I remember as a child hearing women talk, in passing, about the fact that it was only mothers who were entitled to collect the family allowance (child benefit) from the post office, and that the money would only be handed over via the mother’s signature, and in her presence .
This was not always the case. Originally, government assistance went to the fathers:
Child tax allowances were usually paid to fathers, because men were more likely to be earning. They were obviously meant for children but, as they just formed part of tax-free allowances, they were not separately paid or identified as money for children, unlike family allowances.7 Not surprisingly, they also cost the Treasury more in lost income tax than the amount spent on family allowances. As a Conservative Chancellor put it much later:
“I am clear…that [reintroducing child tax allowances] would not be an effective way of channelling resources to those who need them. A better way of directing help straight into the pockets of mothers…is child benefit.”8
This reporting of history seems a little off-key. There are two issues:
The first is the fact that “they cost the Treasury more in lost income tax than the amount spent on family allowances”.The child tax allowance system was inefficient, but what the document does not explain is why the new family allowance system required the money to be paid directly mothers, rather than fathers. Why not fathers? Surely if the tax issue was the only problem, it would makes sense to scrap that, create the new family allowance system, and continue to pay the money to fathers. The money, set aside and “separately paid or identified as money for children” could just as easily have gone to the fathers.
But that is not actually what happened. It appears to be a mystery. Why would fathers stop being the beneficiaries? Why on earth would government assistance specifically need to be paid to mothers?
The Conservative chancellor does actually hint at the real reason the money had to be given to mothers: he admits that the decision was made so that resources actually went to those who need them, in other words the children. And so not only was this new system created, but the caveat was added that under no circumstances were fathers given permission to collect the money.
In the working class environment in which I was raised there were always hints and whispers of a bleaker time, a time when men had control over the financial help offered by the government. Put bluntly, I learned first hand about a time when money went directly to fathers–only for it to be spent down the pub, or on prostitution, or investments or (if you were middle class) on a car that only the man would drive or on… anything really, other than on the kids.
This is but one example of how the rhetoric of equality rings hollow. According to the theory of “equality feminism” men would be just as likely to spend the money on their children as women. Men are just the same as women. All we need to do is get women earning the same as men and then voila, our problems are solved. Except scratch a little deeper, and you see that men and women’s behaviour towards children is very different. Even the British government was forced to admit that men put themselves before their kids, as a rule, and that women, as a rule, put their kids before themselves.
Men and women couldn’t be more different, is the point I’m making. There’s a reason men decided to take the cash intended for their kids and spend it down the pub while their children (and wife) went hungry and cold. I’m not sure what that reason is but I do know a fact when I see it.
The inspiration for this post came from an online conversation I’d had with another radfem the other day, where I criticized my generation of feminists (and yes, I extend that criticizm to myself) for falling for the myth of equality, and for believing that men and women could, or even should, cooperate. Men’s appropriation of the small gains women have made (I’m concentrating on the family here, but the rule applies to the workplace, to the judicial system, to the media) happens insidiously, such as acting on the belief that it’s right, good and proper that they should take custody of the children after a divorce if the mother happened to have worked full time and they didn’t, and that a high-salaried mother should subsidize this decision. I know of real life cases where this sad and ridiculous state of affairs has taken place. Apparently, pregnancy and childbirth has been reduced to nothing because “we’re all equal now, and it’s no longer fair (on men) that men can’t give birth either, and therefore we should all act as though a man “sticking it in” and “childbirth” are exactly the same thing, with exactly the same repercussions for both parties, and that men and women have exactly the same stake in their offspring…
The struggle to defeat women is also done more subtly. It’s clear that the patriarchal family i.e having a man in the house, is partly designed to disrupt the natural bond between a mother and children. We all thought we were doing the feminist thing by getting the fathers involved in the parenting. But the result is that they have more power than their fathers’ generation. Women in the past knew that the only power they had was their dominion over their children. My generation, in our stupidity and need to believe in equality, have allowed the fathers of our children to take everything, without getting anything in return.
To the women out there who are still believers in equality, and who still have faith that men are capable of seeing women as equals, I would say this: first consider the history of misogyny, the burning times, the foot-binding, the genital mutilations, the porn…then ask yourself whether or not it’s unreasonable to say that, at the very least, men today, in 2012, should hand women political and economic equality on a plate, complete with an ingratiating smile. Let’s call it an apology. When they’ve done that then we can talk about letting them get their mits on our children.