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love out loud: the maintained man

Sometimes, I feel like giving myself a pat on the back for being such a feminist. I am such a feminist that not only do I not subscribe to traditional gender roles, but I reverse them.

That’s right folks. My boyfriend is a kept man.

Except that I never agreed to this.

Aforementioned boyfriend got a job a couple of weeks, the first he has had in our nine-month long relationship. And I’ve never cared that he didn’t have a traditional, regimented job, mostly because he’s a musician and spends eight hours a day playing guitar, which I essentially deem to nonetheless be contributing to his career (though I’d be lying if I said I don’t find it somewhat easier to drag myself out of bed for work every day, now that I know he’s suffering too). It didn’t affect me because I’ve never been reliant on a partner’s wage/salary for my own livelihood, and even though we’ve been living together for a couple of months now, Julio and I don’t have joint finances.

Except that Centrelink determines that, because we are living together, I am now financially responsible for him.

I am pissed. And I am pissed for two reasons.

The first is that Centrelink (understandably) cuts an individual’s benefit if they or their partner earn more than a certain amount (although it should be noted that on Newstart allowance, you can only earn $62 a fortnight before your payment is affected, which is pretty abominable); 50c is cut for every dollar earned up to $250 a fortnight, and 60c is cut for every dollar earned between $250 and $825.67.

But here’s the thing: as a woman, I statistically earn 84c for every $1 that a male peer earns. Granted, this means that my partner has a smaller cut to his benefit, but with a bit of fiddling around, I figured out how much money we’d have between us if I was a dude earning $1 for every 84c that I currently earn (hypothetically, say, $773.81 as opposed to $650 fortnightly), and my partner’s Newstart allowance was cut accordingly (hypothetically receiving $31.11 as opposed to $105.40). The combined income result is a $49.52 per fortnight advantage in the favour of the male-as-breadwinner couple. Which might not seem huge, but that’s 11.8 Grande-size coffees at BP, and at least one trip to the movies.

So although Centrelink may equally “benefit” men and women who receive an allowance, my household income is (on average) less because in our partnership, it’s the female working and not the male.

The other reason this shits me is that several years ago, I had a Canadian partner who couldn’t apply for a de facto visa until we’d been living together for a year. Read: the Australian government would only recognise our relationship as legitimate once we had been living together for a year.

This is understandable, and in hindsight, I’m not opposed to this policy as the Canadian was/is a d-bag and I’m rather glad he had no recourse to pursue a de facto visa. But why shouldn’t I be afforded a year of being able to keep my finances to myself (without guilt) while living with Julio, just in case he’s a d-bag too? My good deed was facilitating cohabitation because he was homeless; why is this arrangement inherently assumed to include the division my substantial wealth?

(Just so that no one thinks to steal from me, I should clarify: I have no wealth. Especially not now, thanks to Centrelink.)

Granted, this is somewhat of a moot point now that Julio is also living the daily grind, but our Government really needs to find some consistency between its departments. If they want to make it horrendously difficult for people’s partners to immigrate and ignore that women still earn 16% less than men, then they likewise shouldn’t introduce policies to enable cost-cutting (for THEM) through the assumption that a couple will have joint finances if they are living together.

As far as I’m concerned, what’s yours is yours and what’s mine is mine.

(Image credit: 1.)

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