A few days ago an article appeared in the Huffington Post which serves as a textbook example of media manipulation. In “The New Misogyny: Taking Aim at the Women of the One,” author Wednesday Martin attempts to pull the blanket of victimhood over a demographic light years away from your typical victim profile: the wealthiest women in the US. Because the article is aimed at a liberal readership that is critical of the super-rich, Ms. Martin attempts to play both sides of the fence. She endorses the reader’s anger towards the men of the 1%, while painting the wives of these men as innocents who deserve our pity.
Ms. Martin’s newly minted victim class is the “Wives of the One Percent” or, as she puts it, the “Wives of the One,” cleverly obscuring the demographic reality with a cute nickname. A little bit like changing “Christmas” to “Xmas.” Ms. Martin insists that the “Wives of the One” are the targets of an insidious phenomenon that she calls the “new misogyny.”
To assure the reader that she’s squarely on the side of the 99%, Ms. Martin brings up Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century and alludes to the “heartening shift” that the book is causing, i.e. a growing belief that the concentration of wealth in a tiny minority is bad for the economy. That Piketty’s ideas merit examination is beside the point. Ms. Martin mentions his name as a half-assed credential and then proceeds to roll out her real message: It’s okay to hate rich men, but not rich women.
From the article…
This heartening shift seems to go hand in hand with a darker, disturbing trend: an entirely unexamined, reflexive contempt for and anger against women who are or seem privileged.
Hmm. Some wives of the 1% only “seem privileged.” A little later she refers to her new victim class as “wealthy women, or women who stand for wealth.” Welcome to Manipulative Language 101.
The victimhood narrative has been used so often, and by so many, that Ms. Martin sees no reason not to use it for the most privileged class of human being on the planet. Rarely is the victimhood narrative stretched as thin and employed in such an obvious manner as it is here. The article reminds me of a quote attributed to Adolf Hitler: “Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.”
From the article…
Our asymmetrical expression of anger, the unthinking way we direct our outrage at the Women of the One, distracts us from the real issues at hand. Income and wealth parity are huge and important ones. Another, related problem is the fact that we are a country with no infrastructure of care, no tax credits for childcare, false choices masquerading as actual ones when it comes to leaving the workforce for full time motherhood.
You’re following this, right? Ms. Martin is saying that misogyny directed towards rich women is obscuring the deplorable fact that our country has “no infrastructure of care” and no “tax credits for childcare.”
It is a well-known fact that wives of the super-rich employ nannies and housekeepers by the dozens. More often than not, these nannies are immigrant women who send their earnings back home to families they never see. But that doesn’t bother Ms. Martin. The problem she wants you to worry about is why these nannies are being paid by the super-rich stay-at-home wives, and not by your tax dollars.
Excuse me. I need to go punch a wall.
Ok. I feel better now. This bizarre nonsense about how the wives of the super-rich have it so hard because your tax dollars don’t pay for their nannies brings to mind a larger picture. Allow me to use this as an opportunity to address the nexus of feminism and economics.
Despite what feminists say about their effort being part of a larger struggle against male white oppression, feminism expressly benefits upper class women at the expense of working class women. To downplay this reality requires the complicity of writers like Ms. Martin. I intend to strike a blow against paid shills like Ms. Martin by explaining how this is so. To any working class feminists who might be reading along, you can thank me later.
When second wave feminism championed women entering the workforce and pursuing careers, our consumer-driven capitalist system was more than happy to add females to the ranks of the nation’s wage workers. Not only did the nation’s GDP get a nice boost from this surplus of labor, but a huge swath of the population suddenly had greater buying power to purchase more goods and services, which in turn helped spur the economy. The fact that females tend to shop and spend more than males turned this boost into a turbo boost. It should come as no surprise that the societal ideal of the independent woman was vigorously promoted by advertising agencies. You’ve come a long way Baby!
The fact that upper class women were able to take up careers in fields they found stimulating was touted by feminists as a victory for all women. Working class women, however, many of whom were already working in factories and assembly lines, now had to work harder at far more grueling jobs, and for longer hours, to meet the rising cost of living that accompanied the expanding economy. It was no longer possible for a family – even a middle class family – to get by on one income. Parents in working class families now needed to work double-shifts. This dynamic – in addition to LBJ’s welfare reform – helped dissolve the two-parent home. Profits from this boost in labor were siphoned to that enviable stratum which today is known as the “1%.”
In addition to upper class feminists, we can add another demographic of women who benefitted from the increased labor of working class women: the wives of the super-rich. Some of these women have careers of their own, but most do not. I could criticize the ‘Wives of the One’ for “doing nothing,” but that isn’t entirely true. Most of them are busy spending their husband’s money. Ms. Martin understands anger directed towards the men of the 1%, while exonerating their wives from resentment, but the only difference between the two halves of the 1% is that the male half earns the money, while the female half spends it. Again, Ms. Martin is claiming victimhood status for the most privileged class of human being on the planet.
Allow me to dip back into Ms. Martin’s article…
Women who have the “luxury” to do so most often stay home with their children because in our nation’s childcare options are pathetic — unregulated on the home front, and low quality, with shameful caretaker-to-child ratios and dizzying staff turnover in many “regulated” daycare situations. And the number of employers who provide on-site, high quality creches, so women can nurse and spend time with their babies and toddlers whenever they want at work is extremely low. Until we have these options, why are we so sure that these women we criticize for “doing nothing” would never avail themselves of them?
Ms. Martin is now attempting to solicit your pity for the wives of the super-rich because most employers don’t provide “high quality creches.” Don’t know what a creche is? Shame on you. A creche is “a nursery where babies and young children are cared for during the working day.”
Excuse me. I need to punch the wall again.
Ms. Martin has taken a working class woman’s problem, the problem of having to care for a child while working – a problem, I must point out, that was created by second wave feminism in order to benefit upper class women – and is now re-packaging it as a reason to pity the “Wives of the One.”
I have to shake my head at the duplicity on display here. What makes it so remarkable is how obvious it is. But as Hitler said, it’s the big, simple lie that wins over the crowd.
If you were still hoping Ms. Martin would ground her article in reality, you will be sorely disappointed. A cogent argument never appears and suddenly we’re at the final paragraph…
It’s hard to shake the sense that our zeal in seeking out modern-day Marie Antoinettes is an insidious, widespread, and totally accepted form of misogyny, one that masquerades as engaged cultural critique while rehearsing and repeating the very same sexist salvos most enlightened men and women have long banished from their vocabularies.
So there you have it. This article is about Ms. Martin’s “sense” that our zeal is insidious. She doesn’t have facts, just a hunch that super-rich women are victims. I take back what I said earlier about this article meeting Hitler’s requirement that a lie be both big and simple. Unless by “simple,” Hitler meant “stupid.”
I have a tip for Ms. Martin. The next time you try to paint the wives of the super-rich as victims, at least invent a reason.