Does the “wife bonus” really exist? – Women in the World in Association with The New York Times – WITW


(Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
(Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

In Sunday’s New York Times, Wednesday Martin claims to blow the lid off a certain set of fashionable, hedge-fund dependent Upper East Side wives with children. It’s a group with whom she spent six years socializing at the playground and in other casual settings—an experience Martin, who holds a BA in anthropology, describes as “fieldwork.” (The Op-Ed springs from her provocative new memoir, Primates of Park Avenue.)

According to Martin, the ”Glam SAHMs,” or “glamorous stay-at-home moms,” as she calls them, run their homes like chief executives, wear designer clothes to school drop-off and hang out exclusively in single-sex groups.

Martin’s most outrageous claim—instantly picked up by New York, Gawker and Quartz, not to mention the British press—is that the husbands of these women hand out annual, formalized “wife bonuses,” reflecting a recipient’s performance as a mother, household manager and sex partner. The wife bonus is “not an uncommon practice in this tribe,” Martin writes, and “might be hammered out in a pre-nup or post-nup.”

Journalists have reacted with skepticism, however.

And many members of the reading public are not buying it—especially those in the so-called tribe itself.

Users of the online forum “UrbanBaby,” a New York-based blog popular with Upper East Side mothers, doubted the facts presented in the piece. By Monday afternoon, UrbanBaby stay-at-home moms—or “UB SAHMs”—were debating the veracity of Martin’s “wife bonus” claim on multiple threads:

“Bonuses are not standard…This is all made up”

“I think the writer is making it up”

“This whole article is so full of shit”

“I think some very clever SAHMs got together and were very mean about spinning a story for this writer, who seems totally clueless”

“More RHONY [Real Housewives of New York]
than anthropology”

“I’m calling B.S. on that…Maybe ONE insane couple functions this way”

One plausible explanation is that one of Martin’s subjects used the term “wife bonus” as a joke, and not to reveal an open secret of Upper East Side marriages. Hard to argue, though, since Martin pre-emptively discounts any deniers by writing that women’s “demurring” on the issue is merely “proof to an anthropologist that a topic is taboo, culturally loaded and dense with meaning.”

Does the “wife bonus” really exist? – Women in the World in Association with The New York Times – WITW.

A Hobby Anthropologist Dissects the Tribes of the Upper East Side – NYTimes.com

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Going to school on the Upper East Side.

Credit
Erin Baiano for The New York Times

A few weeks ago, a woman named Wednesday Martin, a hobby anthropologist whose graduate degree is in comparative literature, published an op-ed article in The New York Times outlining some of the observations she makes in her forthcoming book, “Primates of Park Avenue.” News of the book, a memoir that presents itself as a pop ethnography of Upper East Side motherhood, immediately prompted intense reaction in part because of some of the claims made in it — that wealthy nonworking mothers receive a “wife bonus” for outstanding domestic performance, to cite an example — and in part because Ms. Martin, observed last week table-hopping at Michael’s in jeans and heels, had seemed to so thoroughly embrace the manners of the women she had written about with such an imperious strain of sympathy.

Speaking to The New York Post recently, Ms. Martin expressed disillusionment with her current habitat on the Upper West Side. “The Upper East Side is skinny; the West doesn’t care about the last 10 pounds. The Upper East is totally manicured and coifed and this is, like, post-menopausal gray hair.” After all was said and done, she said, she missed her old neighborhood. In the book, she writes about her arduous quest for the Hermès Birkin bag, the unsurpassable status symbol, nearly as hard to acquire as an hour of personal styling from Michelle Obama.

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A scene from Bravo’s “Odd Mom Out.”

Credit
Barbara Nitke/Bravo

For some time, Ms. Martin, the wife of an investment manager and a mother of two, lived at 900 Park Avenue, at 79th Street, which she described as “not a ‘prestigious’ prewar building,” studying the folkways of well-to-do women living west of Lexington Avenue. Her defenders have argued, obviously enough, that studying the primary beneficiaries of American capitalism is every bit as worthwhile as studying, for instance, the Ondonga tribe of Namibia, but studying is a term used here at risk of exaggeration, because Ms. Martin essentially spent six years at it only to reproduce every cliché of a “Real Housewives” episode.

She arrives on Park Avenue via Michigan and the West Village, an enclave she views, in the 21st century, as just as culturally distinct from the Upper East Side as Latvia is from Barbados. What Ms. Martin discovers when she lands in her new milieu is that stay-at-home-mothers exercise compulsively, fill large closets with lots of clothes, dress up for school drop-off, go to charity events, obsess over their children’s enrichment (in ways presumably but of course not provably different from the way rich and ambitious parents everywhere obsess over filial achievement and Princeton admission from the moment of conception) and spend exorbitant sums on personal grooming. They also drink to relieve anxiety and pass the summers languishing on Long Island’s East End (a useful bit of information for anyone under the impression that people living between East 60th and 96th Streets cleared out for Asbury Park in August).

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That the mothers around her, largely acquainted through school, tended to socialize primarily with one another rather than in couples — a practice I have witnessed even in the distant colony of Brooklyn — is something Ms. Martin appears to find unique to the world she is describing and vaguely worrisome. In various instances, the women she portrays are shown to be petty, mean and adolescent, never saying hello and ignoring her requests for play dates, because, Ms. Martin concludes, she and her husband aren’t important enough — they are “low-ranking primates.” When something truly terrible happens to her — the sort of thing Ms. Martin rightly observes is too little discussed — some of these women reveal themselves capable of profound compassion, but a compassion that is dealt with only in a few pages at the end of the book, almost as an addendum.

One criticism of her approach has been that she has represented a part for the whole, immersing herself in a world of parvenus and allowing them to stand in for an entire uptown ruling class. “I am sure I don’t know the half of what goes on up and down Park Avenue,” an Upper East Side native and businesswoman named Blair Schmaldorf wrote in a blog post for Elle magazine. “But, in over 30 years, the only place I’ve ever encountered the audacious, extreme women Dr. Martin writes about is in fiction.”

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Lisa Birnbach, a lifelong Upper East Side resident, has also written about its people.

Credit
Tim Umphrey/Getty Images

Others questioned whether the “wife bonus” wasn’t, in fact, a joke. “It just doesn’t exist,” said Lisa Birnbach, the author of “The Preppy Handbook” and a lifelong resident of the Upper East Side, who has also made a living examining the patterns and codes of the extremely privileged. “And if there is one speck of the universe I feel I can understand fully and represent, it’s the Upper East Side. I have the years.” (The Post did unearth a young mother who received such a bonus, but she lived in Australia and Denmark, not on the Upper East Side.)

Potentially prompting the interests of conspiracy theorists, “Primates of Park Avenue” arrives at the same moment as a new scripted television series on Bravo, “Odd Mom Out,” which is also set in the universe of wealthy Upper East Side child rearing. Here as well, stereotypes are indulged, but the difference of course is that the series doesn’t aspire to social science. Starring a real-life Manhattan social figure, Jill Kargman, “Odd Mom Out” portrays the life of a nervous but ultimately contented East Side outcast, surrounded by blond, spinning-obsessed nincompoops. The character named Jill bears few signs of Ms. Martin’s own striving. She has three children and dances around in her underwear and longs for the messier New York of her childhood.

“At least when I was growing up there was shame around being rich,” she tells a friend in an early episode. “I mean, I knew kids who were mortified to have a driver. Now at drop-off they’re pimping cocaine-white S.U.V.s.”

Both the book and the series, though, raise a question of why it is that so much of our animus toward the exceptionally rich, filtered through popular culture, gets directed at women. Though the men do not come off well in Ms. Martin’s book — they barely pay attention to their wives in any emotional sense — the focus, of course, is on the strange behaviors of the women to whom they are married. There are no cheeky reality series revealing the zany misconduct of financial managers — a largely male class (“On tonight’s episode, Zach and Bob drain a pension fund and then head to Scores!”) — but plenty of indicators eager to convince us that rich women are conniving, vacuous and vain. For the most part, we’ve left the truly threatening alone. The devil doesn’t always wear Prada heels.

A Hobby Anthropologist Dissects the Tribes of the Upper East Side – NYTimes.com.

Saudi Billionaire Buying $95 Million Penthouse In America’s Tallest Residential Tower: Gothamist

The Real Deal reports that a mystery buyer who committed to purchasing the pad back in 2013 is likely Saudi Arabian retail magnate Fawaz Al Hokair, whose $22 billion company is responsible for franchise stores from the likes of Topshop, Banana Republic and Zara. Though the deal hasn’t officially closed, once it does it’ll clock in as the city’s second-priciest condo sale, falling about $5.5 million short of the $100.5 million penthouse at nearby skyscraper One57.

That buyer has also not been identified, although at one point it was rumored to be the Prime Minister of Qatar, another foreigner with cash to burn hide, thanks to the fun taxes many rich folks from overseas get to avoid when purchasing luxury apartments. As for Al Hokair, who is reportedly worth about $1.37 billion, it’s unclear whether he’ll ever set foot in his 8,255-square-foot apartment once 432 Park officially debuts, though considering the current political and economic unrest in Saudi Arabia, perhaps it’s good for him to have a pied-a-terre stateside.

Then again, if he lives here, he’ll probably have to pay some taxes.

Saudi Billionaire Buying $95 Million Penthouse In America’s Tallest Residential Tower: Gothamist.

Online Troll Urges Game Developer Rachel Bryk To Commit Suicide

Over the past two years, Bryk had become one of the most prominent game developers on a software project called Dolphin. She was well-known for her work on Gamecube and Wii emulators—her favorite being Pucca’s Kisses. Despite her beloved status in online gaming communities, Bryk commented on a popular 4chan forum that she was withdrawing from various sites because she suffered constant, trans-phobic harassment. After her death, word quickly spread throughout these communities, and forums were flooded with memorial posts in her honor, and tributes to her work and collaborative nature.

What prompted Bryk’s final decision to take her own life remains unclear. Friends have contacted Vocativ suggesting that her chronic pain may have been a factor, and despite the respect she earned in the gaming community, Bryk wrangled with depression. Just days before her death, the online harrassment she had been subjected to for months took a more direct form. Commenters mocked her suicidal comments, saying “jumping off a bridge isn’t rocket science.” The last note from a commenter, simply said “Good Riddance”, to which she replied: “Yeah pretty much.”

Gamers across the world were deeply saddened by the news, and many have used this tragedy to discuss the dangers of transphobia in online communities. One former colleague from Dolphin commented: “No matter what, she was always willing to help anyone. Of all the devs she was the most helpful on the forums, always pitching in. Dolphin is a smaller place without her.”

Screenshot of ask.fm/RachelB_

Read More:

Transgender Suicide Rates Are Staggering (Vocativ)
Empowerment Drives Transgender Day of Visibility (Vocativ)

 

Online Troll Urges Game Developer Rachel Bryk To Commit Suicide.

Leaked Memo Reveals What ‘Breastaurants’ Actually Think Of Their Customers | ThinkProgress

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Leaked Memo Reveals What ‘Breastaurants’ Actually Think Of Their Customers

Waitresses and a customer at a Texas-area Twin Peaks restaurant

Waitresses and a customer at a Texas-area Twin Peaks restaurant

CREDIT: Flickr Creative Commons via MarkScottAustinTX

Popularly known as “breastaurants,” the franchises that cater to the male gaze by employing scantily clad waitresses are enjoying booming business even as the rest of the restaurant industry has been struggling. Case in point: Twin Peaks, a Texas-based chain that was founded in 2005 to provide an even racier alternative to the ubiquitous Hooters franchise, was the fastest-growing restaurant chain in the U.S. in 2013.

Twin Peaks attributes its success to a basic understanding of the sexes. “Men are simple creatures and so you don’t have to get too crazy to get them in the door,” Kristen Colby, the director of marketing for Twin Peaks franchise, told the Huffington Post earlier this year. She said that beer, sports, and beautiful women are all it takes.

An internal branding memo provided to ThinkProgress from a current employee at a Twin Peaks restaurant, who preferred to remain anonymous over fears about losing their job, backs up that claim. That employee said the memo was distributed to all the franchises nationwide, as well as handed out to waitresses.

According to the document, the restaurant wants to target guys “who love to have their ego stroked by beautiful girls,” and promises to provide an environment “that feeds their ego with the attention they crave.” They describe their typical customer as someone who likes “attention from beautiful girls and being recognized in front of the guys,” as well as someone who doesn’t want to be asked what he’s thinking:

An internal brand memo from Twin Peaks

An internal brand memo from Twin Peaks

Spokespeople for Twin Peaks did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

So-called “breastaurants” spark a lot of controversy for what many critics complain amounts to the objectification of women. Twin Peaks’ CEO, Randy DeWitt, refers to his female employees as “weapons of mass distraction.” The waitresses employed at Twin Peaks are given discounts at gyms, nail salons, and tanning salons, as well as a “diet menu” to help them avoid gaining any weight. Some of its locations hold “lingerie weeks” during which waitresses don their lacy underwear.

But the restaurant chain’s internal memo aimed at “guys-guys” is a reminder that deeply entrenched gender roles can also impact men. In a society where men are assumed to be “simple creatures” who never want to talk about what they’re thinking or feeling, there isn’t a lot of room for more nuanced explorations of masculinity — something that researchers confirm has demonstrably negative consequences for men’s health.

Twin Peaks has recently been in the news because one of the franchise’s restaurants was the site of a shoot-out among rival biker gangs in Waco, Texas that resulted in nine deaths, the recovery of about 100 weapons, and 170 arrests. In the aftermath of the violence, the restaurant has come under some scrutiny for hosting “Bike Nights” that attract large numbers of bikers from different gangs.

A Twin Peaks spokesperson confirmed this week that its Waco location will be permanently closed, and its other restaurants will be discouraged from offering Bike Nights. “We are in the people business, and the safety of the employees and guests in our restaurants is priority one,” the company’s corporate office said in a statement.

Update

Rick Van Warner, the corporate spokesperson for Twin Peaks, says the document in question is an old brand consultant’s discussion document that was never distributed to employees. “I’m not saying it’s a fraudulent memo,” he told ThinkProgress. “But it was not, to my knowledge, part of a staff training. We were unaware that this was in the public domain.” He added that “it’s not a policy document, it’s not a memo.” The employee who sent the document to ThinkProgress, meanwhile, says that Twin Peaks’ corporate office emailed the memo to some staff and its contents were covered in a pre-shift meeting.

 

Leaked Memo Reveals What ‘Breastaurants’ Actually Think Of Their Customers | ThinkProgress.

How Measuring The Economy Differently Could Increase Gender Equality | ThinkProgress

shutterstock_134001647

CREDIT: Shutterstock

Every three months, the government takes the temperature of the economy by releasing Gross Domestic Product, or GDP, figures. GDP goes up: the economy is supposedly healthy. GDP goes down: there’s a bug (or an all-out contagion, as during the Great Recession).

But GDP — which adds up the value of work being done, widgets created, profits made, money spent by consumers and the government, and things invested and exported — was never meant to accurately assess everything happening in the economy. It was created during the New Deal to see whether the programs were really helping. The creator of the GDP measure itself, Simon Kuznets, warned, “The welfare of a nation can scarcely be inferred from a measurement of national income as defined by the GDP.”

So a handful of groups have tried to create alternative measures that would gather more information. “Green GDP” measures would factor in the environmental side effects of economic production. Others measure leisure, happiness, and overall welfare and quality of life.

One group is pushing the incorporation of Social Wealth Economic Indicators, or SWEIs.

SWEIs measure the environment, health of the population, poverty rates, income inequality, and educational attainment to see where the country currently stands. But they also measure investments in the future, such as the time parents spend doing unpaid housework and childrearing, government and business investment in care work, public spending on education with a focus on early childhood education, paid parental leave policies, and employee flexibility to allow for child care needs.

“It’s not simply a measure of where we are today,” Natalie Cox, coordinator at the Caring Economy Campaign that is working on the SWEIs, told ThinkProgress. “This tool has the potential, unlike other metric tools out there, to really understand what inputs are needed to produce the kind of human capacity outputs and competitive outputs we’re after.”

And in doing so, they end up putting a lot of focus on gender. “Gender is the elephant in the room,” said Riane Eisler, president of the Center for Partnership Studies that is the incubator for the SWEIs. The indicators “show the connection between closing the gender gap in every respect and boosting economic competitiveness.”

These aren’t small adjustments. A study from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis in 2012 found that if GDP had included unpaid work in the house, it would be 26 percent bigger. But that study only calculated the value with a “replacement” model, tallying up the unpaid hours people spent and giving them a dollar value by estimating how much it would cost to have paid someone else to do them. But wages are very low for domestic workers and housekeepers. A similar study in Australia also calculated the income people doing domestic work could have earned during those hours and found that unpaid care work would expand the country’s GDP by just over 50 percent if taken into account.

Without measuring these activities, they end up being invisible to policymakers and businesses. “From a gender lens, the fact that this kind of information, the value of care work, is not included in our measures is disastrous,” Eisler said. The SWEIs are meant to create “a shift in what we consider productive and valuable. It goes right to the heart of the devaluation of women and anything that has been stereotypically been called feminine…as not economically effective.”

That really hurts women. “We have this idea, and it’s represented in how we track our economic numbers, that women’s effort is worth less,” Valerie Young, advocacy coordinator at the National Association of Mothers’ Centers and an adviser to the SWEIs campaign, said. “When in fact if women aren’t caring for others and making it possible for other family members to go to school, to go work, and go to work themselves, the economy comes to a screeching halt.” But women are severely penalized in their wages for becoming mothers, part of the enduring gender wage gap. Given that the U.S. doesn’t have paid family leave, universal and affordable child care, or policies making it easier for people to work less or adjust their schedules, women, still the default caretakers, are pulled away from the workforce. Despite the fact that they’re making an investment in the future of the economy by raising children, they will suffer monetary and career setbacks.

SWEIs put a focus on these issues and expose the ways that United States comes up short. “They document that our nation lags behind other [developed] countries, both in the condition of our quality of life and in our present investment and the condition of our human capital,” Eisler said. “The economic implications of this lag are dire, yet [GDP] and even the other alternatives don’t really connect the dots and don’t give that information to policymakers so they can ensure that we move in the right direction.”

The goal isn’t to replace GDP, but to supplement it. Congress in fact approved the use of a handful of alternative measurements, and Eisler’s group fought to have SWEIs included, but it was never funded. In the meantime, she and the rest of her coalition is planning to bring the indicators to businesses and local governments. “We’re adapting them for business to really make the business case,” she said, showing them studies that companies that provide things like paid leave and child care perform better. And they also want local and state governments to adopt them in policymaking. “Our expectation, number one, is to change the thinking, change the conversation about what is going to be economically productive.”

If they were to be adopted at the federal level, she thinks a number of policies would rise to the top. “You could have a caregiver tax credit,” she pointed out. “We have child tax credits but the caregiver is invisible.” Paid leave would get a boost, as would stipends for low-income parents. “These are very, very sound investments.” And it would improve women’s lives. “You would certainly see a smaller wage gap, you would certainly see much lower poverty rates,” she said. It’s not such a crazy idea. Switzerland and other countries have started using similar measurements. But the United States has yet to move forward.

How Measuring The Economy Differently Could Increase Gender Equality | ThinkProgress.

‘The Wicked + The Divine’ Comic To Be Adapted As TV Series | Deadline

On the heels of The Wicked + The Divine comic by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie and Matt Wilson landing three Eisner Award Image (1) universaltvlogonew__120327204827.png for post 354766nominations, including best new series, the breakout books are headed to TV. Universal Television has optioned the rights to the property for Matt Fraction and Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Milkfed Criminal Masterminds; they will produce the project through the pod deal they recently inked with the studio. In addition to adapting their own comics and developing original concepts, under the pact with Uni TV, Fraction and DeConnick had planned to use Milkfed as a TV launchpad for other comic creators’ IP, which is the case with The Wicked + The Divine.

The Wicked + The Divine, which was launched by Image Comics in June 2014, centers on a group of people with superhuman powers known as “The Pantheon”. It won the Best Comic at the 2014 British Comic Awards. In Bleeding Cool’s survey of 2014 Best of Year lists, it appeared in 12, the most of any new creator-owned series.

gillenmckelvieGillen and McKelvie, repped by the Rothman Brecher Agency and attorney Harris M. Miller II, first arrived on the comic scene with the release of their 2006 cult Image book Phonogram. They later collaborated for their GLAAD Award-winning run on Marvel’s Young Avengers. Gillen’s comic credits also include Marvel’s Star Wars: Darth Vader, Iron Man and Uncanny X-Men; Avatar’s Uber and Mercury Heat; and Image’s Three. McKelvie’s other work includes comics (Defenders, Secret Avengers, X-Men Season One), character costume design (Captain Marvel, Ms Marvel) and cover work (Nightcrawler, Ms Marvel, Captain Marvel).

‘The Wicked + The Divine’ Comic To Be Adapted As TV Series | Deadline.

We Have a Few More Blurbs For Michael Wolff’s New Book

Media gadfly and would-be mogul Michael Wolff has a new book out, or maybe coming out soon, presumably with a title and so on. Here are the blurbs:

While we appreciate our inclusion in this murderers’ row of “big shots,” we feel this quote only scratches the surface of Gawker’s extensive writings on Michael Wolff, which date back to this site’s earliest days (when it devoted more energy to covering minor local media figures like Michael Wolff).

Here, then, is our suggestion for a revised and extended edition of Wolff’s book jacket, featuring a bit more of our commentary on the man through the years. His publisher may feel free to use any or all of these for the paperback.

We Have a Few More Blurbs For Michael Wolff's New Book

Art by Jim Cooke

We Have a Few More Blurbs For Michael Wolff’s New Book.

A full-time minimum-wage job won’t get you a 1-bedroom apartment anywhere in America – Vox

There is no state in the union where a full-time, minimum-wage worker can afford to rent a one-bedroom apartment for less than 30 percent of his paycheck (which is a standard measure of housing affordability).

That’s the depressing takeaway from a new report by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition. The paper includes this map tallying the hours a worker would have to put in at her job each week to rent a one-bedroom apartment without it eating more than 30 percent of her wages:

National Low-Income Housing Coalition

In Texas, a minimum wage worker needs to put in 73 hours a week to afford a one-bedroom unit. In California, it’s 92 hours. In the District of Columbia, it’s a solid 100 hours.

These are, of course, state averages. Rent will be more expensive in some cities — but those cities will often have a higher minimum wage than the rest of the state. Sadly, as this chart from the report shows, the increase in rental prices tends to be much higher than the increase in the minimum wage:

National Low-Income Housing Coalition

What that chart shows, basically, is that there’s almost no way for low-income workers to live in the cities where the best-paying jobs are. And so, often, they don’t. As Joseph Stromberg wrote in an excellent piece, being forced to live far from jobs is a key impediment to moving up the income ladder:

 

A Brookings Institution report found that the average resident of a US metro area can reach just 30 percent of the jobs in that area via a 90-minute or less transit ride …

 

A recent study led by Harvard’s Raj Chetty tracked 5 million children starting in the 1980s, considering how all sorts of factors relating to their neighborhoods (such as crime rates, schools, and levels of inequality) correlated with their odds of ascending to a higher income bracket than their parents. Among all these factors, “a neighborhood’s average commuting time was the strongest single correlation we found,” says Jamie Fogel, who worked on the study.

 

For much more data, read the National Low-Income Housing Foundation’s full report, which breaks down housing affordability not just by state, but by every county in every state.

(Hat tip to CityLab for the report.)

WATCH: How wealth inequality is dangerous for America

A full-time minimum-wage job won’t get you a 1-bedroom apartment anywhere in America – Vox.