A self-described “Cambridge liberal” friend on Facebook linked to an article on a divorce initiated by actress Jennifer Garner against her husband Ben Affleck. The article notes that “Affleck’s ‘workaholic’ mentality didn’t sit well with Garner, who is usually home with the pair’s three children, Violet, 9, Seraphina, 6, and Samuel, 3.”
What other information was available to this friend? Wikipedia says that Garner sued her previous husband for divorce and that Affleck was never previously married. California child support guidelines provide higher profits for each day that a child is with a parent. California custody conventions award profitable time with children to the parent who can claim to have been “primary” during time spent as a couple (married or unmarried). In other words, if Garner could convince a judge that she had taken care of the children 80 percent of the time while Affleck was out working to pay the household bills, the most likely outcome after a trial would be that she was entitled to 80 percent custody and Affleck would be ordered to keep paying her bills for the next 15 years. (See the California chapter of Real World Divorce.) Us magazine explains that Garner waited until the marriage reached the 10-year mark before decided to pursue a divorce. That’s the line at which a judge would be able to award lifetime alimony or “a bigger share of Affleck’s reported $75 million.”
In other words, anything that the mother said about her defendant’s shortcomings as a father were potentially financially self-serving. How did the Cambridge liberal describe this celebrity news item?
“Why do we assume that great actors will make great husbands/fathers?”
Here’s the ensuing exchange:
me: What is interesting to me is that you highlight the shortcomings of the man as a “husband/father”. You don’t mention the possibility that the woman (who sued a previous husband for divorce on May 9, 2003) might have any shortcomings as a wife/mother.
Cambridge liberal: She has no shortcomings as a mother if she’s raising 3 children effectively on her own [the Daily Mail quotes Garner saying “You have to have a great nanny…” and has photos of the father caring for the children while the mother parties; also shown is a nanny; litigators such as Floyd Nadler in Illinois told us that a female parent who stays home with a nanny wins “primary caregiver” status but not so for a male parent]
me: What’s your basis for saying that “she’s raising 3 children effectively on her own”? Do you know this couple personally? Or you are relying on a plaintiff’s assertion in litigation? (keep in mind that every additional day of custody that this plaintiff [actually a “petitioner” in California] can obtain will result in additional cash paid to her under California’s child support formula)
Cambridge liberal: Based on the article’s claim that she was disillusioned with his workaholicness and that she pretty much was left to raise the kids alone.
me: is it reasonable to accept uncritically the statements of a plaintiff looking for tens of millions of dollars merely because she is a woman? What’s your basis for the idea that the parent who initiates a divorce lawsuit, thus breaking up the children’s home, is automatically the superior parent? [papers from Malin Bergstrom show the harm done to children by an American-style divorce; ironically, Garner is a trustee of Save the Children]
Cambridge liberal: I do put more faith in women than men, yes. Men have a spotty record to put it mildly. Nearly all mothers have to be good at motherhood for us to survive. Fathers on the other hand can get away with being pretty shitty at that job.
me: Would it be okay if I were to say, after hearing about a plaintiff of Race A suing a defendant of Race B, that “I am pretty sure that the plaintiff is telling the truth and is not motivated by cash considerations because people of Race B are ‘pretty shitty’ parents and ‘have a spotty track record’ as parents”?
Cambridge liberal: No that would not be ok because you’d have no scientific basis for making such claims. Human fathers, on the other hand are demonstrably worse caregivers than mothers on average, by far. [he had no research or data to cite]
Thus a guy who generally is quick to attack others for being prejudiced (against poor people, dark-skinned people, people with unconventional sexual habits, people with gender dysphoria, et al.) was happy to admit believing that fathers are inferior parents compared to mothers. (The New York Times also thought it was okay to run a personal opinion piece on the subject; see previous post.)
So that leads to today’s question for readers…. what other prejudices are acceptable in 2015 America? When it is okay to say that Group X is inferior at handling Challenge Y?
[Separately, I asked a divorce litigator about the Garner-Affleck situation. He responded “When the dust settles it will turn out that Garner was sitting on something more valuable than her acting career.” Assuming that Garner does avail herself of the California family courts, his estimate of how much of the children’s potential inheritance will go instead to pay legal fees? “$2-5 million until they age out of the child support system.” Coincidentally, I flew with a helicopter pilot on Monday who had been an entrepreneur in California. He married a woman 14 years younger than himself and paid for her medical school. As with Garner, she waited until their marriage was just over the 10-year mark and then sued for half of the value of his company, child support, etc. to supplement her wages as a medical doctor and to help support her younger lover.]