The Huge Problem With the Way We're Talking About Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos' Divorce

Jeff Bezos

James Duncan Davidson. Wikimedia Commons. CC Some Rights Reserved. This photo has been cropped.

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You've definitely seen the news: Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Bezos announced their divorce last week, and the headlines are running amuck trying to figure out what their settlement will look like. It's being framed as "the settlement between the world's richest man and his wife," "Jeff Bezos losing it all," or "MacKenzie Bezos getting her payday." And while that has inspired some amazing memes on Twitter, it's also inspired some serious criticism of how our society views stay at home mothers and wives. 

"Will Jeff Bezos get half of MacKenzie Bezos's fortune in the divorce?," LinkedIn Influencer Penelope Trunk asked in a post this weekend — pointing out the horrible bias in most news coverage of the Bezos's split. 

"Why do people assume Jeff will be doling out money to MacKenzie? The money is as much hers as it is his," she continued. "Most women do their half of the team's work and get very little credit for it. Because when it comes to spousal partnerships, society talks about the stay-at-home spouse like they are a freeloader, waiting to pick up their check in the divorce."

People on Twitter echoed these sentiments, reminding everyone that MacKenzie was an integral part of Amazon's launch — and that her home work allowed Jeff to take the reins of the company as it grew. 

"The issue is bias is intrinsically embedded in language around divorce. Mackenzie and Jeff are interchangeable and built Amazon together. Period," @LaLaMoyer wrote. 
"I'm baffled by the claims Mackenzie Bezos "will become one of the richest women in the world."  Since she's helped him build Amazon from the ground up, isn't she already one of the wealthiest in the world?," wrote @ AKRNHSNC.

Why did we leave MacKenzie's contributions out of this equation for years — and why do we keep doing it?

An article on Wired suggested that sexism, intersected with society's "myth of the lone genius founder" (hustle porn that suggests one very, very smart white guy can build an empire on his own), causes us to forget the contributions of supportive wives, stay at home mothers and team members.
"What was often missing, or glossed over, is the fact that MacKenzie (Bezos) helped her husband start his historic company, starting by agreeing to leave their life and move across the country from New York City to Seattle, where Amazon was founded," author Louise Matsakis writes.

Whether you're married to the founder of Amazon or a way more normal person you met in college, they shouldn't own your contributions to society because of sexism or some cultural narrative we have.

Home labor is work. Emotional labor is work. Mental labor is work. And just because it isn't compensated doesn't mean that it doesn't add value to your marriage or partnership. It's about time women get credit for the labor they do — in the form of news headlines, divorce settlements, and just everyday interactions from their partners. I might not be able to help with the first two, but if you ever need someone to remind your husband they have the best wife around... you know how to contact me

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