The past week has underscored one more way in which the lives of the super-rich are diverging from the lives of everyone else: The middle class is becoming a matriarchy, while the plutocracy remains firmly patriarchal.
“Man is defined as a human being and woman is defined as a female. Whenever she tries to behave as a human being she is accused of trying to emulate the male.” That observation by Simone de Beauvoir helped to inspire the feminist revolution after World War Two. Two generations later, Sheryl K. Sandberg has written a book, “Lean In,” arguing that is still the case today.
Which is the more powerful agent of social change: fear or sympathy? Women in rich and middle-income countries may soon find themselves enrolled in a real-life experiment testing this proposition. That is because birthrates are dropping in much of the world. Demographics may soon rocket to the top of the political agenda, demanding an entirely new way of thinking about women and motherhood and the economy.
This piece first appeared in the Washington Post.
Watching Elena Kagan’s confirmation hearings this week, it is tempting to declare — as some have of late — that we have entered the age of women. Not just in politics but in school and in the broader economy women are doing well. Yet this female triumphalism overlooks an important exception: The areas where the real money and power reside are occupied almost exclusively by men.