'Marrying someone older for money is problematic. But we're not the ones letting the sisterhood down.'

I waited with bated breath for the nuanced conversations around The Cut’s essay, The Case for Marrying an Older Man, that never came. In the piece, author Grazie Sophia Christie, 27, writes about her personal experience of marrying an older man at the age of 23 - he was 10 years her senior. She describes this as a calculated move to secure her financial future and a partner who knew how to floss, before her youthful bloom shrivelled and died. Problematic, yes?

I agree. And the internet agreed, as the piece soon went viral, with Christie receiving wide criticism for her retro opinions on youth and fertility as well as well as her apparent disappointment in twenty-something men. But if the commenters frothing at the mouth could take pause, it would be worth analysing who we’re actually angry at here. Who might actually be letting the sisterhood down. Because if an educated woman is recommending we marry old, and rich, to reclaim our financial and fertility freedoms – something has gone very wrong.

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There still exists a stubborn and stagnating gender pay gap, in Australia with women earning around $238.00 less per week than men. And this statistic is when comparing full-time wages - the gap widens again when including gross income of women and men who work part-time, by contract or seasonally. Women are more likely to take leave to have children and according to Gina Rushton’s The Most Important Job in the World (please read) are more likely to face discrimination for that leave, more likely to work in precarious industries, and as a result, will likely retire with half of her male counterpart’s superannuation. Not to trot out all the IWD infographic stats here ladies, but we’re also less likely to get a pay-rise and to be in management positions. 


If we’re going to talk about toxic relationships where gendered power imbalances exist, it’s hard not to look at the above statistics and wonder why, by that metric, we stay so faithful to our careers. Obviously in large part it’s because we want to work – and because we now have to. The cost of living crisis disproportionately affects low income earners – which we understand is a group largely represented by women, and the fastest growing cohort of homelessness is women over 45 in a worsening housing crisis, where it’s been decided shacking up will give us a better chance at home ownership.

So, women get paid less than men and in deepening financial crisis are more likely to be at their financial behest, are less likely to own their own property and, after a gruelling day at the office, will work 15 hours of unpaid, domestic labour more per week than her male partner – what isn’t still alarmingly retro here? Well, I mean, women can work.

We need to be very aware of the Trojan horse that is corporate interest, dressed as feminism. To participate in the workforce is undoubtedly positive for women. To have to succeed in it to afford necessities such as rent, childcare or a mortgage - or else have two incomes - is not.


For men either, but especially for women. Because the receipts continue to show women are working just as hard, or harder, for less. Somewhere along the way, equal right to work got conflated with the equal expectation to work, without first attending to equity in the workplace and the home. “When we decided we wanted to be equal to men, we got on men’s time. We worked when they worked, retired when they retired, had to squeeze in pregnancy, children, menopause somewhere impossibly in the margins,” Christie writes. When appraising the above statistics, where is the lie in that particular addendum? Her critics were quick to respond with ‘what ifs’ regarding her career and equal partnerships, inadvertently denying what still seems to be, depressingly, the prevailing reality.

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To the question of whether, as Christie suggests, a revival of retro, age gap relationships will liberate women of their shackles, my answer is a resounding no. There are worrying passages around self-possession in which she adds, “he showed me around our first place like he was introducing me to myself,” and expressed concerns at developing her own interests and preferences later in life. Yikes. But we, the audience, should be discerning enough to see this as a product of a larger issue. If I’m honest, it wasn’t just her that I felt was letting the sisterhood down, it was also her critics. For not critically thinking about why the writer came to this wild conclusion, and how we might prevent a woman from writing a piece like this. Ever. Again.

Image: Getty + Canva.

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