Our Classless Society
Girls, do you have a brother? Steal his cookie. Go ahead, you deserve it. Odds are he’s been doing less than you and yet being paid more for it for years. Granted, this is how your entire lives will play out, but when you’re older, you’ll have no recourse except to grind your teeth about the unfairness of it all and maybe choose to go by a gender-neutral, mainstream version of your name. For now, you can express your rage at the unfairness by taking something from him, or maybe putting something slimy in his bed.
This article on how the gender gap starts early, and at home, came out in April but somehow I missed it before now:
One study found that girls do two more hours of housework a week than boys, while boys spend twice as much time playing. The same study confirmed that boys are still more likely to get paid for what they do: they are 15 percent more likely to get an allowance for doing chores than girls. A 2009 survey of children ages 5 to 12 found that far more girls are assigned chores than boys. A study in Europe also found fewer boys contribute to work around the house.
And it’s not just that boys are more likely to be paid by their parents, but they also get more money. One study found that boys spent just 2.1 hours a week on chores and made $48 on average, while girls put in 2.7 hours to make $45. A British study found that boys get paid 15 percent more than girls for the same chores.
My only consolation is that neither of my brothers got an allowance. My mom was too busy and my dad too disorganized to figure out a workable system. But I think the next time I see either of my brothers I’ll jab them anyway, out of solidarity. #WorkersOfTheWorldUnite
Having a white-sounding name is worth about eight years of work experience. “Jamal” would have to work in an industry for eight years longer than “Greg” for them to have equal chances of being hired, even if Jamal came from a privileged background and Greg from an underprivileged one.
– the Atlantic, again. They’re killing it this week.
When I met my college roommate she said, “Oh!” I said, “Yes?” She said, “No, it’s fine, I just — Ester from Washington, DC? I assumed you were black.” Others have assumed I’m Korean. Largely though I have benefited from having an “easy” name: easy to pronounce, easy to understand, easy enough to spell if you can remember to toss the unnecessary “H.” Easy to read as Jewish/white.
Have you had to battle your own name for legitimacy? Have you changed your name to give yourself a smoother time of it? Does knowing that Greg opens doors makes you more likely to opt for Greg for your own kid, or do you say “FU White Supremacy” and do what you want, knowing progress has to come eventually and will only come if we fight for it?
The beach is largely democratic. Though, as commenters hastened to assure me when last we discussed it, some shorelines charge for entry or parking or both, where there is ocean there tends to be free access to ocean. Screaming children, old folks splayed out in chairs, teenagers strutting like seagulls: the beach embraces humanity in all its debatable glory.
The pool, by contrast, is elitist. It puts up walls. Yes, there are public pools, but much like public schools, they tend to be used by a specific subset of people with fewer choices. Those who can afford to usually go elsewhere, like the mom I heard agonizing in the playground about whether or not to give her daughter to the best free education in Brooklyn, or like the author of this piece for Mommy Poppins: “if the idea of putting your kids in a public pool makes you uncomfortable, there are other options.” Why would anyone be “uncomfortable”? The author doesn’t say, but we can guess. My dad grew up in small-town Virginia with pools whose signs read, “No Jews, blacks, or dogs.” The pool remains a potent symbol of racial and economic segregation even today. It says, “You there, you belong; come, bathe your weary limbs and refresh yourselves in my rarefied water. Immerse yourself in a Fountain of Youth. Emerge sparkling like a doe touched with morning dew. #NoFatties.”
This piece about secret pools in Manhattan does not, in short, come as a surprise.
The Dream Downtown, a hotel in the Meatpacking District, charges $175 a day to use the pool, Monday through Thursday. A cabana on the weekend will set you back at least $2,500.
It’s enough to make a person long for the Jersey Shore.
BTW: If you’re in the city and less squeamish than the Mommy Poppins crowd, this round-up of the best places to swim in Manhattan includes several absolutely free public pools as well as more affordable private options. Or, try a Dumpster!
Illo by Charrow
I have come under some criticism of late for being uncharitable toward the rich. To be more precise, I offhandedly wrote, alluding to Ester’s piece on trust fund kids, that my policy concerning people born rich is to distrust them. Commenters took me to task for that, and rightly so: it is foolish and wrong to suppose that affluence, in and of itself, defines character. As one commenter noted, mine was “exactly the kind of ignorance several writers on the Billfold would preach against if it were any other kind of discrimination.”
I think that commenter was right, and I said so in comments and a note appended to the post in question. I also said, “We could have a separate discussion about whether there is any moral imperative on the inheritors of wealth to do something selfless and worthwhile with their money, or about the attitudes that may or may not prevail among them about whether they deserve their good fortune.” Several commenters later suggested that yes, that is a discussion worth having. This came to mind over the weekend, when I was engaged in that most proletarian of leisure activities, camping and reading the New Yorker. So let’s start our discussion about the moral obligations of the wealthy with a focus on how they help people with acute need.
I suppose I should not expect a worldview untouched by a certain elitism when I read the New Yorker, but more and more, I notice that there is an archetypal story about rare diseases and how progress is made in their cures. It goes like this:
1. An upper-middle-class couple notices something unusual about their infant child. 2. Doctors are either flummoxed and unhelpful or convinced that it is a terminal illness. 3. The parents refuse to accept the doctors’ assessment and devote large sums of money to (a) organizing and lobbying for more research on the illness; and (b) making all kinds of costly changes to their home, lives, and routines to accommodate their ill child and make the child’s life more enriching. 4. Progress in treatment results from the parents’ tireless efforts.
This sequence became clear to me while reading Seth Mnookin’s piece, “One of a Kind” in the July 21, 2014, issue. The article focuses on a couple, a college professor and an M.B.A., whose son has an extraordinarily rare genetic disease, and their ultimately successful quest to push the medical establishment toward more data-sharing and collaboration to develop treatments. (Spoiler: the disease isn’t quite as rare as previously believed.) The article is great and fascinating: in addition to following a family with the surname Might and involving a glycobiologist who is actually named Hudson Freeze, it illustrates how more base human motivations (researchers’ desire for sole credit on publications; institutions’ need to compete for scarce funding) can impede medical progress. It also has a happy-ish ending: the Mights’ son is showing surprising progress as he gets older; research is progressing.
But all that progress is predicated on the fact that this terrible disease befell not just Matt and Cristina Might’s child, but the child of Matt and Kristen Wilsey as well. The Wilseys, we learn, “are one of the most prominent families in San Francisco.”
+ Dollar Tree is buying Family Dollar even though Family Dollar is totally the better name. Two of the nation’s leading super-budget chains can, by their powers combined, do more to take on Wal-Mart.
The deal will give Dollar Tree more than 13,000 stores across the United States and Canada, vaulting the company ahead of Dollar General to become North America’s biggest discount retailer, with more than $18 billion in annual sales. …
Dollar Tree sells a mix of consumables in suburban stores across most U.S. states, as well as discretionary items such as gifts, party goods and greeting cards. Everything has a price tag of $1 or less. Most Family Dollar stores are in low-income neighborhoods. Its presence is biggest in Texas and the eastern United States, where it mainly sells lower-margin food and household products. “This acquisition will extend our reach to lower-income customers,” Dollar Tree Chief Executive Bob Sasser said.
The markets are happy. Wal-Mart shrugs. Dollar General declines to comment. I wax nostalgic: my first date involved a dollar store and a pink bubble necklace that I kept on my bedroom dresser for years.
+ Zillow is buying Trulia. Gasp. What does this mean for our real estate porn habit?
Do you poop when you only eat cockroach blocks?
On the heels of Ester’s exploration of trust fund kids (my position: don’t trust ‘em), I came upon this rather wide-ranging indictment of elite colleges and the admissions process in the New Republic: in short, the author avers, the Ivies squelch creativity, channel thinking and energy into a narrow set of endeavors, reinforce privilege, and perpetuate the illusion of a meritocracy: “This system is exacerbating inequality, retarding social mobility, perpetuating privilege, and creating an elite that is isolated from the society that it’s supposed to lead.”
And the cause (aside from, you know, how rich people always set stuff up to benefit themselves)?
Not increasing tuition, though that is a factor, but the ever-growing cost of manufacturing children who are fit to compete in the college admissions game. The more hurdles there are, the more expensive it is to catapult your kid across them. Wealthy families start buying their children’s way into elite colleges almost from the moment they are born: music lessons, sports equipment, foreign travel (“enrichment” programs, to use the all-too-perfect term)—most important, of course, private-school tuition or the costs of living in a place with top-tier public schools.
The last wishes of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman have leaked to the public and there are some interesting details in his will about what he wanted done with his money:
Philip Seymour Hoffman rejected his accountant’s suggestion he set aside money for his three children because he didn’t want them to be ‘trust fund’ kids, according to new court documents. In a July 18 filing in Manhattan Surrogate Court, the actor’s accountant David Friedman recalled conversations with Hoffman where the topic of a trust for his children was raised. He said Hoffman wanted his estimated $35 million fortune to go his longtime partner and the children’s mother, Mimi O’Donnell.
It’s a kind of unusual choice. My dad always inveighed against “trust fund kids” when we were growing up; his hostility toward them in the abstract was a main reason he sent my brothers and me to religious school instead of one of the DC-area’s numerous posh private schools. Did a six-year-old in a Harvard sweatshirt kick sand in his face one time, or did some bouncy-haired, Varsity-jacketed schmuck driving his father’s convertible steal my dad’s high school girlfriend?
I had no idea, and I never asked why he was so sure ready money ruined children. I just knew if I wanted to get a rise out of him I could joke about making friends with someone who had a yacht.
As per the discussion from last week, it has been decided: we will discuss Snowpiercer, the post-apocalyptic sci fi / action / lighthearted summer entertainment about class warfare, starring Tilda Swinton, Ed Harris, and some really aggrieved axe murderers, on Thursday, July 24th. It’s playing in certain theaters but GOOD NEWS for the non-coastal elites: you can also enjoy it from the comfort of your couch. Here’s the full report from The Verge:
You can now watch acclaimed South Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s slick, post-apocalyptic sci-fi film Snowpiercer right at home — just two weeks after it hit US theaters for the first time. That’s an extremely rare move for a film such as this, which has a sizable budget ($80 million), rave reviews (such as our own), and buzz at the theaters. …
However the experiment turns out, the good news is that releasing the film on Video On Demand, Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play makes it a whole lot easier for you to see Snowpiercer. If you’d rather get the full experience, the film has expanded to 325 screens around the country, meaning you should be able to find it in most urban centers, too.
Seen it already and have thoughts about its Eat The Rich philosophy? Steeling yourself for the violence, metaphors, and violent metaphors? Get ready to turn the film inside out in the comments on 7/24!
One of the fun things about living in New York City is peering into the faces of the people you pass and asking yourself, “Are you a millionaire? Are you, sir, with the mustache and tattoos and mustache tattoos? Are you, angry biking lady?” It’s sort of like the grown-up version of Are You My Mother? but whereas the little bird in that famous children’s book has only one mother, NYC overflows with rich people. They’re everywhere, hiding among us. They have to be. After all, who else could afford to buy those massive luxury condos growing up everywhere like weeds?
Well, turns out that the secret ingredient is salt foreign capital.
According to data compiled by the firm PropertyShark, since 2008, roughly 30 percent of condo sales in large-scale Manhattan developments have been to purchasers who either listed an overseas address or bought through an entity like a limited-liability corporation, a tactic rarely employed by local homebuyers but favored by foreign investors. Similarly, the firm Corcoran Sunshine, which markets luxury buildings, estimates that 35 percent of its sales since 2013 have been to international buyers, half from Asia, with the remainder roughly evenly split among Latin America, Europe, and the rest of the world. “The global elite,” says developer Michael Stern, “is basically looking for a safe-deposit box.” … But much of the foreign money is coming in at lower price points, closer to the median for a Manhattan condo ($1.3 million and rising). In fact, if you’ve recently been outdone by an outrageous all-cash bid for an apartment, there’s a decent chance that, behind a generic corporate name, there’s a foreign buyer and an offshore bank account.
Don’t sweat it, normal Americans! We still have options. We can be HUMAN PROPS.