Friday, March 29, 2013

The Bag Lady Complex

Certainly, women have come a long way. American women today have achieved career success that far surpasses anything their mothers and grandmothers could have imagined.

But, at what cost?

The Los Angeles Times reports on a new study of women’s greatest fears. The results are shocking.

The Times summarizes them:

Despite making enormous strides professionally and financially, almost half of American women fear becoming bag ladies, even many of those earning six-figure salaries, according to a new survey.

Six in 10 women describe themselves as the primary breadwinners in their households, and 54% manage the family finances, according to the poll by Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America.

Even so, 49% fear becoming a bag lady -- a homeless woman who wanders the streets of a city lugging her meager belongings in a shopping bag.

Most surprising, 27% of women earning more than $200,000 a year said they fear falling into such destitution.

Such concerns were most pronounced among single women (56%), divorcees (54%) and widows (47%). But even 43% of married women harbor such fears, according to the study.

Allianz polled more than 2,200 women aged 25 to 75 with minimum household income of $30,000 a year.

The study points up the conflicting emotions of American women toward money, and the disconnect among some between their generally promising financial reality and their deep-seated financial fears.

Obviously, it is betterr to listen to what women have to say than to assume that their views conform to this or that ideology. But it is best to pay attention to what women fear. For all we know, women’s emotions might be a leading market indicator.

There are many ways to interpret the data. At the least, American women are in a somber, even anguished mood. It is altogether possible that the women who were polled, most of whom are highly educated and well-informed, are in despair about America’s future.

Consciously, they might have bought the hopey/changey message, but in their hearts they seem to know that something is radically wrong with America.

Their emotions might be confirming a point that Mort Zuckerman has been making; that the employment situation in America is far worse than we have been led to believe.

One does well to pay heed to one’s emotions, especially when they do not appear to be connected to an ostensible reality.

But that is not the only disconnect here. A bag lady is radically disconnected from other people and from the life of society. She is alone, isolated, rejected, abandoned, homeless and friendless. She does not fit and does not belong. She is a poignant embodiment of a pervasive anomie.

This too is symptomatic of an American cultural failure. For all of our zealous pursuit of lofty ideals like truth, justice and equality we have forgotten how to get along with other people. Many of us no longer know how to work in a group, to cooperate with others or to function as social beings.

Prostrate at the altar of high ideals we have lost the art of producing and sustaining social harmony.

Many people do not even believe in social harmony. They believe that societies advance through a dialectical clash of opposing ideas.

The reject compromise and cooperation in favor of being oppositional. They contradict everything you say, subject your statements to an ideological litmus test, and revel in contemptuous and tendentious remarks. Their goal is to shed heat, not light on the problem.

That is the reason why out culture is cooked.

People who live to oppose are do not want to achieve a consensus, negotiate a compromise or find common ground. They have sacrificed the skills that would allow people to get along with other people, to feel like they belong to a group, to respect and honor other people in favor of their ideology.

Many people have bought into anomie because it they have been duped into seeing it as independence. When women feel that they must be independent and autonomous, when they are afraid of what will happen if they do not earn their own money they are saying that they do not believe that they can rely on anyone for anything.

If you tell people that you cannot rely on them you are also telling them not to rely on you.

If a woman insists that she does not need a man to support her she is more likely to attract men who cannot support her.

The Allianz poll did address the issue of “independence:

 Yet many also worry that financial achievement alienates both men and other women.

Forty-two percent said financially independent women intimidate men and run the risk of ending up alone, according to the survey. Almost one-third (31%) said those women are hard to relate to and don’t have many friends.

We do not know from the survey whether these successful women are hard to relate to and don’t have many friends because it’s lonely at the top—which is the hidden meaning of Sheryl Sandberg’s new book—because some successful women have sacrificed relationships to career success, because the culture is sexist, or because many of today’s very successful women tend to be ideologically committed.

It’s no secret that zealots tend to be insufferable.


Sam L. said...

And apparently have not heard of saving for the future.

Bobbye said...

" freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose" is a mans perspective. Many a man dreamed of shedding all responsibility and being "homeless". Women almost never think that way. If they leave it is usually for another secure situation. I think they have some doubts about Eternal Husband Government right now.
And no, Sam, the future does not exist; why would you save for it.

Anonymous said...

Would love to hear what the men at the top think as well.
I have heard a lot about the men at the top of companies, and what insufferable narcissists THEY are as well.
So my hypothesis is that this is not a male/female thing...
It is an "It's lonely at the top/Sometimes it takes a true narcissist or worst to make it all the way up"
--Just an alternative viewpoint to consider...

David Foster said...

"I have heard a lot about the men at the top of companies, and what insufferable narcissists THEY are as well"

I know quite a few people at the tops of companies, ranging from a Fortune 20 company to high-flying startups to smaller enterprises, and few of them are insufferable narcissists. In my experience, you're more likely to find extreme narcissism in the "non-profit" world (which can be very profitable for those engaged in it) than in the explicitly for-profit world. Ditto for politicians, where *they* are their own product.

Anonymous said...

Fear of abandonment is what I refer to as the "race fear." The ancient name is Beelzebub (Heb.) - Lord of the Flies. Flies are ruled by dung which is something a child learns is to be abandoned and left behind.

Anonymous said...

How about all the harworking men who have IN REALITY over the last four decades been forced to become "Bag Men" because of politically correct laws enshrining sexism as legal doctrine?!?


Anonymous said...

Well, I fear bag-lady-hood, but not from scorn of men. My man, married in the Church over 30 years, is now seriously physically handicapped. If I predecease him, he will be taken care of with our savings, and hopefully his rich mother's pity. If he goes first, it will be after depleting our savings for medical expenses, then I will be left with nothing, outdated job skills, and nothing else. So yeah, I'm hoping I die first. And his handicaps ... they could happen to you, too ... maybe this afternoon ... sometimes life just hits you like a train, and all your prudent planning is for shit. Bag lady me, what a prospect.

Bobbye said...

AnonymousMarch 30, 2013 at 8:06

Sorry to hear of your tough situation. I have been taking care of my sick wife for four years and have gone through all our savings also. Thank you for honouring you marriage vows," in sickness and in health". Be assured, God never forgets what you do for Him; He is never a " what have you done lately"Person. I am sure you will not end up a baglady. Bless you

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post. I wish there was more history on the survey. I never heard anyone of my Grandmother's generation (depression and WWII)express this but I have heard it over 20 years ago from the divorce generation. I can understand a divorcee of the 80's who never worked fearing this but not my generation. I certainly don't fear it. Even if there were multiple failures of my plan (and there could be - I could be widowed our 401Ks and pensions could both fail) I still know I could do way better than bag lady.

Anonymous said...

You need help. I would suggest therapy, but...

My theory is that you are an unemployed, stay-at-home blogger with only a pretend profession (that one being sort of girly itself). So in the absence of any real work, especially any "manly" work, you fixate and obsess about women who actually are out there working in the real (as opposed to blogging) world, convincing yourself and looking for ANY evidence that they are miserable.

Jealous, much?

I assure you, all evidence to the contrary, making your own money is really, really fun! Having a fulfilling job is really gratifying! It leads to self-respect and a great sense of self-worth. You should try it!

otr said...
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