When property law reinforces sexist tradition

Years ago, my parents executed mirror-image Final Wills and Testaments, each page initialed, each instrument fully and appropriately executed according to law. The wills though separate ensure the identical results regardless of who predeceased whom.

The wills’ mutual design preserves accumulated capital for natural born heirs, a conceit of our eighteenth-century male-dominated heritage . As my parents produced three “natural” daughters only — no sons — the wills further discriminate against daughters unable, unsuccessful, or unwilling to sacrifice their wombs (and potentially their lives) for childbearing. Another testament to our historically high valuation of male offspring producing further male heirs, the wills denigrate the sacrifices of actual child-rearing by precluding consideration of adopted, foster or step-children. The joint wills embody the age-old prejudice that a woman’s sole value lies in her womb. A woman’s income potential, a woman’s potential leadership, achievement and contributions outside the home, improving a world filled with men and women, boys and girls, count for nothing. The wills incentivize an economically inefficient and misogynistic allocation of resources. Taken together, their intended impact is perverse and insulting.

I was shocked! In retrospect, I had not accurately assessed my father’s misogynism.

Dad always promised us girls equal shares in the estates. When the wills surfaced for probate, the two of us who had not had “natural” children due to both physical conditions and other circumstances stood to receive only occasional allowances from income earned from our invested shares. Our sister with three grown children, however (who wouldn’t even have sex with her first husband except to conceive children, and even then only in reliance on promises of expensive jewelry upon childbirth!) receives her share outright. Further, when we childless daughters die, our 1/3 shares in untouched, invested capitalal go to our other sister’s kids. So much for equal shares. The fertile womb fundamentally gets 100% with an occasional gratuitous tip tossed in our direction.

Mother raised me as her father raised her: as an upstanding competent, independent PERSON. In athletics, I outperformed boys due to a high V02 max. In school I also prevailed. Mom adhered to the Reformed teaching of the spiritual equality of men and women. I learned later in the workplace that most people don’t view themselves as PERSON first, gender second.

My father, unchallenged head of family, had, in fact, throughout my life made derogatory comments about women. He never referred to sex in a way that lent dignity, or indicating equality of partners, or bonding or love. Instead, my father only referred to it as “humping” as he sneered. But these comments had no lasting impact on me: Dad delegated child rearing to my mother. I had no meaningful relationship with him. For this reason, it was always said I would never marry, lol.

So, here we sit, unwinding the bolluxed estates of my parents to ensure their property is legally distributed in accordance with their legally expressed intent. It is hardly worth the trouble. But it’s still a daughter’s duty.