The Public Interest

Affluence and divorce

Midge Decter

Spring 1997

N the late 1970s certain professional responsibilities required my attendance at an annual meeting of the American Sociological Association. At that particular meeting, there were two separate sessions devoted to papers in the then newly burgeoning field of women’s studies. It was announced in the program that men would not be permitted to attend either of these sessions. Now, having at that time a certain interest of my own in the discussion of matters pertaining to women (I had just completed a book on the subject), I was most curious to learn what it was that female sociologists had to enlighten one another about so determinedly out of earshot of their male colleagues.  Expecting to encounter some specifically sociological expressions of the feminist rage that had by then become so familiar in the academy, or perhaps the results of a formal study of certain darkly sexual thoughts and practices, I was both startled and bemused to discover that both of these sessions were devoted entirely to the subject of alimony. Among radicals, it seems, everything begins with ideology and ends with money. Or is it, rather, the other way around?

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