Photo: Pedro Ribeiro Simões

Women We Read This Week

Wednesday Martin’s “Poor Little Rich Women” in The New York Times

This is a brief but fascinating look into the lives of the uber wealthy, glamorous stay-at-home-moms of the Upper East Side, women who exercise themselves to a “razor’s edge,” and “run their homes (plural) like CEOs,” and even, sometimes, receive year-end bonuses. When Martin moved to the Upper East Side from the West Village in 2004, she didn’t imagine the cultural shift would be very dramatic. But then she met the “Glam SAHMs.” In a country where women are making huge leaps and gains in the work force and higher education, it was a shock, Martin says, to “discover that the most elite stratum of all is a glittering, moneyed backwater.”

A social researcher, Martin decided to study this “elite tribe,” where woman are, however educated and coiffed, very firmly at the bottom of the hierarchy, dependent on their men: “Access to your husband’s money might feel good. But it can’t buy you the power you get by being the one who earns, hunts or gathers it.” The result of her time spent with these women is her new book, Primates of Park Avenue, which, if this short excerpt is any indicator, will be funny, illuminating, and hard to put down. I’m looking forward to reading it. — Simone

Scaachi Koul’s “What Are My Dad and I Going To Do Without David Letterman?” in Jezebel

I didn’t see this one coming. The occasional YouTube rabbit hole aside, I haven’t watched David Letterman in years. I paid little attention to all the stories that came out this week marking his departure from late night television. But when someone on Twitter said that Scaachi Koul’s was the only Letterman piece I needed to read, I clicked.

Of course, the story isn’t really about Letterman at all. Instead, it’s about the thin, fragile bridge of much-needed common ground that his show provided, between an immigrant father and a daughter whose life is so far from what he wanted or imagined or approved of for her. It’s sad and angry and powerful.

I love these types of stories, the ones that take something innocuous, something we all know – a fast food menu item, a late-night purveyor of Top Ten lists – and show us how it means something completely different, something critical, to others. Here’s a taste:

The two of us were never particularly close—he was 41 when I was born, and rededicated himself to his job after finding himself with another, unexpected mouth to feed. I’m also his only daughter and he never knew how to talk to girls. He got angry when I was 11 and told him that my best friend started shaving her legs. He wound himself up when he picked me up from my middle school and saw me sharing candy with a male classmate. He didn’t like it when I wore makeup or showed my shoulders or gave anyone the suggestion that I had a working clitoris. But he liked it when I stayed inside with him. He liked it when I watched his nightly television with him: local news at 6, Seinfeld rerun at 7, 60 Minutes rerun at 8, national news at 10, Dave just after 11.

We called him Dave, like he was our old friend, someone who lived in our house but who we only saw for an hour every weeknight. I liked his gap tooth and my dad liked his hair in the ‘80s. Dave was one of the few people who really made him laugh: his big laugh, where he threw his head back and let out a big scream. Then he’d sigh and readjust in his chair. I always wanted to make him laugh like that but rarely did.

Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig’s “Why Won’t Twitter Forgive Suey Park?” in The New Republic

Remember Suey Park? The young activist who launched #CancelColbert in response to the TV host’s attempt to show the grossness of the Washington Redskins’ name – by using similarly gross language about Asian Americans? I had to think for a moment to remember who she was, but the legions of internet trolls who still torment her haven’t forgotten.

Bruenig checks in with Park a little over a year after she became internet-famous for creating a controversial hashtag, and the resulting piece tells us a lot about the young woman behind the Twitter persona. Bruenig reflects thoughtfully on the process of “growing up,” essentially, as an activist and a person online. It also includes some harrowing details about the harassment and stalking that Park endured, not just online but in the flesh, after her efforts went viral.

I was always irritated in a kind of low-intensity way by Park’s campaign, mainly because Colbert’s efforts marked the first time I can recall that native Americans have received such public support from so high-profile an ally. The success of #CancelColbert erased their concerns, their storyline, and the whole “Redskins” issue – which had seemed to be having a moment – completely. So I was glad to read something that humanized Park, that taught me something about her.

Michelle Dean’s “Monkey Day Care” in The Verge

As a young child enrolled in a research project, writer Michelle Dean attended day care with monkeys. Or did she? Neither she nor her family are clear on the details anymore, and no one at the university that hosted the program is saying.

That’s the launching point for a fascinating look at the history of using children as research subjects, and the question of the harm that’s been done by the practice over the years. Here’s Dean:

From the time I arrived at university myself in the late 1990s, I’ve been trying to find any trace of “my” study. I have Google Scholared and PubMedded and Ovided. I even looked at paper indexes, once upon a time. I have scoured the research journals across several different disciplines. Whatever happened to me, no one published a word about it.

I did manage to find a lot of studies about other children, though. Clinical psychological experimentation on children dates back to at least 1919. This was the dawn of the behaviorist school of psychology, an approach that begins from the premise that most psychoanalytic “knowledge” — your Freud and Jung — is hand-waving at best. The problem with psychoanalysis, behaviorists think, is that first-person reporting is unreliable. The objective information about human behavior, they say, comes from direct observation. So behaviorists were great fans of the experiment, and there were no subjects more guileless, or more perfectly primed for observation, than children.



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