Alimony is a confession: It is the disclosure that women’s unpaid labor in marriage empowers men, while weakens and impoverishes women, and that men are in women’s debt for their labor.
Marriage and divorce appear to be opposites at first glance. But there is a much more complex relationship between the two, as Delphy noted years ago (“Continuities and discontinuities in marriage and divorce”, 1976, DLBaker/S. Allen (ed.), Sexual Divisions and Society: Process and Change, in Tavistock). First of all, although divorce means the end of single marriages, considering the remarriage rate of divorced men, each divorce also means that the institution of marriage is reborn from its ashes and strengthens. Another phenomenon that reveals the continuity between marriage and divorce is that the custody of especially small children in need of care is left to the mother after divorce. Although custody is one of the main conflicts between the parties during divorce and the overwhelming majority of women are willing to fight for the custody of their children, this does not change the meaning of that the court should leave the custody of small children to the mother “under normal circumstances”, that is, if the woman is a woman who “are considered worthy” of motherhood: Caring labor remains a woman’s duty, just as it was in marriage!
As for the discussion of alimony, above all, alimony, in the form of a confession, refers to the continuity of marriage and divorce. Alimony cannot in any way correspond to the unpaid labor of women in marriage; except in very special and exceptional cases, the amount of labor a woman has spent in her marriage cannot even be compared to the amount of alimony she receives. But alimony is a confession: It is the disclosure that women’s unpaid labor in marriage empowers men, while weakens and impoverishes women, and that men are in women’s debt for their labor. Although this is not the intention, the efforts to limit alimony by proportioning it to the duration of marriage is a clear confession of the unpaid labor in marriage: Ignoring the needs of the woman after the divorce, making an implicit reference to the labor in the past in determining the amount of alimony means establishing a continuity between today and past. It is the acknowledgment that the reason for the deprivation and poverty of women today is the labor they spent in the past.
The state’s undertaking of alimony means the elimination of this confession and disclosure. The re-covering of the conflict of interest between women and men is the re-invisibilization of the labor that women have spent for men (and his children and relatives). What the state needs to do is to determine a meaningful amount of alimony, taking into account the current needs of women, and to ensure that it is paid.
Translator: Gülcan Ergün
Proof-reader: Müge Karahan