It's (nearly) always about the money
We don’t talk about money nearly enough. Especially women.
It’s impolite, we’re told. Especially women.
That’s often the line that’s used when someone doesn’t want trouble.
Talking about money is impolite at a dinner with friends, sure. But it isn’t impolite to have transparency. And it’s certainly not impolite to acknowledge how important it is for women to have access to money they can use freely. Gender pay gaps are getting more attention in recent times but women being financially stable has such a large impact on so many other parts of their life, beyond the office.
Something I hadn’t thought about which Hena Mehta of Basis drew my attention to was how most women do such a disservice to themselves by not managing their own money considering there’s such a high probability they will outlive the men in their lives. You can hear the full conversation in this episode of my podcast.
Money is so deeply tied to confidence and a sense of self, which is not the same as letting a job title define you. Recently, Anna Codreo-Rado wrote about how being rich is the productivity hack no one talks about and although I could only read some sneaky snatches because it’s behind a paywall, I couldn’t agree more.
Money can’t buy happiness. But it can buy many many things that drastically alter the quality of your life.
From how you dress to how you eat to what you do with your spare time — money plays such a major role.
I recently realised what an indulgent question, “What are your hobbies?”, is. You only really have space in your life for music, art, beauty, something you do purely for the fun or creative pursuit of it, when you aren’t worried about money.
Anecdotally, I know how important it is for a woman to have her own house and access to money to avoid being trapped in an abusive relationship. It’s no guarantee of protection. But both can help. Because among men who abuse it’s a classic pattern to lock a woman out of a house. When she’s vulnerable, an abuser has greater control.
Remember Gabby Petito? She’s the 22-year-old American woman who has been in the news for more than a month after she disappeared while travelling in a van across the United States with her fiance. She was found dead a few weeks ago and the fiance has been missing ever since. A few weeks before her death, passerby called 911 after seeing the couple arguing in public.
Do you know what they were arguing about? According to various reports, her fiance had grabbed her phone from her and was threatening to lock her out of the van, which they were living out of. In other words, to leave her stranded in the middle of nowhere with nothing to help her get out of a situation like that. She didn’t even drive much. She must have been terrified.
What makes me think this was an abusive relationship is that a coroner has recently ruled that Gabby died from strangulation. Do you know what all the reading about abusive behaviour says about a man who tries to strangle a woman — it’s only a matter of time before he tries to kill her. The fiance isn’t guilty until tried and proven. Gabby’s body had been out in nature for about three or four weeks before her she was found.
What if Gabby had access to more money? Would that have created a different, more equal, dynamic in the relationship?
Don’t get me wrong, being rich doesn’t insulate a woman from abuse.
But could money have helped?
According to what’s necessary to marry according to Islamic rites, a girl must be given what’s called a mahr ideally by the groom or his family, which can either be an amount of money, or a piece of jewellery of a certain value or in rare cases, property. This is meant to protect a woman’s financial future — to give her something to use as she pleases that’s her own and not her husband’s or his family’s.
Do you know what usually happens though, at least in many South Asian arranged marriages, to this day? The mahr is aggresively negotiated down and almost never accounts for inflation while a man and his family might be perfectly happy to accept what they call “gifts” from a woman’s family.
Let’s just call it what it is — dowry.
Ladies, if we wait for permission to talk about money, we’ll be waiting forever.
Let’s talk about salaries.
Let’s talk about investments.
Let’s talk about retirement funds.
Let’s talk about money troubles and triumphs.
Obviously, only talk about money with people you trust, people who will be supportive and positive, people who will listen and help where they can. But talk about it. It’s not impolite. Talk about it so much that talking about money is no longer embarassing and is instead replaced by a culture where a woman who isn’t paid fairly is embarrasing. Not for the woman, for who’s paying her below market value. Where women feel confident to navigate money without a man. Where all women realise how important it is to manage their own money even if they’re in a happy and stable relationship.
In Women Wins these past weeks
We saw a couple of really cool firsts like:
Michaela Coel made history as the first black woman to win an Emmy for limited series writing.
Mexico decriminalised abortion.
Princess Diana will be honoured with a blue plaque on a flat she once shared with friends in London, before she married. This is part of a wider campaign to remember more women who were notable.
Women with money is a good thing for everybody.
Women give more to charity regardless of income level. Just look at what Melinda and MacKenzie are doing.
Women invest in their families.
But first, women need to feel less lonely with their money.