"Putting a Wife to Work..."

I've been sharply critical of Donald Trump's remarks on women throughout this election season, but this time I think the media may be misreading what he said. He's not suggesting that it's dangerous for a husband to have a wife who works. If I understand him he's suggesting that it's dangerous to employ one's own wife as a business subordinate.

Now we have all these rules about sexual harassment in the workplace just because we recognize that it's perilous to go the other way -- to seek a wife (or husband) from among one's business associates. The idea that it's dangerous to combine the two spheres of engagement is thus not a very strange thing to say at all, especially not from a feminist perspective: they've been driving most of these rules for just this reason.

So why should it be surprising to learn that it works the other way too? If the creation of intimacy can put undesirable stresses on a business relationship, why would it be surprising that bringing an intimate relationship into the workplace might put undesirable stresses upon the intimate relationship? It seems well-established that the two relationships are at cross-purposes in certain respects.

On the other hand, there are millions of stories of immigrant families who came to America and built a successful business around their family ties. Just over the hill is an Indian family who runs a small convenience store. The father, wife, and son all take turns staffing it, and the revenue is managed as family income. This program has worked to the good of generations of immigrants, helping them become established in what can be a difficult economy.

Still, it's not weird to think that the business and the intimate don't go together well. The American business environment is an ideally asexual, professional environment built on competition between atomic actors for position, responsibility, and salary. A marriage is an ideally sexual, intimate environment in which resources are pooled for the common good. It should be no surprise at all to learn that the two forms wear against each other. The conclusion that they might be better kept separate seems like wisdom to me.


Texan99 said...

Clearly the only safe route is for him to put his wife to work as his boss.

douglas said...

My wife and I have been partners as well for our entire marriage, but somehow we manage to avoid any serious friction. Maybe we're just the exception that proves the rule.

Grim said...

I'm not very surprised that you made it work, being a stable and emotionally mature fellow. I'm just thinking that Trump is probably right that, for a lot of people more like himself, it's taking a huge risk with your marriage to try to combine it with business.

Of course, you know, sometimes risks pay off.