One of the greatest things to happen for women in Western democracies was the ability of women to leave marriages at will. The ability to more easily divorce men who abused them gave women a power they never had before.
It’s no secret that many Republican conservatives have long felt that the ability of women to easily divorce men is one of the greatest catastrophes to befall Western civilization.
So it should come as no surprise that many high-profile Republicans are also saying that now is the time to work toward abolishing no-fault divorce laws:
Following the Supreme Court’s elimination of the federal right to abortion in June, conservatives have taken aim at other fundamental protections, such as same-sex marriage and access to contraception. But some on the right are resurfacing a different, long-simmering project: stigmatizing divorce, including, in some instances, attacking no-fault divorce laws.
No-fault divorce in the U.S. was first adopted in California in 1969, and New York was the last state in the country to pass a no-fault divorce law, which it did in 2010. Although state laws differ, in general no-fault divorce means that one party can successfully dissolve a marriage without needing to first prove wrongdoing by the other partner – including adultery, abuse, or desertion.
Ohio Republican Senate nominee J.D. Vance praised the idea of staying in violent marriages in remarks to high school students in southern California last September. Vance argued “all of us should be honest” about how “making it easier for people to shift spouses like they change their underwear” by leaving marriages that were “maybe even violent” had negative effects on the children, according to Vice, which first reported the comments.
Although Vance’s comments were made before the overturning of Roe v. Wade, they’ve taken on a new salience amid a conservative movement that sees formerly out-of-reach goals as newly attainable. And Vance has lots of company in right-wing media.
Reactionary YouTuber Tim Pool recently discussed no-fault divorce laws on his show, titling the clipped segment: “No-Fault Divorce Has DESTROYED Men’s Confidence In Marriage, Men Don’t Want To Get Married Anymore.” The discussion focused on how no-fault divorce laws were to blame for what the panel perceived to be a rise in prenuptial agreements, which segued into a meandering discussion lamenting divorce in general.
“The courts are heavily biased in favor of women to an insane degree, especially with children,” Pool said, parroting a cliche often espoused by so-called men’s rights activists, an anti-feminist movement that claims men are structurally disadvantaged in divorce proceedings and family court. (Although it is true that women are generally granted sole custody more frequently than men, the reasons for that are complicated and have to do with men historically having higher incomes and sexist ideas about mothers being natural caregivers.)
Crazy. They really do want to turn the tables back to the time when (to paraphrase Pat Schroeder) “men were men, women were children, and children were 14-hour-a-day chimney sweeps.”