Competing with the WSJ’s coup in first publicizing the Asian Tiger Mom, the Times has captured Wednesday Martin, an anthropologist whose subject has been the super-rich slender mothers of the upper east side. She has also covered the same demographic in London but for the interest of their local readers, the Times has focused on the “Poor Little Rich Women” of the upper east side who have been coined by Ms. Martin with the cliche’d acronym Glam SAHMS - glamorous stay at home moms. (SundayReviewNYT5/17) From the pictures on her website, we see that Wednesday has obviously learned a thing or two from her life among the savages - the best place to get her hair colored, where to buy de rigeur high heels and brightly colored sleeveless dresses and how to get a professional make-up job before embarking on a public relations campaign. Despite her insistence that she was up front with her subjects about writing a book, she clearly felt the need to look just like the women she was preparing to eviscerate.
Wednesday herself is married to a Wall Street banker and lives in the same neighborhood as these wasted souls but lest we confuse her with her prey, here are a few of her choice generalizations: these women do not work outside the home; instead “they toiled in…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.” They self-segregate, preferring mommy-coffees, women-only dinners and girlfriend parties on private planes where everyone wears the same color outfits. In this, they are compared to ”a Dogon woman in Mali choosing to go into a menstrual hut.” Why not compare them to something much closer to home - the feminist workshops, seminars and conferences sprinkled all over academia and American media-land; or the various self-segregating LGBT groups so supported and touted by the Times. Wednesday herself chose Yale for her graduate degree - one would imagine that she would be sympathetic to other women, many of whom are alumnae, wanting the same advantage for their own offspring. She reserves her sharpest opprobrium for the fact that these women don’t earn their own keep but are kept, like mistresses, by their often absent husbands. “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.”
Anthropologists are usually trained to see the comparative values in various cultures and to avoid judging everything from the narrow perspective of one’s own perch. In our own society, we have been submerged in cultural relativism, forced to refrain from negative conclusions about Islamic terrorists or even about rioting criminals whom the Times considers as victims of poverty and bad neighborhoods more than people with the agency to choose violence. As for manipulating the school system, the Times applauds parents who fight tooth and nail to get their 7 year old “transgender” son the right to use the girl’s bathroom, or the parent who will use the legal system as far as possible to challenge the need for their child to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. Helicopter parents are civil rights warriors in those instances. But for 1 percenters exercising their clout to provide for their Johnny , there is only disdain.
The poor little rich women of New York are not restricted to the upper east side; they live on the upper west side, Chelsea, Tribeca, Gramercy Park and increasingly Brooklyn - everywhere that offers expensive real estate, educated inhabitants and private schools. And unfortunately, this material has already been done to death on reality shows, in pulp magazines and movies. The Times was more current when it chose Precious and Supreme, the welfare parents whose daughter was onstage at the De Blasio inauguration by virtue of the paper’s five day series on the oversized family’s life in a less than commodious homeless shelter. Trashing the neurotic rich went out of style with our last mayor. Let’s hear more about the idle poor.
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