The Female Breadwinner

Ann Friedman considers how even financially independent women often sacrifice their own creative potential to support a spouse:

The partner who is more aggressive, assertive, and confident has a natural edge. Often, that partner is male. He’s the one who declares he’s ready to take the leap and try to make his unrealistic creative dreams come true. The woman, who is frequently but not always more self-effacing about her abilities, agrees to play a financially supportive role.

There are real privileges associated with going first. The creative world fetishizes young entrepreneurs and auteurs. As we age, most of us become more risk-averse. And then there’s the question of children. In almost every field, there’s a significant drop-off in women’s advancement after they have children. Men do not suffer the same fate. A2010 survey of U.K. workers in fields like film, design, and media found that 42 percent of the creative workforce is female, compared with 46 percent of the workforce in the wider economy. Older women were even more underrepresented.

For Friedman, “it seems like there’s no ideal”:

You either place a great deal of trust in your partner in the short-term and rely on his income while you invest in your long-term creative goals. Or you become the breadwinner and put your dreams on hold while you fill the joint bank account. But in either scenario, it’s clear that for creatively ambitious women, independence isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.