There is at the very least much controversy regarding who (if anyone) actually said the famous line attributed to Marie Antoinette. However, regardless of the veracity of the quote it has gone down in history as the epitome of callousness. After all, Marie Antoinette was famous for frivolously spending France’s money on her hobby of playing peasant at a time when actual peasants could barely afford to buy food. Her penchant for spending earned her the famous nickname Madame Déficit. The attribution of the quote along with her actual conduct combine to create a picture of a woman who simply couldn’t register the immense suffering of countless real life people, because in her mind they were merely props for her own amusement.
Although the original quote is suspect, today we have a very real example of the kind of incapacity for empathy which the famous line represents. While many modern women have responded to feminism by taking on male roles with the seriousness of men, many others prefer to dabble in playing men. As a result, we have women playing warrior, playing career woman, and playing pioneer. All of this comes at immense cost to our economy, at a time when many are struggling to get by.
Unlike the large numbers of men and women who are outraged by the injustice of the family courts, the modern day Marie Antoinette looks at the great pain and injustice fathers are experiencing at the hands of the family courts and channels the famous line in one of two forms:
Let them ask for custody.
Let them pay child support.
In reality these two separate statements represent the same underlying sentiment. Those being crushed by an unjust system must have somehow had it coming. While they can’t dispute that the system is designed to be used to punish men without a need to show any actual wrongdoing, all they can think of are the great princesses who rely on the system to play strong independent woman. The unjust system gives them power, and that is more important than the suffering of innocent men and children.
Let them ask for custody.
As I have explained before, this is a specious claim because it assumes that fathers would be granted custody if they only asked for it. The reality is that men’s lawyers counsel them on their real expectations of the process and advise them to take the best deal they can hope to get. This is a classic case of what economists call bargaining in the shadow of the law. As the working paper No-Fault Divorce and Rent-Seeking explains:
…spouses engage in ‘bargaining in the shadow of the law’ (Mnookin and Kornhauser, 1979), where the existing law becomes a threat point for one of the spouses.
As an analogy, imagine a criminal court system where there was virtually no chance of being acquitted if you were part of a specific unfavored class, no matter how strong your case is. If you offer unfavored defendants in this scenario the chance to plead guilty to receive a lower sentence, they will nearly always take it because they have nothing to gain by trying to make their case for innocence. Yet you couldn’t take a 90% (unfavored class) guilty plea end result as proof that a system is fair which finds the unfavored class guilty 99% of the time cases go to trial. They are simply two sides of the same injustice.
There is another problem with the Let them ask for custody quip; it overlooks the very reason men marry and have children. Men don’t start a family to become half of a broken home, whether this is the half which pays child support or the half which gets the children. Men want to lead an intact family and work together with their wife to give their children the best. While taking a man’s children and then forcing him to pay for the honor is adding insult to injury, winning sole custody and having to pay others to do much of the parenting isn’t a great option either. Even though no doubt most men would greatly prefer the latter over the former, we shouldn’t overlook the great injustice committed by a wife who blows up her family without serious cause regardless of who wins custody. We understand this when it comes to men who walk out on their families to start a new one with a younger woman, and we should be clear about this when women indulge in the rampant female fantasy of divorce empowerment represented by movies like Eat Pray Love and Fireproof.
Let them pay child support.
There are two core claims which make up this sentiment. The first is that child support is only fair because it merely forces the man to own up to his responsibility as a father. He had sex, so he deserves to pay. But the woman had sex too, and in the vast majority of the cases she is the one who initiated the divorce. In fact, when Brinig and Allen studied the issue they found that the ability to take away the children was the biggest motivator for wives to divorce (emphasis mine):
Our results are consistent with our hypothesis that filing behavior is driven by self-interest at the time of divorce. Individuals file for divorce when there are marital assets that may be appropriated through divorce, as in the case of leaving when they have received the benefit of educational investments such as advanced degrees…
We have found that who gets the children is by far the most important component in deciding who files for divorce, particularly when there is little quarrel about property, as when the separation is long.
For those who don’t speak economist, they are saying that the reason women initiate divorce twice as often as men is because they know it gives them the opportunity to steal the children. In this context, child support isn’t forcing a man to pay for responsibilities he wasn’t willing to shoulder, it is the payment of cash and prizes to mothers who blow up their families.
But today’s grand princesses have an answer to this as well. Even though academic studies have found that the motivation was the opportunity to commit divorce theft, the man still must have had it coming. Note that they implicitly accept that losing custody and paying child support is a form of severe punishment for men. What they are arguing is the punishment is just because the men deserved it. Commenter T made this basic argument over multiple comments during a recent discussion:
Women divorce to get rid of unwanted husbands…
I assume that unwanted husbands are unwanted for good reason.
But why make such an assumption? Brinig and Allen didn’t find any reason to come to this conclusion, and the system is specifically designed not to consider fault. Women have the ability to profit from an unjust system, and all of the data suggests that they are in fact doing this, yet women like T demand that women who blow up their families be given the benefit of the doubt. As the famous line goes, provide stats for this or shut up! Men must be considered guilty until proven innocent, they argue, as this is only fair. In fact, even if you were to assume that only half or even one quarter of the men being punished by this system are innocent, this is a grave injustice. The innocent are being punished to reward the guilty! Yet whenever this debate unfolds, there is a strong tendency of those arguing for justice to try to prove that the men being punished are innocent. They unknowingly take on the female solipsists frame and have a debate about whether those convicted without any form of due process were really guilty or not. This is made even worse because no amount of hard data will convince modern day Marie Antoinettes that men don’t deserve to be crushed. As T explained in the same thread, a certain percentage of fathers who have their children taken away from them deserve it because they are guilty of doing something concrete like abuse, abandonment, addiction, or infidelity. This of course ignores the fact that in the cases where the wife was the one who precipitated the divorce due to these same offenses the system will still punish the husband as if he were the one who committed the offense.
Commit a mugging? Go to prison.
Got mugged? Go to prison.
Later T explained that the rest of the fathers are guilty because there is no concrete wrongdoing to point to:
From what I’ve seen, if a person cannot think of something that they are doing wrong in their marriage and their marriage is going badly the problem is probably them.
This is where the debate nearly always ends up. Once cornered with facts and logic, the defenders of injustice resort to pure denial. No wife initiated divorce is ever frivolous, even when the wife claims she divorced frivolously. You simply can’t take a divorcée’s word for it when she tells you she divorced frivolously. You know how divorcées lie.