Sandwiched between stories on lost utopias, punishing odes to modern men, and whatever it is Maureen Dowd does these days, the NY Times hit its core demographic square on the head with an Opinion piece that serves as a rich anthropological study of rich people. Suffice to say, these Upper East Siders are not like you and me (we hope).
The NYT sure knows how to commission articles that satisfy the prejudices of its core readership
— Matthew C. Klein (@M_C_Klein) May 17, 2015
Writer Wednesday Martin, a social researcher, recaps her family's move from the West Village to the Upper East Side, and coming face-to-face with the sex segregation of the 1%ers who live there. But her most startling discovery was the "wife bonuses:" the matrimonial version of Wall Street bonuses, only reinforcing the patriarchy.
I was thunderstruck when I heard mention of a “bonus” over coffee. Later I overheard someone who didn’t work say she would buy a table at an event once her bonus was set. A woman with a business degree but no job mentioned waiting for her “year-end” to shop for clothing. Further probing revealed that the annual wife bonus was not an uncommon practice in this tribe.
A wife bonus, I was told, might be hammered out in a pre-nup or post-nup, and distributed on the basis of not only how well her husband’s fund had done but her own performance — how well she managed the home budget, whether the kids got into a “good” school — the same way their husbands were rewarded at investment banks. In turn these bonuses were a ticket to a modicum of financial independence and participation in a social sphere where you don’t just go to lunch, you buy a $10,000 table at the benefit luncheon a friend is hosting.
Women who didn’t get them joked about possible sexual performance metrics. Women who received them usually retreated, demurring when pressed to discuss it further, proof to an anthropologist that a topic is taboo, culturally loaded and dense with meaning.
She tries to disassemble the "Mommynomics" of this give-and-take, and why otherwise intelligent, accomplished women might submit to such a strange transaction with their so-called partners. It all leads to her depressing conclusion:
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.
The UES elite are capable of some dark twisted shit but it's all in service to the Leave It To Beaver fantasy they've got going on at home.
— southpaw (@nycsouthpaw) May 17, 2015