Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Dating a Banker Anonymous

by Laura Smith-Gary

Dating a Banker Anonymous. Oh, how I wish I'd made that title up. No such luck.

Today The New York Times reported on a group of women who meet regularly to support each other through the recession. Their particular need for emotional support is a dire one: their banker boyfriends and (occasionally) husbands don't have as much money anymore! Noooooooo!

Obviously, these women are easy to take cheap shots at. I think it's important to note that relational/marital problems often accompany economic downturns. The unemployment of one or both partners can strain even the most loving, non-mercenary relationship, and tension and fear at work can easily translate into an array of negative emotions and behaviors at home. In an economic climate that can lead to frustration, depression, anger, helplessness and feelings of inadequacy, I am highly in favor of support groups and therapy, both for those who are directly affected and for their partners and families. Considering that the atmospheres in most banks must be toxic, I understand the need for emotional support.

But why oh why would you start a blog and declare it "free from the scrutiny of feminists"? That's just begging for us to go prying around in it! Especially if you follow your feminist-free statement with a declaration that the blog is for you "if your monthly Bergdorf's allowance has been halved and bottle service has all but disappeared from your life." Frankly, I thought at first that this blog was tongue-in-cheek, or created to hoax the Times. It could be trolling feminists, or a not-very-skillful attempt at satire -- read, and see what you think. I'm still open to that possibility, but if the Times was right in saying the group meets a couple of times a week, the probablity of it being a joke or staged seems diminished.

Now, your relationship is your own business. If you want to sleep with bankers for high-quality champagne and the thrill of seeing other rich men hobnob with him at parties, you go right ahead. If you are a banker and you're sleeping with someone who's with you for the Bergdorf's allowance, and you're aware of that and okay with that, then you go right ahead. There are many moral issues that could be discussed, especially when we factor in the fact that according to DABA members many of these banker boyfriends are married, but I'm not that concerned about the sexual ethics now.

What I'm concerned about is this -- why are they framing themselves as anti-feminist? Why are they defining themselves not only as shallow and mercenary, but strictly in terms of their boyfriends? Obviously, they believe there's some kind of status associated with dating a banker, and that dating an unemployed man or not-quite-as-rich banker is a downgrade. Apparently there's also the perception that admitting your relationship is motivated by greed and social climbing, even bragging about it, is most conducive to maintaining your social status during the dissolution of your coveted "Dating a Banker" status. Why is that? Is there a societal belief that a woman who gets men to spend money on her is desirable and attractive, and that her appeal is increased by a lack of attachment to these men? Is it a way to signal availability to other, richer men? Are these women struggling to express the idea that they are attracted not just to the lifestyle, but to an ambitious, aggressive type of man and are having trouble seeing him humbled or vulnerable in any way -- that is, are they emphasizing the lack of caviar because (despite their support group) it's too painful to admit that they see their lover as "emasculated"?

Would the blog Dating a (Female) Banker Anonymous look even remotely similar?


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