Bethenny Frankel Divorce: What 'Gender Role' Dispute Says About Marriage In America


Another holiday season commences and another Tinseltown marriage dissolves. Bethenny Ever After starlet, Bethenny Frankel, and her husband of two years, Jason Hoppy, will be visiting the divorce magistrate in the new year. Citing the archetypal “irreconcilable differences,” the reality TV couple is disbanding their infant marriage because (wait for it) his “balls [were] cut off two years ago.”

Pause. Unless Frankel channeled the spirit of Lorena Bobbit, Hoppy is splitting from his wife because he feels that her words, behaviors, and sudden income spike is emasculating him. The media business has been generous to the former real housewife of New York City. Frankel has bankrolled her stints on Bravo into a bestselling novel and a successful Skinnygirl campaign, but after the monies materialized, so did her husband’s massive ego. Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone intro is looping as Hoppy is transported from the millennium to the 1960s. In his absorbing of traditional gender roles, Frankel’s husband believed that because of his wife’s success and her footing of their expensive bills, he was no longer the “man” of their household. US Weekly is reporting that Hoppy turned down a full-time position with his wife because of his pride.

If this isn’t the engraining of patriarchal notions of gender roles, I’ll chuck my Women and Gender certificate in the trash.

Of course, nobody (except the Bravo cameras) was in the Frankel-Hoppy home, and can attest to their interactions, but in his statements on Bethenny Ever After and to the media, it is apparent that Hoppy has internalized cultural and socially-constructed gender roles, in which men and women are “supposed” to think, dress, speak and interact within society’s context of masculine and feminine. Masculine and feminine are cognitive frameworks used to oppress women and keep them in a constructed place of submission. Socializing agents, including parental guidance, media, peers, and religious texts, reinforce the construct of gender, so once it is ingrained, it is difficult to acknowledge and modify.

Sociologist Michael Kimmel found that gender roles embraced during childhood e.g. boys wear blue while girls wear pink, continue through adulthood. This impacts social interactions and relationships. In other words, Hoppy has embodied these patriarchal notions about marriage since childhood. Even as women have made strides socially, politically and economically, a woman breadwinner is still “responsible” for the termination of a marriage.

Kimmel spoke to CBS News about the “boys’ crisis,” which Hoppy appears to be embodying.

"Twenty five years ago when I started I would ask the women in my classes, 'What does it mean to be a woman?'" Kimmel said. "And they would say, 'Well, you have to be nice and pretty and smart and smile a lot.' And you ask them now, you know what they say? 'I can be anything I want. I can do anything.’

"You ask the guys, you know, 'What does it mean to be a man' — 25 years ago? 'John Wayne.' Now? 'Arnold.”

If only men would bid adieu to these gender roles, more marriages where women have the larger income would sustain.

A woman breadwinner shouldn’t threaten the sustainability of a marriage. When it does, as in the relationship of Frankel and Hoppy, it’s clear that internalized constructs of genders is directly responsible.

This is the reason feminism, which allows men and women to disavow constructs, is for everyone.