required to give daily judgements in court.” I thought Coleridge was about to get it in the neck for sticking out his own. But in fact, whilst the judiciary in general are the villains of this piece, Coleridge himself emerges as something of a hero. Steve Doughty begins by reporting the unremarkable fact that the Law Commission is comprised of lawyers:

“Judges have taken the lead in developing family law for 20 years now. It was in the early 1990s that a judicial quango called the Law Commission, which was set up to provide ministers with advice on updating arcane areas of the law, began recommending sweeping reforms for no-fault divorce to take the tears out of family break-up.”

The Law Commission of course advises the Government about Law Reform, and as we all know is often ignored, particularly where family law is concerned. But according to Doughty this has not stopped the judiciary from having their way by hook or by crook:

“It is the judiciary, not elected politicians, who have decided that the courts should take no account of adultery or other marital misbehaviour in divorce cases.

In a business contract, a party that breaks the rules is penalised. In marriage, the most far-reaching and solemn contract anyone can make, as far as the courts are concerned the rules don’t matter.

This is why a man who has to hand over a large slice of his income to an unfaithful ex-wife who is both living with a well-off partner and denying her former husband access to his children will sometimes feel driven to dress up as Batman and stop the traffic on Tower Bridge.

It is the judges who have decided that divorce settlements must be equalised so a wife can get a bigger share of money she has not earned. It is the judges who have given legal status to the pre-nup, introducing to the law the assumption that marriage is not for life.

Shall I take it in stages? Continue Reading…