Why It’s Time to Retire the Concept of the ‘Gold Digger’
Though she’s gone by different names at different times and in different languages, the gold digger as a concept has existed for a long time and is fairly well entrenched in our cultural lexicon.
Kanye West dedicated a song to her in 2005, perhaps the epitome of gold-digger content in contemporary culture, but men have been complaining about so-called gold-diggers for over a century, during which time everyone from WebMD to WikiHow to the Encyclopedia Britannica has written about them.
However, it might be time for us to retire the phrase, the concept, or both. There are two reasons for this, and they’re both worth considering:
The Concept of the Gold Digger Is Sexist
It doesn’t take a lot of digging to discover the truth of this. Any legal rights tied to monetary value — from high-paying jobs like doctor or lawyer, to property ownership, to the ability to inherit, to merely having bank accounts, Western history has given all of these things to men first and to Women much later.
In this context, it’s not surprising that Women have always factored men’s wealth into their life decisions. If the only way you could make money or live a life of wealth was to find a man willing to share his, criticizing people for what amounts to sound financial decision-making ultimately just ends up feeling sexist.
Whether it’s in songs like Kanye’s, TV shows or movies, the gold digger is a scheming, nefarious character, someone the audience is supposed to root against. She’s not a disadvantaged person making the best of a bad situation, she’s a kind of witchy vampire, out to suck the blood of money from unsuspecting innocent men.
But that doesn’t erase the fact that the playing field is still slanted against Women to this day. At the top of the economic ladder, there are few Women to be found — men dominate in lists of the richest people, highest-earning CEOs and best-paid celebrities.
While today’s Women can achieve financial comfort through their own work more easily than in decades and centuries past, the concept of extravagant wealth is pretty much uniquely the province of men. If you wouldn’t criticize a man for desiring the multi-millionaire lifestyle, what’s so different about a woman who wants the same for herself and has found a shorter path to it?
The Concept of the Gold Digger Is Obsolete
Now, maybe you’re a proud believer in equal rights for all, regardless of gender. And if so, kudos! But regardless of whether you’re convinced that the gold-digger trope is a sexist one, there’s another compelling reason to stop using it: It’s going obsolete.
While Women all over the globe have been economically disadvantaged in various ways for literal millennia compared to their male counterparts, the modern economy is beginning to paint a somewhat different picture. In the space of two generations or so, the majority of college graduates have gone from men to Women, and economically, a shift isn’t far behind.
The 20th century was a boom town for American men to make money in high-paying jobs that didn’t require a college degree: factory jobs and manufacturing jobs, which were often unionized. Today, those jobs are gone, and men without college diplomas are increasingly at the mercy of the gig economy.
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In short, if trends hold, it won’t be long before people start wondering whether men are the new gold diggers.
With huge swaths of the population shut out from earning enough for a comfortable lifestyle, at some point, some straight men are going to start seeking out richer Women as so-called ‘sugar mamas’ — and when they do, hopefully we’ll have the good sense to recognize that making a sound financial choice in a situation where you have limited options isn’t something worth deriding a person over, regardless of their gender.
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