Kevin Federline recently filed court documents in Los Angeles County asking a judge to increase his child support payments from Britney Spears to $60,000 a month. The one-time backup dancer, model, and awful rapper turned DJ explained that spinning records was netting a measly $3K per month, which in addition to the current $20K in child support was not nearly enough to support his children. By contrast, the court filing notes that Spears is single and living the life of luxury befitting someone with a Vegas residency. Reactions to K-Fed’s request have largely (and naturally) been negative. Many have suggested that he get a “real job.” Despite the fact that this rhetoric is aimed at someone who seems fairly unlikeable, it’s harmful in that it supports a gendered double standard that hurts even hardworking men.
It might help to recap Spears’ history with Federline and their children. (Apologies.) They were married briefly. They had kids. The court awarded sole custody of those kids to K-Fed after Britney was hospitalized for being high on an “unknown substance” during an incident in which she locked herself and her child in a room in her home. At the time, the young pop-star seemed relatively unstable and was given visitation rights designed to increase over time.
Since then, Federline’s career has waned while Britney’s has seen a resurgence. Federline lives in a 2,000 square foot home with his current wife and six kids from three different relationships. Britney has a three-hole golf course on the grounds of her mansion. If the genders were reversed, a man with money and fame would likely be derided for holding back additional child support to his struggling ex. That’s not the case here.
The reason for the derision is simple. Federline is a man. And, as a man, he is expected to do whatever it takes to provide for his children. To do otherwise is to be a freeloader. The message is clear: Fathers should earn the money. In many families, fathers are the breadwinners. But that’s not a moral imperative or an inevitability. Plenty of men are now choosing to stay home while their wife works. Some of those men end up divorced. And, yes, they should receive child support. It’s likely that most people fundamentally believe this to be true but react viscerally to Kevin Federline’s request because it feels extreme and because he’s got an awful you-would-be-a-DJ vibe.
But the law is the law. And men’s value to their children is not the same as their monthly paycheck. In the case of Federline, we’re talking about a guy who seems to have been a reasonably stable parent. Yes, he deserves the same money that a woman would get in the reverse scenario. Consider the $50,000 a month that Eddie Murphy is paying to his ex-wife, Mel “Scary Spice” B. Was this arrangement publicly ridiculed? Nope. Should Mel B get a job? Nope, not if she doesn’t want to — and she was likely financially secure to begin with.
The whole child support discussion gets easier for all concerned when rules is rules.
The fact is that in high-profile divorce cases where custody is awarded to the mother, the men are derided for selfishness if they fight child-support rulings. They are characterized as heartless beasts who have no concern for their children. Even in low-profile cases, men who worry about the burden of their child support receive little empathy. Onlookers roll their eyes and mutter “it’s the least you could do.”
But that is not the case with Britney. She is being cast as the victim of a money-grubbing ex-husband. And that’s a disturbing double standard, despite what you might think of the man and his disastrous career.