The Ultimate Scam: Women, Ambition, Money & Why We Love To Hate Them For It

A weeklong look into the complicated world of women and greed in an era of wealth inequality

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What is it about rich women that makes people seethe? From Kylie Jenner’s controversial Forbes cover, to Cardi B doling out tax questions, to female-oriented brands accused of selling out feminism for profit — this year has been filled with drama around women and money. It’s not just the big, powerful names either — it’s political wives, it’s scammers, it’s even avocado-indulging Money Diarists.
That we are living at a time of extreme wealth inequality is without question — the 1% holds 40% of the country’s wealth, while wages for everyone else have stagnated and the cost of living goes up, up, up. This is happening at the same time as women, in their long quest for financial independence and security, finally (finally!) enjoy more access to opportunity. We now have an unprecedented number of women reaching the highest echelons of wealth — the number of female millionaires in the U.S. has doubled since 2005, worldwide women control some $51 trillion dollars — and the highest share ever of families with female breadwinners. All of this creates a complicated dynamic, both in the culture at large and within marginalized communities. Women deserve to take their piece of an increasingly shrinking pie — but how much is enough and who gets to decide that?
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Issues of morality and social responsibility are never quite so simple. To be greedy in our era connotes reasonable ambition and the desire to hoard more than you need. It can be a desire to get what’s yours, or get what’s not yours. Ultimately, the concept of greed can take on so many chameleon qualities precisely because it sums up a core tenet of capitalism: acquire wealth, and then more of it.
This week, Refinery29 will examine these issues with a series of pieces exploring what greed means to women today, from a conversation with Paris Hilton about “finally being taken seriously as a businesswoman and empire” to hip-hop’s tendency to deem Black women gold diggers, to the millennial generation’s desire to sell out.
Where does need end and greed begin? When does excess become devoid of ambition? When is greed used to denigrate certain populations, but lift others up? Can greed ever be a virtue and not a vice?
Here's a table of contents for the features we have coming up this week to address these questions:
Can An Heiress Be Self-Made? Paris Hilton Thinks So by Cait Munro
When is an heiress self-made? America’s original rich girl rebrands for an era designed for people just like her.
The Myth Of The Gold Digger Endures — But Black Women Know It's B.S. by Sesali Bowen
On America’s long tradition of villainizing Black women who just want to get what’s theirs.
Billionaires: They’re Not Just Like Us (At Least On Instagram) by Connie Wang
An examination into how billionaires think about their world. Is it possible to see the invisible beams and bindings that keep them aloft, some of us standing, and others pinned to the floor?
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Let's Be Greedy When It Comes To Our Rights by Lily Herman
In the political realm, Millennial women are constantly told that asking for anything or wanting more for themselves is automatically greedy. But fighting for your rights isn’t greedy, it’s what a vibrant democracy should be about.
Generation Sell-Out by Bourree Lam
Millennials aren’t saddled with romantic notions of sticking it to the man. What they want is to cash in, and pay off their student loans.
The Greed Grid by Morgan Baila and Justin Ravitz
Who are the rich women we love? And who do we love to hate?
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