Tuesday, February 27, 2018
Arianne Renan Barzilay, Power in the Age of In/Equality: Economic Abuse, Masculinities, and the Long Road to Marriage Equality, 51 Akron Law Rev. 323 (2018)
In an era when women have achieved formal legal equality, patriarchal power endures. In this article I take on a largely neglected subject: economic abuse. While this phenomenon has recently begun to generate awareness as a form of intimate partner violence, it currently lacks a theory and history with which to deeply understand it. A failure to recognize the profound roots enabling economic abuse contributes to its perpetuation, trivialization, and marginalization in legal thought. Such a failure has broad implications for gender equality. This Article offers both a history and a theory with which to understand the phenomenon’s deep roots. It sheds light on the historical modification of coverture through familial and market-based breadwinning roles, and points to new insights from masculinities theory to explain how economic abuse is enabled. It illustrates how economic abuse is socio-legally made possible, demonstrating how it is embedded in a historical, socio-legal structure of the market and the family. It thus brings domestic violence gender-based analysis into a broader conversation about the law, the market, and the family. It contends that economic abuse is not merely an individual matter requiring individual-oriented solutions, but rather a social one, based on a particular, historically-based construction of relationships between gender, law, the market, and the family. More generally, it offers a way to think about power in the family in this new, seemingly more egalitarian era. It concludes by suggesting guiding principles for mitigating economic abuse and for destabilizing gendered power dynamics in the family more broadly.