May 17, 2015

THEY’RE NOT POOR AT ALL, ACTUALLY:   A New York Times writer named Wednesday Martin has an unbelievably sexist hit piece about Upper East Side women she demeaningly refers to as Glam SAHMs (Stay At Home Moms).  

The women I met, mainly at playgrounds, play groups and the nursery schools where I took my sons, were mostly 30-somethings with advanced degrees from prestigious universities and business schools. They were married to rich, powerful men, many of whom ran hedge or private equity funds; they often had three or four children under the age of 10; they lived west of Lexington Avenue, north of 63rd Street and south of 94th Street; and they did not work outside the home.

Instead they toiled in what the sociologist Sharon Hays calls “intensive mothering,” exhaustively enriching their children’s lives by virtually every measure, then advocating for them anxiously and sometimes ruthlessly in the linked high-stakes games of social jockeying and school admissions.

Their self-care was no less zealous or competitive. No ponytails or mom jeans here: they exercised themselves to a razor’s edge, wore expensive and exquisite outfits to school drop-off and looked a decade younger than they were. Many ran their homes (plural) like C.E.O.s.

Okay, so the implication is that there’s something wrong with being married to a rich, powerful man? And there’s also something wrong with “intensive mothering,” which apparently means being intensively involved in your child’s upbringing?  As for “self-care,” should we all not strive to keep ourselves attractive and fit, regardless of whether our spouse is rich and powerful?  Clearly, to Ms. Martin, however, such things–being rich, a good mother, and taking care of one’s self–are suspicious, odd behaviors worthy of “research.”

Her conclusion from observing what she clearly views as another species?:

Rich, powerful men may speak the language of partnership in the absence of true economic parity in a marriage, and act like true partners, and many do. But under this arrangement women are still dependent on their men — a husband may simply ignore his commitment to an abstract idea at any time. He may give you a bonus, or not. Access to your husband’s money might feel good. But it can’t buy you the power you get by being the one who earns, hunts or gathers it.

The wives of the masters of the universe, I learned, are a lot like mistresses — dependent and comparatively disempowered. Just sensing the disequilibrium, the abyss that separates her version of power from her man’s, might keep a thinking woman up at night.

So these women are just dependent little slaves– no better than mistresses. I’ll put aside the “mistress” label, since I hardly think most mistresses are “dependent and comparatively disempowered.”  But more to the point, if this is slavery–being married to a rich/powerful husband, being able to stay at home with one’s children, and having time to get involved with charitable causes–I think a lot of women would willingly sign up.

Only a hardcore feminist would think such a life is odd enough to pen an anthropological essay about it in the New York Times.