A piece in Salon suggests that in a recession, we find sexist stereotypes comforting. To that we'd maybe add: girl-on-girl crime?
Rebecca Traister's "So you still want to date a banker?" asks: why is the media so desperate to trumpet the anachronistic archetype of sugar-daddy and golddigger? In the past few weeks we've been hit over the head with the hoax group Dating A Banker Anonymous (which, as Traister points out, the Times lapped up eagerly in the unpleasant "It's the Economy, Girlfriend!") and the all-too-real douchebaggery of the Washington Post's "Market for Romance Goes From Bullish to Sheepish: Are Guys With Less to Spend Less of a Catch?" in which youngsters complain about how their reduced portfolios have put a crimp in their social lives.
The truth is, those who are pining for the days of free bottle service and the outmoded gender stereotypes it carries are a tiny minority. More to the point, the proliferation of such stories is misleading: in fact, as men lose their jobs in greater numbers than women, the workforce is increasingly female, and right now a female breadwinner is a more common phenomenon than the whiny leech the media is so fond of. So why do we keep reading about the outmoded dynamic of acquisitive strumpet and hapless douche? Traister suggests that in some wise we find it comforting: a sign that cliches are in their heavens and all's right with the world. Just as rom-coms traffic in well-worn stereotypes, so too do we look for their comforting familiarity in our real lives. As the article puts it, "In hard times, we want to be served stuff that is cheap and comforting: meatloaf, Campbell's soup and tales of women and men that conform to our most dated expectations of gender, money and power."
Of course, it's not just that: as much as anything, we want escapism, and these alleged golddiggers make for good copy. Then too, these women are presented, uniformly, as horror stories: a disgusting Other being forced to reap what they sowed while the rest of us sit back in pious judgment. Traister points out that part of this is our cultural love of watching the rich suffer: In a time when it seems like very few of the Haves are getting their just desserts, we're eager to seek retribution where we can find it. But I'd take it a step further, even if it's not a pleasant step: it would seem we, as women, take an especial relish in punishing those women who'd seek to cut the line with anachronistic wiles. In this regard, the phenomenon may be regarded as misogynistic, sure, but a less simple case than Traister would indicate: there's an element of girl-on-girl shaming that's ugly. Where she asks, why do we take comfort in sexist tropes, I'd say, why do we take such pleasure in seeing other women get their comeuppance? The DABA hoax was perpetrated by women, after all, who saw the rage such a phenomenon could provoke, and on both the Times' website and the blogosphere some of the the harshest comments have come from women. It's we who feel a visceral sense of shame and rage when we see the cause betrayed by such naked avidity and such blatant disregard for gains made and opportunities squandered. We may be pushed to the defensive, but it would be disingenuous to suggest there's no relish to such attacks. The fact that we can't see such cases as isolated but feel the need to distance ourselves is sad and telling. To dismiss this as a simple bit of patriarchal nostalgia ironically does us a disservice: while it may be forced upon us, we are complicit.
So You Still Want To Date A Banker? [Salon]
It's The Economy, Girlfriend! [NYT]
Market for Romance Goes From Bullish To Sheepish: Are Guys With Less To Spend Less Of A Catch? [Washington Post]