Adele and Alimony: The Gendered Issue of Divorce

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Adele and Alimony: The Gendered Issue of Divorce

Guest contributor Hannah McLoughlin on Adele and Simon Konecki’s recent divorce and society’s gendered attitude toward alimony and marital roles.

Adele has been at the forefront of many conversations recently, with the public reaction to her weight loss garnering a fair bit of social commentary. However, if I can take your mind back to that ancient time known as the end of April, I’d like to discuss another example wherein Adele’s life raised some interesting points about society’s subconscious opinions.

At the time, it had come to light that Adele was set to lose up to £70 million from then-husband Simon Konecki in her tumultuous divorce. Why? Well, Adele had filed for divorce in California, and Californian law states that in the absence of a prenuptial agreement, assets acquired during a marriage are to be split equally between both parties.

To discover whether or not the response to Adele's alimony case was gendered, I asked my followers some questions on Instagram.
To discover whether or not the response to Adele’s alimony case was gendered, I asked my followers some questions on Instagram.

In my mind, the immediate response to this announcement appeared very gendered. Twitter was in its default setting: deeply divided, with many feminists arguing that this was not an example of gender parity, and their equally vocal male counterparts arguing that when women receive large amounts during divorce settlements, they are cheered. So, curious, I took to Instagram to see if this gendered response was mirrored in my own circle of friends. What I found was that 75% of those questioned felt that the settlement was entirely unfair, but that there was no apparent gender bias. Then I dove further in.

Whilst many people’s primary issue in the case of Adele was with the 50/50 split of assets, upon further questioning I found that many also took issue with the very concept of alimony. The practice was originally put in place to compensate individuals for “unpaid work” undertaken during marriage, often protecting a stay-at-home and child-rearing partner from leaving a marriage at a disadvantage.

For example, if a teacher marries a surgeon, and both incomes are not required to support the family, the teacher may give up their job to keep house and raise the couple’s children. Without alimony, if the marriage ends the teacher has lost out both financially and professionally. With alimony, they are compensated for their unpaid labour. Despite this, over a third of my followers felt that, as it currently stood, alimony was an unfair concept When questioned, the subconscious opinion of most appeared to be that no matter which partner is working, “unpaid marital work” remains something that largely falls upon women.

There is a bias amongst most of us that a woman whose husband works is a housewife, but that a man whose wife works is a kept husband. As such, many of my followers were unconsciously taking issue with a man being the recipient of alimony. Despite no one knowing the details of Adele’s marriage, the assumption was that Adele brought in the money whilst simultaneously doing most of the domestic tasks, and thus her husband being accorded so much in alimony was entirely unfair.

The resultant assumption is that men typically do not pull their weight in relationships, that marriages and the like are carried on the backs of women, and that men lack domestic utility and endeavour. Some may argue that this bias is rooted in truth – and perhaps, historically, it does – but if we are to aim towards gender equality then we must surely acknowledge all damaging gender biases, not simply those which disadvantage women.

For this reason, I’m going to have to take issue with the Twitter Feminists who decried this settlement as an aberration of gender parity. The law has treated Adele as it would any rich man. Do I feel bad for her? Yes. Am I excited for the album that will likely come of all this? Of course.

Hannah McLoughlin

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