The Medium Of Money And The Women Who Wield It Thesis By Marianna Mott Newirth


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An investigation into money as a medium of communication and how women construct identities and relay messages in the world. Money is intricately intertwined into every element of Western culture. As women achieve unprecedented levels of power and influence so too does their use of money. In examining what is popularly referred to as the Three Waves of the Feminist Movement , the theory of money as a medium of communication , and case studies conducted in New York City, a matrix is constructed and an axis revealed which helps frame an important inquiry for the current and rising generation: “How does woman change the contours of society as a result of direct access to and control over her own money?”

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The Medium Of Money And The Women Who Wield It Thesis By Marianna Mott Newirth

  1. 1. The Medium of Money & Women Who Wield It Axis of Understanding Ways Women Relate to Money Marianna Mott Newirth The New School for General Studies | Master’s Thesis in Media Studies June 2008 ______________________________________________________________________________ Master’s Student Date Professor Peter Haratonik ______________________________________________________________________________ Primary Thesis Advisor Date Professor Barry Salmon ______________________________________________________________________________ Second Reviewer/Academic Advisor Date Professor Shannon Mattern ______________________________________________________________________________ Director of Graduate Studies Date Signature Page
  2. 2. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It For my mother, Janet French Cramer Marianna Mott Newirth -2-
  3. 3. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It Abstract This thesis is an investigation into money as a medium of communication and how women construct identities and relay messages in the world. Money is intricately intertwined into every element of Western culture. As women achieve unprecedented levels of power and influence so too does their use of money. In examining what is popularly referred to as the Three Waves of the Feminist Movement1, the theory of money as a medium of communication2, and case studies conducted in New York City, a matrix is constructed and an axis revealed which helps frame an important inquiry for the current and rising generation: “How does woman change the contours of society as a result of direct access to and control over her own money?” 1 Eisenberg, Bonnie & Ruthsdotter, Mary: National Women’s History Project 1998 & 2 McLuhan, Marshall: Understanding Media - The Extensions of Man The MIT Press 1994 Marianna Mott Newirth -3-
  4. 4. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It Table of Contents 1) Introduction: Emerging Cultural Attitudes of Women and Their Money Thesis Proposal 2) Feminism and the Cumulative Effect on Cultural Thinking Introduction Turn-of-the-Century: Emerging Feminism – Giving Voice to an Idea Feminism 1940 to 1970: Icons of the Working Woman Turn into the Twenty First Century 3) Theory on Media, Money & Women Introduction Media Theory Money as Metaphor • Metaphor • Money Feminist Theory: Women and Woman 4) Woman - Early in the Twenty First Century Introduction On-line Survey: Forty-two Women in the Greater New York Area Case Studies: Six New York Women • Jennifer: Choosing to be Frugal • Linda: Truth & Justice • Maria: Don’t Worry Be Happy • Victoria: By Trial and Error • Esther: Taking Care of Business • Miriam: Sleeping Beauty Gets a Cold Shower Findings from the Case Studies History Present Marianna Mott Newirth -4-
  5. 5. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It Analyzing the Data Introducing the Axis Relationally Oriented Wealth Wellness Oriented Wealth Material Oriented Wealth 5) Conclusion: Axis of Understanding Ways Women Relate to Money 6) Recommendations for Further Study Appendix 1 Victor Hugo Appendix 2 Executive Order 10980 Appendix 3 On Line Questionnaire Appendix 4 Interview Protocol Marianna Mott Newirth -5-
  6. 6. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It Chapter One: Emerging Cultural Attitudes | Women & Money This thesis is an investigation into the intersection of money as a tool of communication, women’s studies, and cultural attitudes in our society. The topic of women and money is an evolving media story as businesses focus on women as the next economic growth area. Programs such as Key4Women with the Cleveland based financial institution, Key Bank, are established to encourage and support women as well as men in starting and sustaining their own business. Organizations such as Catalyst, a not-for-profit company that works with global corporations to foster the advancement of women in the work place, are thriving. Women in America are present in the work force more than ever before in history.3 Standing upon the shoulders of former generations, young American women enter the work force today confident and in command of their careers4. They are capable of using their money as they see fit and free to choose what they will do with it. This freedom can give an individual the ability to express herself and her opinions through her actions as a consumer as well as a contributor to the gross national product. Women in the early days of the feminist movement had their voice to change the world. Women today have their voice and their wallet get the job done. This is a realization that is just beginning to be understood and embraced. Many questions can be asked in relation to these changes. Does the shifting cultural norms of women and money lead to a fundamental shift in the way money is regarded, utilized and taught as a tool of communication? Is the current social use of 3 US Department of Labor Women’s Bureau Statistics & Data 2007 4 US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics Marianna Mott Newirth -6-
  7. 7. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It money influenced by the fact that women have greater earning potential than ever before in modern history? In what way are women changing how they rely on men? Given the accomplishment of women in the work force over the last century5 are they starting to relate to the concept of money in a way that is fundamentally different from what it has been historically? How is increased control over money contributing to women constructing new identities; individually and collectively? There is no simple equation to use which will help answer these questions. Certainly “women & money” is a topic with many important avenues. Questions about race, gender and economic equality have great influence over people’s attitudes and behavior about money. For the purpose of this study I focus on three things: the economic path women have been on for the past 100 years; theory on money, media and women; and a snap shot of contemporary thinking. I delimit my study to middle class women over the age of forty, living and working in the Metropolitan New York area. I base this on the idea that the middle class is – as its name dictates – the midway range between extremes in economy and thinking. The goal is to construct a matrix to outline and display a process of shifting attitudes and how one particular medium - money - is undergoing a change in purpose. The selection of women over the age of forty is significant. The median age of women in the American workforce is currently 41. It is projected to be close to 43 by 20186. Regardless of marital status or the number of dependents they declare, women 5 Census info here 6 US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics; Employment Projections Marianna Mott Newirth -7-
  8. 8. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It over forty are in their peak earnings period.7 With retirement age looming closer, the decades of ages forty, fifty and sixty are critical in women’s professional lives. Chapter Two begins with a brief look at the history of women in and out of the work force beginning around 1848. I chronicle the path and landmark events that usher what would come to be called the Women’s Movement through to the new century. The purpose is to cite a few key people and popular icons of the era that drive the cause of women’s earnings forward. In Chapter Three I explore select theories on media, money and women. Basing my theory on the writings of Marshall McLuhan, Gregory Bateson and Chandra Talpade Mohanty (using Georg Simmel’s seminal work, The Philosophy of Money, as a foundation,) this chapter lays a particular ground work from which to interpret the topic of women and money. This serves to give a clear understanding of my point of view from which I study the women currently living and working in New York; those presented in chapter four. Chapter Four describes the case studies conducted for this thesis. Two studies were made, one as an on-line survey and one as face to face interviews. From these two studies I create a matrix to reveal what I anticipate as framework from which to develop a new set of questions to ask and explore. It is not necessarily answers that will be helpful in breaking up current reality but the questions which will lead to a new understanding of the world we are in control of. 7 Women at Work: A Visual Essay - Monthly Labor Review, October 2003 Marianna Mott Newirth -8-
  9. 9. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It Chapter Five brings together these ideas and contextualizes the framework which I form in chapter four. Chapter Six is a listing of recommendations and suggestions for further study on this topic. I consider next steps to continue expanding on the ideas presented. Marianna Mott Newirth -9-
  10. 10. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It Thesis Proposal In the first quarter of 2007 I submitted a thesis proposal. During the course of study, a path emerged which I could not have predicted. Summary of my proposal is included here to show the origins of this thesis. ________________________________________ Money is a powerful medium historically handled by men. In the last fifty years the acquisition and control of money has become considerably more egalitarian. I want to look at the message money conveys today and how this medium is taught, wielded and used to shape the future, not only as a means of economic change but as a powerful social force. “The personal and social consequences of any medium – that is, of any extension of ourselves – result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology.”8 This study takes a glimpse into a very specific group; a cross section of forty-year-old women living in the New York area representing three distinct economic classes. My goal is to provide a deepened awareness of the messages of money that are relayed in our society and how they differ or converge depending upon gender and class. Based upon the assumption that money is a medium with equal strength to any technology, where does the transformation occur from money being merely a means of economic exchange into a powerful social force? Using a foundation from academics including Marshall McLuhan, Gregory Bateson, I will do a series of case studies involving women in their forties in three specific class groups; upper, middle and lower class. In this instance I will conduct interviews and gather background particular to these groups. The intention is to a)determine the assumptions these women have about money, b)learn what their education about money was as they grew up, c)observe how money has formed the reality for these groups and d)examine the commonalties and differences among these women. The result will be a comparative study of the perception of money and the messages it sends as generated by women in three economic groups in New York. The relevance of this study to the field of media studies and media practices is the illumination of a system that has great influence over people’s decision making. Like any 8 McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. Cambridge, MA MIT Press 1994 p.7 Marianna Mott Newirth - 10 -
  11. 11. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It medium, money has the power to affect attitudes, beliefs and behavior. How people relate to and use money has a profound impact upon the field of media. If but one segment of our vast society were to grasp the system that drives our culturally obsessive cycle of earning and spending then there is an opportunity for us to realize a greater purpose for this power medium and put it to healthy use. Money is a driving force and by examining money as a medium – as an extension of ourselves – we can begin to notice the unconscious way we wield money as a replacement for who we take ourselves to be. The focus on women and class helps to hone in on one half of the population that is growing in economic power and financial control. Women – in modern history - have always used money. Now they are making money and there are significant shifts taking place in the messages they deliver. It is worth studying those messages for clues to the future of our growth as a society. I begin with a survey sent electronically to 500+ women in the greater New York area early this summer. Given a probable 2% response rate I can anticipate hearing back from a total of ten women. Each of my interviews will consist of the same questions. My observations will be logged onto a spread sheet that will begin to reveal the similarities and differences of the women’s responses. I will also track my own personal observations of money as media during this process. I expect to draw together a sociological overview of women and money - from the restricted focal point of New York City - to better understand the existing taxonomies applied to women and finances and discover potential new extensions of themselves that they can forge with their money, their media. I have been in the work force for over twenty five years as a not-for-profit, for-profit and self employed individual. Working full-time and raising two children, I took my studies at The New School very slowly. During this extended academic period I have enjoyed a wide range of study opportunities while my career has evolved in surprising ways. This thesis is a culmination of my educational and life experience over the last four and a half years; it represents my greatest academic challenge to date. Marianna Mott Newirth - 11 -
  12. 12. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It Chapter Two: Feminism and the Cumulative Effect on Cultural Thinking Woman will always be dependent until she holds a purse of her own. Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) Introduction It is a human trait to assume that the way things are, are the way things always will be; to operate out of the idea that the current situation is the norm. Noticeable change only comes once in a great while in the form of a cathartic, disruptive event worthy of great works of art. It was a common remark after the attacks of September 11, 2001 to say “everything’s changed,” perhaps as a way of making reason out of such unreasonable acts. Change, for better or worse, is a natural force in life and has been at work every moment throughout history. Cultural attitudes and assumptions that appear to have “long shelf lives” do in fact change and drift with each successive generation. The nature of being for a Human Being, it can be said, is in balancing the need for stability with the inevitable force of change. It is in this balance that I look at the changing economic condition and attitudes of women in Western society. Marianna Mott Newirth - 12 -
  13. 13. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It Turn-of-the-Century: Emerging Feminism – Giving Voice to an Idea Historically, by the turn of the 20th century, a great deal of awareness building and activism had already been taking place in terms of women’s rights. A periodical published in Brattleboro, VT, circa 1888, quoted Victor Hugo on the cover: “The Nineteenth Century is Women’s Century.” America had boomed with the Second Industrial Revolution and was drawing people from around the world to the land of opportunity. Seeing this rise in economic prosperity, many women realized that not only were they ignored as a vital part of the plan but entire groups, fiscally and racially different, had not even been considered. This was unacceptable in the eyes of a few extraordinary people. Lucretia Coffin Mott was a distinguished abolitionist, founding member of the women’s rights movement and my great, great, great, grandmother. She wrote many an impassioned article and worked with like-minded individuals to advance awareness and foster change on the condition of human rights in America. Among her most noted works was a document drafted with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the Declaration of Sentiments, inspired by the United States Constitution. Mott, Stanton and others presented this declaration to an audience of women and men at the first Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, New York on July 19, 1848. Marianna Mott Newirth - 13 -
  14. 14. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It The opening statement to the Declaration of Sentiments is based on a familiar and famous statement: We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men and women are created equal.9 The declaration listed a number of grievances, among them; He has monopolized nearly all the profitable employments, and from those she is permitted to follow, she receives but a scanty remuneration10 and; He has taken from her all right in property, even to the wages she earns.11 This event marked, perhaps, the first time an organized group of women stood up to declare their economic autonomy in modern Western civilization. Their disruptive document launched a movement that continues to present day. The year following the Seneca Falls Convention Mott published “A Discourse On Women.” In it she critiques a lecture given by a fellow Quaker and member of the Society of Friends, noting how it was “fraught with sentiments calculated to retard the progress of woman to the high elevation destined by her Creator.”12 She made an impassioned argument against restrictive thinking among “intelligent and refined”13 company which resulted in a deadening of the spirit among all capable woman. She understood the pull of human nature and challenged the assumption that “the present is 9 Declaration of Independence; Stanton, Elizabeth Cady (1849) 10 ditto 11 ditto 12 James and Lucretia Mott: Life and Letters; Hallowell, Anna Davis, The Riverside Press - Houghton, Mifflin & Co. (1884) p.487 13 ditto p. 488 Marianna Mott Newirth - 14 -
  15. 15. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It the original state designed for woman”14 making the point that it was indeed, not. She presented a scenario wherein woman and man together rose to their true and proper position as fully functional adults in society both contributing the highest of their potential and denying the allure of “mannish” or “womanish” affectation. Being Quaker, vanity was looked down upon as it lessened the potential of the individual. Mott was a humanist who saw the elevation of the status of woman a benefit to society as a whole and not as a diminishing of man’s role in the world. Indeed, she did not support the efforts toward a women’s right to vote, having what appeared to be a particular loathing for politics. She was content to remain focused on the betterment of human kind. Lucretia Mott had an inherent (one might say naive) trust that the natural goodness of mankind would shine through. She did not think that it would require policy, laws and enforcement to maintain intelligent thinking. Alas the pull of entrenched behavior and thinking never fully goes away. A great enemy of progress is justification of the existing social order; believing that the way things are will never change. Mott knew she had to alter the thinking of the day and took on that task by delivering her message again and again and again as her relentlessness dictated. She understood the tools required to cross the chasm of societal norms and wielded them with what precision and passion she could yield, which appears to have been considerable. Quoting the King James Bible, Mott was known to have often said; “Good to be always zealously affected in a good thing.”15 14 ditto p. 492 15 Marianna Mott Newirth - 15 -
  16. 16. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It Mott was not alone. Late nineteenth century maverick, Walter Matthew Gallichan, and his 1910 publication, Modern Woman and How to Manage Her, was an attempt to throw down long held beliefs. The title is misleading to the words he wrote. The Christian English gentleman, reared in the doctrine of St. Paul concerning the subjection of women, can scarcely imagine a state in which women are the directors of legislation, the heads of families, the dominant sex. He tells you that such a condition is unthinkable; it never has been, and never will be. The average Christian English gentleman is, however, not addicted to deep reflection upon social problems, and in nine cases out of ten, he knows next to nothing of the moral codes, manners, and marriage customs of other nations. His eye is fixed upon England, and usually upon one little corner of it. He talks about “thinking Imperially.” He is anything but cosmopolitan in his outlook on human life. Men of this parochial bias vehemently oppose the elevation of women, and fear the rule of woman as a final social catastrophe. They are ignorant of the fact that, among many of the most civilized of ancient races, the Matriarchate was the custom of the country for hundreds of year; and that the headship of woman is in existence today among many peoples of the earth.16 Gallichan was a man ahead of his time. Ten years after he penned this passage the Women’s Bureau of the US Department of Labor was formed via a Congressional mandate to “represent the needs of wage-earning women in the public policy process.”17 16 Harvard University – Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America / Gallichan, Walter Matthew. Modern Woman and How to Manage Her. New York: J. Lane Co., 1910 17 US Department of Labor Women’s Bureau Historic Overview Marianna Mott Newirth - 16 -
  17. 17. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It Feminism 1940 to 1970: Icons of The Working Woman By the time America was into the Second World War, what would come to be called the Second Wave of the feminist movement was emerging. Many factors lead to a breakthrough in the early 1960’s which brought about a change in popular attitudes towards women, changes which are now taken for granted. After a century of women and men speaking up, the notion of quot;women's workquot; was truly starting to show change. By the 1930's huge advances in women's lives had been made. Medical and law schools opened their doors to women, the American Medical Association had been admitting women for nearly twenty years, 10% of doctors across the country, and about 2% of lawyers and judges, were women. As the world spun into World War II nearly 300,000 women served in the Army and the Navy. This horrific time in history offered great opportunity for women in this country. The work force had no choice but to open its doors to women in hard labor jobs. “Rosie the Riveter” had arrived and that powerful image of strength, femininity and capability transformed the realm of possibility for their future employment. This was a very important time in women’s history, serving to dispel a number of myths about the notion of feminine limitations and masculine identity. Women entered the work force, their numbers grew every decade and the money they earned was now legally theirs. No longer taboo, the topic of women in the work force was a given and with it, a change of attitudes on what was deemed socially acceptable. But there remained a very long way to go. With the barriers brought down, or lessened at the least, the challenge to woman was just beginning; inventing one’s self image. There was a great deal to learn and those who knew were not so eager to teach. Marianna Mott Newirth - 17 -
  18. 18. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It There has long been a feeling that women, besides bearing other handicaps, are most seriously inconvenienced because of their lack of wealth and income. More recently there has been much idle talk about the notion that in reality a large amount of the wealth and income of the country is, after all, in the hands of women. This study shows that the economic position of women is relatively high and that women do own, control, and receive large amounts of wealth and income. Women ought to be conscious of their economic status in a world in which financial control is so predominant a factor. A high economic position and economic independence have been important elements in shaping the freedom of action of women in this country. It is unmistakable that the economic status of women has much to do with defining and establishing their social status, social privileges, and immunities, and also in giving them the power to gain greater opportunities for themselves.18 Well into the 20th century women were earning and wielding an impressive amount of money though the perception remained of “a man’s world” that a woman must conform to. Who were the one’s keeping this perception alive? It is quite possible that women themselves held most staunchly to the attitudes and ideals that kept their status in place. Again the tendency to maintain the status quo was strong. The move toward independence was fraught with resistance and it remained easier to just keep things they way they were rather than push out for change – though change was happening anyway. Icons of the day illustrate this conflict. Marilyn Monroe, for example, was a successful, rich, influential and independent woman who made a name for herself as a symbol of subordination. One could say that her overpowering message of sexual vulnerability lulled the establishment into allowing her to create and practice her own brand. She wielded what she had and ultimately opened her own production studio in 1956. Over six years she managed to recast herself from dumb blond to complex female lead and 20th 18 Branch, Mary Sydney; Women and Wealth: A Study of the Economic Status of American Women – The University of Chicago Press 1934 Marianna Mott Newirth - 18 -
  19. 19. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It century icon. Looking at her in the context of this paper, Monroe gave the world a classic rags to riches princess story. She was not more than a sex symbol she was a success symbol. Contrast Monroe’s image with the 1945 image of Rosie the Riveter, strong, capable and patriotic. It’s an interesting side note that Monroe was discovered in 1944 while working on the assembly line at the Radio Plane Munitions factory in Burbank, California. Rosie the Riveter emerged simultaneously with Marilyn Monroe but with a very different message. WWII brought about a paradigm shift in the perception of feminine power and potential. Far from “mannish” as Lucretia Mott so eloquently penned, there was a redefining of femininity and strength. By 1962, a year after President Kennedy signed Executive Order 10980 establishing the President’s Commission on the Status of Women, Marilyn Monroe was gone and the nation was into a different kind of war. A year later Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique and the nation responded. Marianna Mott Newirth - 19 -
  20. 20. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It 19 20 21 19 Eisenstaedt, Alfred; Marilyn Monroe 1953 Gelatin Silver © Time Inc. 20 quot;Richmond Weldersquot; Courtesy of the Family of Margaret Fong 21 Rockwell, Norman; Rosie the Riveter 1943 The Saturday Evening Post, May 29, 1943 (cover) Marianna Mott Newirth - 20 -
  21. 21. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It In the late fifties, a sociological phenomenon was suddenly remarked: a third of American women now worked, but most were no longer young and very few were pursuing careers. They were married women who held part-time jobs, selling or secretarial, to put their husbands through school, their sons through college, or to help pay the mortgage. Or they were widows supporting families. Fewer and fewer women were entering professional work. The shortages in the nursing, social work, and teaching professions caused crises in almost every American city. Concerned over the Soviet Union's lead in the space race, scientists noted that America's greatest source of unused brain-power was women. But girls would not study physics: it was quot;unfeminine.quot; A girl refused a science fellowship at Johns Hopkins to take a job in a real-estate office. All she wanted, she said, was what every other American girl wanted--to get married, have four children and live in a nice house in a nice suburb.22 At home, men were ideally considered the bread winner and much energy was put into reinforcing that notion. In upper and middle-class homes, women’s earnings most often went to the husband for management; his wages continued to hold far more significance. She could help pay for the vacations, the dinners out and family gifts. Her money, while a help to the family, retained a second class status. If her salary stopped coming in, the perception was that the family would still survive and everyone would be fine. Whether or not there was actually a man in the home was irrelevant. The popular perception of the day gave the husband top ranking, if he lost his job that was cause for serious concern. All this is pointing to the continued idea that women were not in charge of their money; ownership was a tough idea to embrace for the every-day man and woman. The concept that a woman could work had finally been accepted but the idea that a woman could work and fulfill her true potential in life was still far and away from being an easy one to accept. In fact, there came a point when women took a huge step back: 22 Friedan, Betty; The Feminine Mystique, Mass Market Paperback 1963 Marianna Mott Newirth 21
  22. 22. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It Turn into the Twenty First Century It is too early to make generalizations about the working woman of the twenty first century. Women who proudly claimed the title “feminist” in the last decades of the twentieth century have granddaughter’s who, in the first decade of the new century, reject that classification. Countless web logs and websites themed around women and feminism are fueling a virtual debate over what is feminism today and reasons to be or not be a feminist. Clearly the work started 100 years ago is making a difference in the lives of everyone in this country today. The key is to keep the dialogue going. What was believed to be entrenched thinking in 1908 is considered archaic today. Money is an extension of ourselves; I am the money that I have. What is valued in our society is the amount of money we possess. This is a time honored way for men to assess their self worth which may explain why a man’s occupation and compensation have been of such supreme importance for so long. In a society that has traditionally kept the ownership of money away from women the dysfunction they have with the concept of money is no surprise. No one argues the point that women are capable of managing money. The roadblock is in their own relation to it. For a woman, her priorities differ from that of her male counterpart. For women, their self worth has been wrapped up in more than money for well more than 100 years. We do not relate to it until we are in extreme, life-changing situations in which we have no choice but to confront money matters. Until then, we don’t apply [our] primal, nurturing impulse when it comes to taking care of our money—and by extension, ourselves...23 23 Orman, Suze; Women and Money, Spiegel & Grau New York 2007 p.12 Marianna Mott Newirth 22
  23. 23. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It Chapter Three: Theory on Media, Money & Women “…Our money is indeed an extension of ourselves.” Suze Orman24 Introduction: I open this chapter with the punch line from Orman’s quote on the previous chapter, as an example of a theoretical concept about money successfully making its way into current popular consciousness, particularly as it pertains to women. In fact, from the time this thesis was started in early 2007, numerous publications have emerged on the topic of women and money. A feature article in Town & Country magazine, which caters to high- net-worth women, tackled this topic head on in February 2008 with The Town & Country Guide to Women and Wealth by Joanna L Krotz. Her message was simple; “You can’t live happily ever after if you don’t take care of your money – it’s as simple as that.”25 This chapter investigates three things; media theory, the concept of money as a metaphor, and basic feminist theory. Its purpose is to build an alternate platform for regarding the overall topic of women and money. As already discussed in the previous chapter, human nature dictates a constant referral to past ways of thinking and behaving. This chapter starts to open up our thinking about the position and usage of money from a behavioral, causal structure. We talk about the economy driving our society; more to the point is our society that is driving the economy. If we accept the thought that money is a medium of expression we have the opportunity to look at money in a new light. As Marshall McLuhan said, “The latest approach to media study considers not only the ‘content’ but the medium and the cultural matrix within which the particular medium operates.”26 24 Orman, Suze; Women & Money Spiegel & Grau New York 2007 p.12 25 Krotz, Joanna L. The Town & Country Guide to Women and Wealth Town & Country mag Feb 2008 26 McLuhan, Marshall; Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man The MIT Press 1994 p.11 Marianna Mott Newirth 23
  24. 24. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It Media Theory Few would disagree with the claim that media and culture today are of central importance to the maintenance and reproduction of contemporary societies. Societies, like species, need to reproduce to survive, and culture cultivates attitudes and behavior that predisposes people to consent to established ways of thought and conduct, thus integrating individuals into a specific socioeconomic system…with media and culture playing such important roles in contemporary life, it is obvious that we must come to understand our cultural environment if we want control over our lives.27 This introduction from KeyWorks, by Douglas Kellner and Meenakshi Gigi Durham, suitably frames this thesis and my reason for pursuing a graduate degree. Media Studies is the broad investigation into the messages we receive and dispatch every day. The ability to understand the sources of these messages should help individuals gain some semblance of autonomy over their actions and decisions as well as some perspective on the messages that are fed to us from infancy. Marshall McLuhan presented the concept that media is an extension of ourselves. In other words, I am more than the reach of my arm or the distance my voice can carry on the wind. I am actually extended via the computer I am using to write this paper, or the light I turn on to read the books I purchased, stacked up next to my computer, which, in themselves, are further extensions of myself out into the world. As I surround myself with items [media] and send my messages to others, I construct an identity. In a collective manner, as we each construct extensions of ourselves, our scale of impact increases in the world. So vast is this impact that the articles we use to construct and relay our identities are rendered invisible even as they exist and proliferate before our eyes. 27 Kellner, Douglas & Durham, Meenakshi Gigi: Media and Cultural Studies KeyWorks Blackwell Publishers Ltd. 2001 Adventures in Media and Cultural Studies: Introducing the KeyWorks p.1 Marianna Mott Newirth 24
  25. 25. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It In the years after WWII there was a rich investigation into the theory of mass communication and its impact on cultural mores. It was during the years preceding and during the war that the power of mass media became evident in the guise of propaganda. Hitler rose to power riding on the back of a multi media campaign. The US government quickly learned to counter with propaganda of their own, feeding messages to its citizens moving them to give valiantly to the war effort. After the war, short films were shown to those same women working at factories across the country showing a women putting down her rivet gun and happily returning home to start a family. This worked too and gave rise to the Boomer generation. These were powerfully effective messages which made a deep impact on society. The media that most people understand and relate to – television and radio – are for McLuhan, extensions of the eye and ear. What of those cultural forms that are overlooked as media? McLuhan defined elements as a medium that many would overlook. For example in his landmark work, Understanding Media, he distinguished the spoken word and the written word and then he moved on to discuss such things as roads and paper routs, numbers, housing, money and clocks. What did all that have to do with media? For McLuhan, it had everything to do with media. A light bulb is a pure form of media and, as McLuhan pointed out, we only notice this medium when it is used to convey another type of medium; or, more on point these days, when it stops working and suddenly ceases to convey the message. For example; a billboard with giant rows of lights, is placed on the NJ Turnpike. Our little light bulb conveys part of the dot on top of the i in the word Life Insurance. You get the message as you drive by; “Buy our life insurance or put your family in peril.” But what you don’t get is the pure medium of the light bulb, you only get Marianna Mott Newirth 25
  26. 26. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It the content of the message that the light bulb is translating. What if there was no light bulb? With the invention of the electric light came a greatly expanded world view. “It is the medium that shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and action…indeed, it is only too typical that the ‘content’ of any medium blinds us to the character of the medium.”28 Today we have a rare opportunity to experience a refreshed understanding of a pervasive and decentralized medium with the emergence of the compact fluorescent bulb. We are once again, for a brief time, aware of the light bulb as a light bulb and much commentary on its political correctness and effect in the world is currently being generated throughout popular culture. While it is possible this light bulb will have immense cultural and environmental impact, it’s a sure bet that in the long run no one will remember the light bulb as being the cause of the shift. A similar example can be made with the clock. Lewis Mumford, in his 1956 essay “The Monastery and the Clock” stated that it was “the clock, not the steam-engine [that] is the key-machine of the modern industrial age.”29 The introduction of a mechanical measuring machine into medieval monasteries to coordinate communal prayer turned out, according to Mumford, to be a disruptive technology. The church was seeking structure after the fall of the Roman Empire and embraced this new medium that translated order into measurable units. This new concept – labeled time – ushered in a slow burning revolution which no one could predict or control. By the turn of the century this monastic measuring machine had shifted the very foundations of social structure. The richer classes first took over the new mechanism and popularized it; partly because they alone could afford it, 28 McLuhan, Marshall; Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man The MIT Press 1994 p. 9 29 Mumford, Lewis; The Human Prospect Secker and Warburg 1956 Marianna Mott Newirth 26
  27. 27. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It partly because the new bourgeoisie were the first to discover that, as Franklin later put it, ‘time is money.’ To become ‘as regular as clockwork’ was the bourgeois ideal, and to own a watch was for long a definite symbol of success.”30 Today we have the clock order our sleeping and eating patterns. It is the clock and – subsequently – the calendar which informs us when to work, when to relax, when to celebrate or mourn (eg: Thank God it’s Friday to I Hate Mondays.) The clock gave birth to the concept of time which, in itself, is completely arbitrary in nature and invisible yet has become maddeningly pervasive and dictatorial over our modern lives. This is a fine example of media, which we don’t recognize as such, being as powerful as a hand gun in determining a person’s fate. How, then, do we make the jump from light bulbs and clocks to money? Dr. Benjamin Franklin has already provided us with a transition; Time is Money. “All media are active metaphors in their power to translate experience into new forms. The spoken word was the first technology by which man was able to let go of his environment in order to grasp it in a new way.”31 We are driven to explore relationships between people and things. Media is our vehicle to convey one idea into another form or idea in hopes of gaining a new understanding of the thing. A concept such as light, or time, or money, will never remain just what it is. Already we are forming novel relationships to computers and computing – a relative new-comer to the communication arsenal – by forming metaphors which help us deepen our grasp of this cutting edge technology. As McLuhan continues; “Technologies are ways of translating one kind of 30 Mumford, Lewis; The Human Prospect Secker and Warburg 1956 31 McLuhan, Marshall; Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man The MIT Press 1994 p.57 Marianna Mott Newirth 27
  28. 28. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It knowledge into another…[it is] a kind of ‘spelling out’ of forms of knowing.”32 Today we have taken the concept, or theme, of money and formed an entire culture around it. So pervasive and global is the economic culture that we reference relationships from the monetary culture; (eg. “you can bank on it” “bet your bottom dollar” “Mr. Money Bags” or “don’t be cheap”) We translate value through economic terms because it is money we value and it is what we can DO with money that we are often evaluated by our peers. “For just as a metaphor transforms and transmits experience, so do the media…It is in this way that by seeing one set of relations through another set that we store and amplify experience in such forms as money. For money is also a metaphor. And all media as extensions of ourselves serve to provide new transforming vision and awareness.”33 32 McLuhan, Marshall; Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man The MIT Press 1994 p.56 33 Ibid p.59-60 Marianna Mott Newirth 28
  29. 29. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It Money as a Metaphor Met·a·phor: a figure of speech in which a word or phrase denoting one kind of object or action is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them.34 Mon·ey: something generally accepted as a medium of exchange, a measure of value, or a means of payment.35 It can be argued that humans relate to the world around them either metaphorically or scientifically. As this is not a scientific thesis we will look at money as a metaphor. Clichés such as: time is money; money makes the world go around; money talks; money is power, money is the root of all evil; punctuate the fact that we are unable to discuss money as money. We are only able to discuss money by means of relationship. We ascribe enormous authority to money and in doing so have thrust upon it a relation not unlike that of parent/child, particularly when it comes to women. Before delving into this, however, it is helpful to consider what constitutes a metaphor. Metaphor Gregory Bateson, in Steps to an Ecology of Mind, explores the Primary Process or “operations of the unconscious”36 that we develop as contrasted to Secondary Process, or conscious, verbalized thoughts. “In primary process the things or persons are usually not identified, and the focus of the discourse is upon the relationships which are asserted to obtain between them. This is really only another way of saying that the discourse of primary process is metaphoric.”37 Bateson’s focus is on the relatia between an individual and the people and things the individual deals with. Metaphor serves as a paintbrush, 34 Grove, Philip Babcock (Editor in Chief); Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language Unabridged, Merriam-Webster Inc 1993 p.1420 35 Ibid p.1458 36 Bateson, Gregory Steps to and Ecology of Mind; Jason Aronson Inc. 1972 p.139 37 Ibid Marianna Mott Newirth 29
  30. 30. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It allowing the individual to form a picture about any given relationship. This is convenient as, in most cases of a healthy individual this leaves the “real” relationship one or two steps removed; untouched, unthreatened and intact. Primary Process occurs in the subconscious, a region that is purely emotive. There is no conscious management over these primary emotions – one reason why they are submerged – but they remain a cohesive element of an individual and have an impact to one degree or another. In curbing the primary reflexes to any given relatia, the individual automatically constructs metaphors to “soften the hit” of reality. So soft, in fact, that “there are no markers to indicate to the conscious mind that the message material is metaphoric.”38 This is to say that everything we engage, we construct a relation to while simultaneously wrapping it in metaphor to understand it better while maintaining a safe distance. This is a mechanism most of us learn to build from toddler hood and it is so highly regulated that we can not easily see it functioning. It is only in the course of dysfunction that the mechanism of metaphor becomes evident. One reason we may stop seeing media as media and resort to metaphor is that – quite simply – we have limits to our consciousness. No one individual can possibly hope to achieve “Total Consciousness.” Even the Dali Lama, or a master of TM sitting atop a mountain, has limits to conscious awareness. “No organism can afford to be conscious of matters with which it could deal at unconscious levels.” 39 We sink many things into the subconscious which are not required for daily recall. In Batesonian terms, we resort to an economy of consciousness, filing away items not needed for basic self preservation in order to recall them later through metaphor. 38 Bateson, Gregory Steps to and Ecology of Mind; Jason Aronson Inc. 1972 p.142 39 Ibid p.143 Marianna Mott Newirth 30
  31. 31. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It Money Media are extensions of ourselves and money is a medium we use to translate messages. Usually it is a message of power, conveying our ideas to others. Money is also an exchange of goods as well as concepts. McLuhan in his chapter, Money, in Understanding Media, reflects upon the evolution of exchange. He did this by looking at early apes swinging from branch to branch; an apt metaphor. In order to move to the next tree to locate the better banana the ape had to let go and reach out to grasp another branch and another and another. The ape also had to watch where he was going so he didn’t miss the branch and end up on the jungle floor. Currency, if you are able to truly watch it being used, operates much in the same way as the branch did. Money goes from hand to hand, giving a lift to those who grip it, swing it and let it go. It works well when a lot of people keep this system. It doesn’t work so well when fear of “falling” has people hold onto it for dear life. Money works when it is passed around. Even credit relies on the same function. I work a job. A person who works for the same company I do, transfers a series of numbers, representing my earned money, into my checking account. I take that number on my computer screen and release a portion of it to our landlord. I never actually see a dollar bill in front of me yet the grasping and letting go remains. The impact of my not releasing the money is enormous so every month I release it. When we stop using money it rapidly looses its value and our society begins to atrophy. The value we place on money is the value we place on ourselves. When the dollar is “strong”, America is strong. When the dollar is “weak”, we are weak. “’Money talks’ because money is a metaphor, a transfer, and a bridge…money is a storehouse of communally achieved work, skill and experience…as a vast social metaphor, bridge, or translator, money – like writing – Marianna Mott Newirth 31
  32. 32. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It speeds up exchange and tightens the bonds of interdependence in any community”40 Those who handle the money are the ones who generally formulate metaphoric suggestions for the rest of the society. Benjamin Franklin, credited with coining the phrase “time is money,” in his 1748 letter “Advice to a Young Tradesman, Written by and Old One” drew a parallel between money earned and the time spent generating it, creating new distinctions in the area of productivity, organization and wealth. “Remember that TIME is money…Remember that Credit is money…Remember that money is of a prolific generating nature. Money can beget money and its offspring can beget more.”41 Franklin, it appears, had a very sensuous relationship to money, even ascribing to it reproductive capabilities; a most feminine power indeed. Once we made the jump from counting goats to counting coins we imbibed the coinage with a power that had - up to that point - been reserved for deities. [qualify this] and like any good god out there it represented an element of ourselves; it was an extension of ourselves. Money, like religion, was shaped and formed to our need and soon overcame our idea of self. It was no longer like us; we became like it and forgot the originating idea that brought it first into existence. This echoes McLuhan’s idea that the character of a medium is easily overcome by the content it is conveying. “Culture is produced and consumed within social life. Thus, particular cultural artifacts and practices must be situated within the social relations of production and reception in which culture is produced, distributed, and 40 McLuhan, Marshall; Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man The MIT Press 1994 p.136 41 Franklin, Benjamin; The Writings of Benjamin Franklin, Volume II; Philadelphia, 1726 – 1757 Marianna Mott Newirth 32
  33. 33. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It consumed in order to be properly understood and interpreted.”42 Today we self identify in society based very much upon economic status. This leads me to question, then, why women as a group remain economic second-class citizens despite the enormous advances made in contemporary American culture. Feminist Theory: Women and Woman I want to spend a moment on feminist theory to make an important distinction; “Women” and “woman.” In any generalization, we have “The Group” and we have the “individuals in the group.” As with a figure/ground image, at first one sees the whole picture; take for example Picasso’s 'Canvas 0' in the 'Women of Algiers' series (1955)43. Only with a second, third and forth look does one become aware of several figures present on the canvas. Each are very much integral to the whole but wholly independent at the same time. Much study has been made into the cultural group, “Women.” Women Studies programs are offered at prominent academic institutions, women’s publications, websites and cable channels. Women have held it together and united. This has proven to be a most useful tactic and history has officially attested to its success. Now, one hundred years into the women’s movement, the time may be ripe to re-examine the banner which has been held up by four generations of American females. 42 Kellner, Douglas & Durham, Meenakshi Gigi: Media and Cultural Studies KeyWorks Blackwell Publishers Ltd. 2001 Adventures in Media and Cultural Studies: Introducing the KeyWorks p.14 43 Image courtesy of The Enneagram and the MBTI Marianna Mott Newirth 33
  34. 34. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It The very idea of what constitutes “women” is in process of a cultural overhaul. The definitions at hand may very well be insufficient to the heady opportunities and great responsibilities waiting for the next generation. Chandra Talpade Mohanty, a highly regarded scholar of international feminist theory, challenges the politics of representation by calling out the domineering presence of Western methodology onto general feminist theory. This thesis does not cross the threshold into cultures outside the United States, or even those outside of the Metropolitan New York area, so I will not venture into the main body of her work. However, her acclaimed essay, Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses, provides a very useful outline of the development of “the homogeneity of women.”44.Here she shows how society has boiled down the characterizations of women into a singular group – Women – to better manage the whole concept. The relationship between ‘Women’ - a cultural and ideological composite Other constructed through diverse representational discourses (scientific, literary, juridical, linguistic, cinematic, etc) - and ‘women’ - real, material subjects of their collective histories - is one of the central questions the practice of feminist scholarship seeks to address. This connection between women as historical subjects and re-presentation of Woman produced by hegemonic discourses is not a relation of direct identity, or a relation of correspondence or simple implication; it is an arbitrary relation set up by particular cultures.45 The process of constructing a category requires a unifying element to which many can subscribe. History has shown the most powerful of unifying elements to be that of shared 44 Mohanty, Chandra Talpade; quot;Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discoursesquot; from quot;Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism [Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1991 pp 51-80] KeyWorks p. 466 45 Ibid p.463-464 Marianna Mott Newirth 34
  35. 35. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It oppression. It is the very foundation upon which the country of America was founded. The Declaration of Independence, and the Declaration of Sentiments which was later modeled upon it, brings together and strengthens a people who share an intolerable level of oppression. Oppression is an easy idea for the masses to grasp; it touches on an emotional and personal level while casting a wide net and pulling people together who may not naturally move to do so. Women have united under the banner of oppression for well over a century. While that banner remains a valid and useful element it has outlived its expiration date as The Clarion Call which served many generations. Mohanty indicates that women tend to be characterized as a singular group – a composite Other – defined by shared oppression in society. What binds women together is a sociological notion of the 'sameness' of their oppression…thus, the discursively consensual homogeneity of 'women' as a group is mistaken for the historically specific material reality of groups of women. This result is an assumption of women as an always already constituted group, one which has been labeled 'powerless', 'exploited', 'sexually harassed'. Etc. By feminist, scientific, economic, legal and sociological discourses ...This focus is not on uncovering the material and ideological specificities that constitute a particular group of women as 'powerless' in a particular context. It is, rather, on finding a variety of cases of 'powerless' groups of women to prove the general point that women as a group are powerless.46 The next great task of the feminist movement will be the restructuring of the assumptions made about and by this self constituted group. Perhaps Forth Wave Feminism will be the building of a radically different world view of “Women.” Perhaps it will be based on a hybrid of collective reproductive powers (think Franklin) with the notion of hard won 46 Mohanty, Chandra Talpade; quot;Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discoursesquot; from quot;Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism [Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1991 pp 51-80] KeyWorks p. 466-7 Marianna Mott Newirth 35
  36. 36. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It freedom as only a formerly oppressed people can embrace. To coin a phrase; it is time to find a variety of cases of powerful groups of women to prove the general point that women as a group are powerful. Here is where the individual will stand out against the background of Women, the group of which she is a part, to effect change. Thus we now focus on forty eight women living and working in New York City in March of 2008. Marianna Mott Newirth 36
  37. 37. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It Chapter Four: Woman – Early in the Twenty First Century Introduction With a basic background on women’s economic history and academic theory on media, money and feminism, I now turn to contemporary woman living and working in the New York area at the latter half of the first decade in the twenty-first century; 2007 & 2008. This chapter gives an accounting of original work conducted for this thesis. The survey and case studies are used to create a snap shot of a portion of a particular segment of women in the United States at a particular point in time; August 2007 and March 2008. Studies were issued online and face to face. The purpose was to build a matrix to better see and understand attitudes in today’s women on the topic of money and to capture a glimpse of these women’s upbringing to help give background to their current economic situation and status. I also make a point of asking questions that force them to look beyond their current situation into a future not yet visualized. The purpose there is to capture a glimmer of what they may be building for future generations, not in the guise of cash saved but in financial outlook and responsibility passed down. As Mohanty talked about the difference between women as a group and woman as an individual these case studies provide opportunities to listen to a select group of individuals and formulate possible alternative categories with which to regard this group called women in our contemporary society. Marianna Mott Newirth 37
  38. 38. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It On-line Survey: Forty Two Women in the Greater New York Area In August 2007 a questionnaire was posted on and a mass email sent to approximately 200 people. (see appendix 3) Forty two women responded to the on-line survey representing a 21% return. The full interview protocol is listed in appendix 4. The survey was open for two months and closed in early October of 2007. The survey consisted of ten questions in all. Five were multiple choice answers and five asked for written answers. Participants had the option of skipping questions. All of the participants answered how much money they had on hand but less than half responded to the question; If there are multiple wage earners in your household, do you mark your income for distinct purposes or do you pool all the wages as one income source? Out of those who responded, 70% pooled their wages and 30% marked them for distinct purposes including one who replied that she kept her income separate from her partner. All who responded cited basic living expenses as the main use for their income. 27 of these women said they managed the money in their household. 20 were married or remarried, 14 were divorced or widowed and 5 were single. 3 choose to skip that question. Just under of 75% of the participants had children and the average annual salary of the respondents was $65,000 putting the rage of these women in the middle of the middle-class bracket. On average, these women carried $60 with them. All of them indicated, this is my own money, when asked whether or not they considered the money in their wallet their own. The racial make up of all respondents’ broke down to: 55% Caucasian; 12.5% African American; 7.5% Hispanic; and 1% Asian. 5% of the respondents self identified as Jewish and 5% self identified as multi racial. Rather than provide a drop down list from which Marianna Mott Newirth 38
  39. 39. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It the participants were to choose from, I asked the question, What racial group do you most identify with? leaving a text box for them to write in their answer. Out of the forty two respondents, two chose not to give any racial identification. While this study does not address issues of race, the responses give insight to this questionnaire which provides insight into the attitudes and thinking of these women who took the time to give information about themselves and their relationship to money. All of the women responded to the request to list five things you can do with a $5 bill. I created three main categories out of the 202 total answers I had to this query; Give Away, Self, and Save/Invest. There were also two sub categories, Play and Lottery. I chose Give Away and Self based upon the generally accepted notion that women are the care takers and tend to take care of others over taking care of themselves and I was interested in testing that notion. The third category, Save/Invest arose purely out of the answers of the women themselves as did Play and Lottery. 62% of these women listed something that would benefit them such as buying a cup of coffee at Starbucks, buying lunch or buying materials for their profession; almost 2 bottles of drawing ink is a good example. 27% indicated use for a $5.00 bill to benefit another; for example give it to my kid for his lunch or give to charity/street performer. 10% cited saving it and/or investing it and 4% of the answers specifically indicated a purchase of lottery tickets which I included in the tally for the category of “benefiting them.” One person provided a couple of playful answers – make a paper airplane and Use it as a coaster so you don’t get rings on the table. I rather like as it shows an easing of the significance of the question and provokes one to think of money as more than just a means to an end. Money is a tangible item to which we subscribe much significance far, Marianna Mott Newirth 39
  40. 40. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It far beyond its physical capacity, as has already been discussed. The last question posed on the survey was one I call a “high concept” question: If you had the power to replace all the money in the world with something you thought had equal or greater value, what would it be? 85% of the respondents chose to answer. One responded that she did not understand the question. In analyzing the various responses I categorized them into four segments; Relationship Oriented Wealth; Health & Environment or Wellness Oriented Wealth; Education Oriented Wealth and; Material Oriented Wealth. Some covered multiple categories in their replies so I broke all the answers down into 44 possible responses. The category of Relationship Oriented Wealth arose out of an understanding that these women regard the world in more than pure economic terms. Relationship is what money needs to remain valid; remember the monkeys swinging from branch to branch as discussed in the previous chapter. If we experience a mass break down in inter relationship we can expect economic structures to meet a swift and nasty end. The Health & Environment Oriented Wealth classification is culled from the direct cry for well being in the world. As women often are the first lines of defense against their children’s health it is understandable that not only basic health but environmental health is a priority and therefore a valid part of this study’s matrix. Education Oriented Wealth is presented in the same vein as Health, woman have great influence over the general education of their children. They also put a great deal of energy towards their own continuing education and support of an educational system. I list Material Oriented Wealth as part of this matrix to include a literal interpretation of this question. Women tend to rely upon metaphorical imagery to contextualize their surroundings, but there are times when metaphors do not serve a Marianna Mott Newirth 40
  41. 41. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It situation well such as when basic survival of the family is at stake. At those times money is better regarded as a device to serve a specific purpose. For some women, the idea of survival is so pervasive that they choose to stay with the literal, material relation to money, relating to it only as a tool and not engaging in the deeper metaphorical significance that might be there. Without dollars and cents, they will find another item to replace the concept of money – something they can put their hands on and use as a means of exchange. The findings of these sub categories breakdown as follows: • Relationship Oriented Wealth - 35% of the women taking this survey cited relationships such as peace, love and understanding as a primary replacement for money. • Health & Environment/Wellness Oriented Wealth - 45% showed a desire for health & environment, a cure for cancer or housing for all, were given as examples to replace the money in the world with something of equal or greater value. • Education Oriented Wealth - 12% gave education as a sufficient replacement of the concept of money; ideas and concepts becoming, in essence, a new means of exchange. • Material Oriented Wealth - 15% indicated other materials such as shells, fallen tree leaves or gold to fill the gap for the constructed scenario of a missing currency. Marianna Mott Newirth 41
  42. 42. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It Case Studies: Six New York Women In April, 2008, fifteen women were invited to participate in interviews, six women accepted. They became the case studies for this thesis. The interviews were conducted with a fixed interview protocol (see appendix 5) and all were audio taped. The questions were based upon those written for the on-line survey yet focused much more upon these women’s history with the topic of money. Half of the time was allocated to learning about their history and early experiences with money. Interviews were conducted over the month of March, 2008 and a flash audio recorder and a hand held omni-mic were used to document the conversations. Of the six women interviewed, one woman had also answered the on-line questionnaire in August. They were all provided a copy of the abstract. Many gave the interview without reading it. All the woman self identify as middle class and live in or work around the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. They range in age from 43 to 75. One is a single mom, another does not have children. The remaining four are married with at least two children. Three are currently employed by large institutions, two are entrepreneurs with established businesses, and one is retired. The racial mix includes one person of African descent, one Greek/American, one Italian/American and two Jewish/Americans (both hailing from an Eastern European heritage.) One participant was born outside of the United States but, today, has duel citizenship. All remaining participants were born in this country, most of them in the New York area. Half of the women were interviewed at their work place and half of them were interviewed in my home. Marianna Mott Newirth 42
  43. 43. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It Jennifer: Choosing to be Frugal Jennifer owns a business with her husband in New York City. She has two children in public school. At the time of the interview they were considering plans to move out of New York. Their business is a successful one, but the high cost of living and doing business in Manhattan is making it difficult to keep up. Her responses indicated that she grew up in a comfortable environment with access to thing she wanted and needed. Her grandparents owned a bakery and both her parents worked in that bakery for a time. Her mother stayed home to care for the children. Once Jennifer and her brother were in their teens and had cars of their own their mother took a job at the duty free shop in the nearby airport. Jennifer gave no clear indication of the reasons why her mother took a job. All in all Jennifer had a comfortable childhood and never had to put much thought towards money. When asked about her early experiences with holding down a job she told a story about a summer job she had as a teenager where she made over $3000 working at a country club. Because she had no expenses she saved her money. However, her father took it all to pay for another car for her brother who had recently totaled his own. This was, perhaps, a seminal event in Jennifer’s experience, one that established her relationship to the money she earned. Jennifer gives no hint of bitterness about that incident nor does she appear to hold any ill will toward her brother. She makes a point of indicating how her brother’s current economic situation is far better off than her own. As mentioned, Jennifer’s situation is a tight one. Her main concern is making their high rent every month and that concern overshadows everything she does. Jennifer typically keeps around $100 cash on-hand. It all goes to the family and the business. When asked if she spends any of that cash on herself she quickly answers “no.” This is a one-income family and Jennifer has taken on the responsibility for keeping it together. She puts a brave and Marianna Mott Newirth 43
  44. 44. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It happy face on things but acknowledges that it has really been a very difficult time and she laments that she is unable to do the things for her kids that her parents were able to do for her and her brother. Jennifer’s brother is living a very different situation with a much higher income and no children. She comments on his ability to “go and see and do” all kinds of things with his wife. Again, she does not assign blame or jealousy. Her reaction was a bit surprising to me; “My brother and sister-in-law are childless and they make an enormous amount of money and they just have, they do and they see and they…it’s just amazing to see what they spend like ‘wow, that’s cool!’ A lot of people would regard that as threatening…and I like that, you know?” When asked to reflect on lessons she has learned and wished she had learned earlier, Jennifer wishes she had learned about frugal living early on. She is living a rather frugal life now, out of necessity as well as choice. Her greatest regret right now is not being able to give her children more. Health issues with one of her children are placing further financial and emotional drain on the family resources. While she does not specify this in our interview, Jennifer seems to be struggling with her own expectations and she puts a great deal of energy into being ok with things the way they are. She is in a glamorous business – fashion photography – and can not afford to extend much of that glamour to herself. She is an extremely hard and dedicated worker who has contributed to the success of other people yet she personally has little to show for it. She is quick to give away the success she has garnered. Jennifer is no “doormat” and she is the last person to benefit from her hard work. Her self worth resides in the achievements of her family. She will do what ever necessary to make sure their needs are met. The money she earns is primarily for others. She has a vibrant character, is a Marianna Mott Newirth 44
  45. 45. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It wellspring of optimism and carries herself with pride; she also has the appearance of a woman burdened. When asked what she would replace money with she strikes a mater- of-fact pose and replies, “Love. Ya know? I don’t know how society would do that but if we all just shared and gave everything that would work.” For Jennifer, it seems as though it is not about the money yet money is what must be dealt with in order to get things done. She has a detached relationship to money which serves its purposes. Money comes and goes with a certain amount of flexibility reflecting the identity she has constructed. It is not in how much she has but what she can give with what she’s got that’s important. The cost is that she relinquishes full command over her money, it’s almost as though her money was never really meant for her in the first place. Marianna Mott Newirth 45
  46. 46. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It Linda: Truth & Justice Linda works for a large urban university. She and her husband have two children in public school. They recently bought an apartment in Manhattan. Linda was born in Liberia and came to New York thirty eight years ago with her sister to attend school. Linda specifically indicated that she wanted to talk about her grandmother as she was the one who had the greatest influence over her life. She and her sister spent their informative years under her care. Linda describes her grandmother as a serious force who accomplished much in the world. Her grandmother graduated from Columbia School of Social Work at a time when it was quite rare for a woman of African descent to get a degree. She put her education to work traveling in the South providing social services for African American orphanages. Later in her life she obtained her Real Estate license which helped her put her granddaughters through college. Linda learned, from an early age, that one was always able to work and make one’s way in the world regardless of the situation. Racism was a pervasive component of her grandmother’s life and despite many roadblocks she prevailed as a social worker, a business owner and a family provider. It is important to note that Linda’s grandfather also had a good job as a Pullman Porter on the rail road. He contributed greatly to the family fortune but died before Linda moved to the United States. Education is highly regarded in Linda’s family. Everyone from her great grandparents to her own children have been held to high academic expectations. It is no surprise when Linda talks about her grandmother’s managing multiple bank books and buying and selling homes and business on her own initiative. There was no one there to help her so she figured it out on her own and did quite well at it. Linda reported that, as a college Marianna Mott Newirth 46
  47. 47. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It student, she would try to pay for things before her grandmother could get to them to help ease her burden. “My Grandmother would give me $25 or whatever to go down the road and hang out with my friends. And I’d take this money and go straight to the bookstore and I used to put the money towards what ever books were on my bill instead of waiting for my parents who were living in Africa to send me money to pay my tuition and my book bills and stuff. And she would say ‘oh baby, that’s for you to spend on yourself.’ And I’m like, ‘that’s ok, I’m still spending it on myself.’” It was only with her grandmother’s passing that Linda became aware of the sacrifices made to help her and her sister. That realization made Linda very sad. The only time money was discussed as a family issue was shortly before her grandmother’s death when she called Linda at college to ask her advice, for the first time, about a major financial decision involving their apartment. Linda’s advice on such an important topic had never been asked for and it gave her cause for concern. Upon reflection, Linda indicates how that phone call was most likely her Grandmother’s way of passing along the responsibility of caring for the family to her. A few months after that conversation, she died at home in Linda’s arms. Today, Linda is married with two children. While her husband takes care of the big things, such as a place to live and a car to drive, she takes care of most aspects of the children’s daily needs with her own money. She generally keeps $25 dollars on hand to handle little needs and treats for the children. She does rely on the debit card to handle many of her purchases. They just bought a house and she is adjusting to the new rhythm of living in a new neighborhood. When we discussed how they worked out the apartment purchase together she became sharply aware of how much she did not know about her Marianna Mott Newirth 47
  48. 48. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It husband’s finances. She was not able to fill out all the paper work for the loan application and this realization surprised her. The purchase of the apartment is a much greater burden than she had anticipated and is, in some ways, regretting her decision to move. Linda makes sure the money she earns flows back into her family, a model of selfless sacrifice learned from her grandmother. She gives to others before giving to herself. This manifests by her appearing burdened by life. Linda is just learning new ways to regard her money as she sees her daughter grow into a teenager. With the purchase of the apartment she is now exploring her options for investing what money she can to help with future expenses. No one in her past has been able to or ever thought about investing money. While her grandmother gave experience about the value of real estate, investing it in the stock market – for example – to grow her money is a new concept. Linda is committed to learning how to invest her money. As she talks about this, pride and anger accents her speech. No one told her she could do this and for the first time in her life she is finding she can literally begin to take care of her own business without looking to her grandmother or her husband for direction. Linda is happily married and determined to take financial independence on for herself and to teach it to her children. This is a cross roads for Linda. When asked what she would replace money with, Linda took a long pause. She stumbled for words and then began to speak. As she spoke ire grew within her as she talked about a family that could not pay for food. “All I can say is if you know there’s a need there, the reality is that…I want to say merit but I can’t have a word for it. It’s more or less like…truth.” She paused and took a breath. “If I could replace money I would replace it with truth! Truth! If I could replace money I would replace it with truth.” Marianna Mott Newirth 48
  49. 49. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It Maria: Don’t Worry Be Happy Maria works for the New York City public school system. She and her husband have two children in high school. They recently bought an apartment. Maria has lived in New York all her life and she has a husband who holds a good job. She has a rather laid back demeanor as we sit down to discuss her relationship with money. Her family lives off of her husband’s wages and much of her earnings go directly into a savings account. Her mother grew up in hardship in Russia and then Greece and always took the opportunity to point out to Maria how lucky she was as a child living in America. As a single mom and an immigrant who didn’t speak much English the only work she could get was as a freelance house cleaner, so life for Maria’s mother remained quite hard, though this was apparently lost on Maria and her sister. It was not until Maria grew up and started her own family that she could begin to appreciate the difficulties her mother went through to care for her. Maria’s mom was actually quite an extraordinary woman, brave enough to walk into a bank on her own and with her limited English, open bank accounts, haggle about interest rates and establish a base from which to effectively mange her money. Maria stated that she started working at a young age, around eight or nine, by getting any job she could. As she grew, she got into better jobs as gained better experience. All the money she earned or was given was pooled along with her sister’s to help manage the house hold. She did not like that idea and argued against it but to no avail; “We had to contribute too, ya know, it wasn’t even a question…we thought it was unfair ‘Mom, why are you taking it, it’s ours?’ and she’d say ‘I already spent this plus a hundred times more for you.’ so she would just take it.” Maria is taking a different approach with her Marianna Mott Newirth 49
  50. 50. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It own children and allowing them to keep the money they earn or receive for gifts. She wants them to have a sense of control over money from early on. One of her son’s, she reports, is actually quite a saver who opts for a missed meal rather than break a large bill. Maria must give him money in small bills so he is less likely to use that as an excuse for skipping lunch at school. When asked about the lessons she learned about managing and using money Maria sighs and says, “I don’t have the best relationship with money. As long as we’re working…ya know?. What are we going to do when were old? Well when were old we’ll deal with it when were old. I really shouldn’t be that way. I should be more proactive when it comes to money.” She is the type of individual who deals with what ever is right in front of her. Rarely does she take the long view of things. This, as she acknowledges, has its benefits and its detriments. She discusses the reality of college looming on the horizon for their first child and reflects for a moment that they should do something about that but, “eh, later perhaps;” she brushes her long curly hair away and laughs knowing that she’s making light of a potentially harsh circumstance down the road. She opts for enjoying the “here and now” knowing they’ll deal with it somehow. A little devil-may-care perhaps but she speaks as a person who has a solid foundation of security. It is not that she is ignorant for she knows the hardship of low-income life. Some of the students who come to the school where she works arrive from homes where the financial foundation Maria relies upon is broken or hardly there. She knows that, she understands where they come from and she chooses to be relatively ok about money. When I ask her how she regards money and her immediate reply is “I love money!” She loves the very idea of money and not just for herself benefit. She would be happy to stand Marianna Mott Newirth 50
  51. 51. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It on a street corner and hand out fistfuls of dollars to people who need it if she were able to do that and still go home to a comfortable house and have a comfortable meal. This attitude is expressed in her outward presentation. She is fashionable and well put together. She has no problem taking the money in her purse and spending it on herself. She is joyful and it gives her freedom to be able to give to herself as well as others. She represents something different from Linda or Jennifer. Maria is free with the money she has and while it may not be huge amounts it’s enough and she is satisfied. When asked what she would replace money with in the world she shrugs her shoulders and says “It really wouldn’t matter because what ever you replace it with becomes the new money.” In other words, for her it is primarily a material item. Marianna Mott Newirth 51
  52. 52. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It Victoria: By Trial and Error Victoria is a business owner and a single mom. She has a daughter who will be starting middle school in the fall. She rents an apartment. The oldest daughter of immigrant parents from Italy, Victoria was born in Brooklyn and spent her early years there. As a teen-ager they moved to Long Island where her mother still resides today. Her mother married late and spent her time having as many babies as she possibly could. Those years were very tight, financially, as Victoria recalls. As a stop gap measure, her mom took a part time job as a public school lunch aid out of sheer necessity and desperation. She took the one job she could get which allowed her to take an infant into work with her. Victoria’s parents would never hire a babysitter or arrange for any kind of childcare outside of immediate family, partly due to the expense but more so from the belief that outside childcare was not a family virtue. The constant care and feeding of the family fell daily upon the shoulders of Victoria’s mother while her father worked long and hard hours at various blue collar jobs. At the age of twelve Victoria began to earn her own money as – of all things – a babysitter. She kept her earnings and was not asked to pool them for the family expenses. That bit of freedom came with constant niggling reminders that her parents were forced to pool their wages when they were young; reminders that were not much appreciated by Victoria. By the time she was out of the house her father was doing well managing the frozen food department of a local supermarket chain and her mother was receiving benefits from the Department of Education so they were doing alright in the world. Despite going through hardship and eventually finding stability for the family finances, money was never, ever discussed. Her father came home with envelopes stuffed with money, handed them over to her mother who paid all the bills and Marianna Mott Newirth 52
  53. 53. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It no one talked about it. Victoria’s financial education was purely trial and error combined with silent observation. Simply put, money was never discussed. Today Victoria owns a thriving business taking care of children after school. After making what she refers to as “several mistakes over the years” with the money she earned – she did not give details – she raised enough capital to buy an established child care company in Manhattan and is successfully supporting a daughter. As a primary adult figure to a number of the children she has in her care every week day, she finds opportunities to teach basic money principles. Informed by her proud Italian work ethic, she rewards work done by the kids at the after school program which benefit the other children. She makes a point of teaching this to her ten year old daughter who has, for now, little interest in the notion of having and using money. When asked what she would replace money with if given the opportunity to do so her somewhat apologetic reply is “peace and love” shades, she admits, from her Hippy days. For Victoria, money is not only the result of one’s work ethic but also an indication one’s own qualitative contribution to the community. So it is fitting that she has Relationship Oriented Wealth. Victoria is a proud and self made woman. She made big mistakes and learned well from them. She presents herself with pride and dignity knowing she has earned everything that she has. Marianna Mott Newirth 53
  54. 54. The Medium of Money and the Women Who Wield It Esther: Taking Care of Business Esther retired from public service as a parole officer in 1993 and has spent a decade and a half “hanging out and playing with her computer.” She does not have children. She lives in Manhattan and – at the age of 74 – is just learning how to invest. As a “senior citizen” she is unhappy with the general perception of old age and the notion that “old people are stupid.” She is most certainly not “stupid” and has taken it upon herself to tell anyone she speaks with that “old people are not stupid!” Esther grew up in an extremely poor family in Missouri. Her parents leaned toward socialism and their choices left the family with very little to live on. As an adolescent she took what babysitting jobs she could get. Her mother took in sewing jobs and other small tasks for the neighbors which she could do in the house. Many of the families in her community were striving for the middle class, Esther’s family was not. She comments that her father was her bank in those days. Every dollar she earned she gave to him for safe keeping. When she needed to buy herself something she would go to her dad and he would give her the money. It was a system that worked well for both of them. By the time Esther was 17 she was earning a regular pay check. She graduated from college and headed East to New York where she always made sure she was working. “Since I was on my own since I was in high school, being poor, having enough money was always a prime consideration.” Esther knows how to take care of herself and is doing it well. Concerned about falling back into an impoverished state as an “old person” she reports that she took matters into her own hands about ten years ago and began investing some of her retirement money. Her pragmatic approach to money is necessary. She is driven by a fear she’s held since Marianna Mott Newirth 54