In Defense of Gold Diggers

In our modern world, when a young woman is in a romantic relationship with an older, more financially secure man, she is almost always automatically labelled a gold digger. We’ve seen tons of examples of this in the news: Anna Nicole Smith and her ancient husband J. Howard Marshall, or the relationship between Hugh Hefner and the spinning carousel of women that inhabit the Playboy Mansion as his “girlfriends”.

This attitude of condemnation towards a woman for attaching herself to a man solely for his wealth has been in place for centuries. It was especially prevalent before 1960, when a married woman was expected to stay home, keep the house clean, and care for any number of children that she happened to produce. If a woman desired a luxurious lifestyle, the only choice she could have in the matter is who she married.

With the arrival of the first birth control pills in 1960, women started being able to control how many children they had. This tiny pill, first marketed as a medication to treat “severe menstrual disorders,” was the biggest game changer in women’s lives since the end of World War II. The birth control pill allowed women to take control of their own reproductive health — for the first time ever, they could choose how many children they had, and who they wanted to have them with. A person you found attractive and interesting didn’t necessarily have to be the father of your children, or your permanent partner.

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This freedom led to women having increasingly fewer children, and waiting later in life to have them. The cycle of a woman traditionally relying on a man to pay the mortgage and buy groceries was slowly being broken. Before 1960, if a women wanted to move away from her parent’s home, the easiest way to do it was to get married and settle down with her new husband. In 2015, it’s hard to believe this was the prevalent attitude only 50 years ago. A 2008 Forbes study shows that for the first time ever, women outnumber men in post-secondary institutions. More women than ever before are going to college or university, which has led to more women entering the workforce, and remaining unmarried and without children until much later in life.

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Between 1940 and 1950, a woman who wanted to be in a higher income bracket didn’t have much choice other than to marry the richest man she could find — and if she wanted to be independent, the only thing to do was to hope that her darling husband kicked the bucket first. Now, if a woman dreams of living a life of luxury, the easiest thing to do is to earn it herself. Modern women (and men, too) scorn their contemporaries who try to sneak into a life of luxury by marrying the richest eligible bachelor. But what if this outrage is really just our puritanical outlook sneaking back in? Why can’t we focus on how well matched a couple is, instead of looking at their ages?

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We’ve truly reached an age that our grandparents could never foresee. People travel all over the world, meet all kinds of strange new people, and sometimes come back with attachments that never would have happened if they’d never left their hometowns. Why does the attractive older man a woman meets on a beach holiday have to be unavailable to her just because he’s 15 years her senior? Instead of making fun of a male celebrity for marrying a beautiful younger woman, we should first examine whether or not they’re so poorly matched after all. People slammed the younger Kimora Lee for marrying the older and wealthier Russell Simmons, then laughed when she took over her husband’s business. However, her business savvy led to their shared project Baby Phat taking off, and together they transformed it into a fashion line and lifestyle brand. A single person’s focus should be on finding a partner that matches them in terms of beliefs and intelligence, rather than age, or money.

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Although there will always be both women and men who will attempt to take the easy way to fame and fortune, we should reserve our contempt for people who marry for reasons other than love, and not jump to conclusions if a couple is simply divided by a large age or wealth gap. Couples come together and separate again for any number of reasons — why not celebrate their reasons for staying together?

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