Town & Country magazine does their part perpetuating an outdated, harmful, sexist trope.
It seems that no less an authority than Town & Country magazine, the official academic journal for the study of rich WASPs, has declared Prince Harry Windsor #1 on their list of most eligible bachelors, because apparently my clock is wrong and it’s actually 1910. What are the criteria to be “eligible”, you might ask? Well, the good folks at T&C are happy to describe their list as “princes, politicians, scions, DJs, and billionaires-to-be”. I guess that makes their criteria pretty goddamn clear.
Yes, ha-ha, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife, that was totally funny the first hundred times I heard it in the 19th century. And in the 19th century, it made sense. Women were completely deprived of economic agency, and marriage was the only career they were allowed. Picking a man to marry was the most important decision they’d ever make, because it would determine their income for the rest of their lives.
Call me old-fashioned, but I was raised to believe that that system was a grotesque injustice that has quite rightly been being dismantled for decades. Was that just me?
I’ve written before about the Success Myth, the idea that men’s only source of value is their wealth and power, not any… y’know, human qualities. It’s the fucked-up mirror image of the Beauty Myth, the idea that women are only valuable for their looks. Just as women get reduced to sex objects, so too do men get reduced to success objects, attractive and worthwhile only in proportion to their bank account. Feminists have, quite rightly, decried all the cheap, dehumanizing crap that pervades our culture, telling women their human worth is measured by their dress size and their hair color. It’s hurtful, it’s oppressive, and it needs to go. And this kind of crap, this glorification of rich dudes in suits as success objects, mostly due to little more than being born to the right parents, needs to go as well.
Women have fought for generations to win the kind of economic agency that makes lists like this an atavistic embarrassment. And it’s working! It’s working really well! We’re seeing more and more powerful female executives and politicians competing right alongside men, and doing damned well. We’re seeing male and female employment figures approaching parity. We’re seeing the wage gap gradually close. We’re seeing more and more fathers economically free to be full-time parents, if that’s what they choose. We’re seeing people moving beyond those awful old housewife/breadwinner stereotypes that left so many people unhappy and unfulfilled.
And, unfortunately, we’re still seeing crap about “eligible bachelors”, where apparently eligibility is about how rich and successful a man is.
Let’s look at that word, eligible. Generally it refers to a basic, necessary qualification. You turn 18, you’re eligible to vote. You enroll in college, you’re eligible for student aid. And according to Town & Country, if you inherit a few million dollars, you’re eligible to be sought in marriage.
Take a minute to think about what that does to the self-image of a man who doesn’t happen to be a millionaire, a man who is, apparently, an ineligible bachelor. To be told that he is literally unworthy, unqualified, for a basic institution like marriage. Men have it beaten into them from childhood that the number on their paycheck defines their worth as a person, the same way women get it beaten into them about their dress size. We try to get past that, try to see ourselves are more than just another success object, and then a list like this comes along to say “Nope, it really is all about money and career, you loser.”
Let us have no more of this stereotype. Let us have no more eligible bachelors, no more trophy wives, no more godawful leftovers of a time when marriage was the only profession open to ladies. They are nasty remnants of an era we have evolved past, a leftover transitional fossil that refuses to die. This list might as well be archaeopteryx.
No, I take that back, archaeopteryx was awesome and this Town & Country list is gross and creepy. This list might as well be a lungfish.
Yes, that’s it. Think of it as Town & Country’s list of the top forty lungfish. That puts it in an appropriate context.