The other day, I told my partner that he was the “best husband ever,” to which he replied, “How do you know? You’ve only had two.” Which…damn. Honestly, fair point.
I’ve been more or less in the public eye for the past 15 years or so, so this won’t be a surprise to many of you, but yeah! I was married before. It was fun. Until it wasn’t. We got married in part because we lived on separate continents and being married made moving in way, way easier. But after a year or two of living together we just weren’t working together like a team, so we broke up. It sucked, like all break-ups, but it was for the best. And because I moved back to the US so we lived in different countries, getting a formal divorce was a little annoying: the laws on my end differed based on what state I was in, and everything needed to be sent certified mail internationally which sucked. But we weren’t in a hurry, so it wasn’t a big deal.
I’m thinking about all this because of Steven Crowder’s recent announcement that he’s getting a divorce, which, honestly, has been an extremely entertaining trainwreck. Here’s the quick overview if you haven’t been paying attention:
Steven Crowder is the conservative “change my mind” guy who does a commentary show that I guess is still on YouTube but he keeps getting suspended for being wildly bigoted, with the most recent suspension being for letting Alex Jones guest host his show. Alex Jones, of course, is permanently banned from YouTube for, you know, harassing the parents of murdered children and whatnot. So that gives you an idea of who Crowder is.
In January of this year, Crowder revealed that he had turned down a $50 million deal to join Ben Shapiro’s conservative outlet Daily Wire, saying it was a “slave contract.” This prompted conservative Daily Wire host Candace Owens to passive aggressively suggest her audience pray for Crowder because he was going through some things, and NO SHE WOULD NOT ELABORATE unless it became necessary at a later date for some reason.
Three months later, Crowder finally responded by saying that Owens was talking about the fact that he was getting a divorce. In a completely unhinged video that I had to watch several times for entertainment purposes, he repeatedly insisted that the divorce was NOT the fault of his twin toddlers, because obviously that’s what we all thought: those meddling babies, always causing divorces. He also insisted that Owens was ONLY talking about his divorce and nothing else, and that there definitely was no abuse involved, and please no one ask any more questions because that would be very rude. Also the divorce is NOT due to his stupid babies.
At this point I had to excuse myself to go to the grocery store and pick up a new sack of popcorn kernels. By the time I got back, Crowder’s soon-to-be ex-wife Hilary had leaked a security cam video of Crowder sitting on a couch smoking a cigar while yelling at her for not wanting to give his dogs some medication because she was HEAVILY pregnant at the time, and then he yelled at her some more because she wanted to go run errands but they only have one car and he might want to go see friends later.
Hilary Crowder also released texts showing that the night before she gave birth, she messaged Steven Crowder saying “Steven, I’m afraid of you [and your] rage. You are scary. You scare me. I want to heal things, but you have to take responsibility. Stop blaming others. Stop feeling pain and sadness only for yourself.”
Apparently he did not take that responsibility. According to Hilary, she later learned that he had hired a divorce attorney, so she got her own and filed.
That contradicted Steven Crowder’s original divorce announcement, though, in which he repeatedly stated that he did not want a divorce and that it was all his wife’s decision-making. The only mistake he had made, he said, was in choosing the wrong person, because now she had decided to leave.
And that’s where things get interesting in a broader context, because Crowder lamented the fact that “in the State of Texas, that is completely permitted . . . Children need a mom and a dad, and divorce is horrible. But in today’s legal system, my beliefs don’t matter. In Texas, divorce is permitted when one party wants it, period.”
And yikes, that is extremely pathetic. The man sat in front of a camera and admitted to the world that if it were up to him, his wife would not be ALLOWED to leave him. The only way he could make a woman stay with him is under threat of prison.
But that admission would only be surprising if you haven’t been paying attention to what Crowder and his cronies have been saying for years: “no-fault divorce” is a feminazi nightmare leading to skyrocketing divorce rates, more broken families, and the degradation of society and so it should be outlawed.
As lawyers on Justia’s blog detailed, that’s not quite right. At all. America inherited England’s divorce laws, in which you could only divorce through a literal act of Parliament. States introduced judicial divorce, which is what we have today, but a judge would only dissolve a marriage for very specific reasons, like infidelity. But it wasn’t even THAT cut-and-dry, because:
“There was no such thing, at least theoretically, as consensual divorce. Moreover, the party alleging fault had to themselves be innocent. Divorce was a remedy granted only to a party who deserved the court’s help. If the responding party counterclaimed and proved that the petitioner also committed fault, the divorce had to be denied under the defense of recrimination. The punishment for a truly bad marriage was staying married. Divorce was also supposed to be denied if there was evidence that one party had forgiven the other for marital fault, or if the parties had colluded to make it appear as if fault had occurred when it hadn’t.”
So on the one hand, you have people who both want to get divorced needing to lie to a judge in order to get it, and on the other hand you have someone stuck in an abusive situation whose spouse can easily lie in order to trap them in a never ending marriage. No one wins, including the general rule of law which is made into a mockery.
Hence, California introduced the idea of no-fault divorces around 1969 (signed into law by Ronald Reagan), and every other state adopted them in some form by the mid-’80s. Some of them included special stipulations, which is why upon moving to New York I needed to prove that my spouse and I had been living separately for a certain amount of time before I could even file for my own no-fault divorce. And in South Dakota and Mississippi, people still can’t access no-fault divorce unless both parties agree to a consensual split.
Still, the introduction of no-fault divorces was a win for everyone except abusers: divorce rates actually dropped from 23 per 1,000 marriages in 1980 to 15 per 1,000 marriages in 2019. Researchers Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers reported that “In states that introduced unilateral (no-fault) divorce we find a 8 –16 percent decline in female suicide, roughly a 30 percent decline in domestic violence for both men and women, and a 10 percent decline in females murdered by their partners.
But today’s Republican party isn’t focused on maximizing people’s happiness; they’re focused on controlling and subjugating people they deem beneath them, which includes women, and no-fault divorce allows women to escape abusive men. And that’s why Steven Crowder has been railing against it: the video his wife released was pretty clearly emotionally abusive. I saw a lot of people making confused comments about how the fight was predicated on the fact that they only have one car. Why does this millionaire, who recently turned down a $50 million deal as a “slave contract,” only have one car for him and his pregnant wife? Let me tell you, it’s probably not because he loves the environment and would rather ride his bike everywhere. It’s more likely to be that he likes to have control over where his wife goes, what she does, and who she sees. And luckily for her she finally realized she deserved better and she left, and that kind of autonomy in a wife is absolutely infuriating for an abuser. If she had been forced to divorce by proving fault, she would have been at risk of the very thing she already said she was scared of. As the lawyers on Justia write, “One may think that proving to a court that a partner is cruel would make the path to separation easier, but the opposite is often the case. In the years one of us (Professor Nanasi) has spent representing survivors of domestic violence, none—zero—have sought divorce based on the cruelty ground. This is because fault-based divorce can be dangerous, traumatic, and prohibitively expensive for survivors.”
Check out the link in the transcript to read their very long and well-cited list of research that proves this. It’s eye-opening.
It’s not just angry conservatives in the midst of divorce who are fighting to abolish no-fault: the Texas GOP has updated their platform to “rescind unilateral no-fault divorce laws.” Nebraska’s GOP is proposing that “no-fault divorce should be limited to situations in which the couple has no children of the marriage.” Louisiana’s Republicans are considering doing away with no-fault divorce, with only one Republican objecting “on the grounds she might still be in an unhappy marriage to a gay man if it hadn’t been an option.” Do Louisiana’s Republicans hate women more than that one gay guy? Probably. Sorry, lady, guess you shouldn’t have joined the Leopard’s Eating Your Face party.
This is another one of those universally good, scientifically supported policies that Republicans are now able to propose repealing thanks to their continued pushback on women’s rights in the past few years. And in places like Texas where conservatives have a stranglehold, they could pass this by the end of the week if they made it a priority. Vote these monsters out, and if you’re in a relationship where you are physically, mentally, or emotionally abused, I beg you to seek help get your own monster out. In the US you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 and receive confidential advice at any time of day.
And if you’re in a marriage that isn’t abusive but it just isn’t working out for you or your partner, I beg you to find a good counselor or get a divorce. All relationships end at some point and it doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It also doesn’t mean you aren’t respecting the institution of marriage: again, as the lawyers on Justia point out, it actually means you respect it more. No relationship is going to be perfect happiness all the time, but marriage these days doesn’t have to mean finding someone to support you financially while you raise their children, or whatever other transaction it used to be about. A good relationship is about both partners supporting one another and making each other feel validated and loved and respected, and moving towards goals you both want to achieve together as a team. If you can’t find that in your current relationship, it’s okay to part ways and find someone new. Don’t let a conservative talking head hypocrite try to shame you for it.