Are we quicker to dismiss the accomplishments of female scions than those of their privileged brothers? Okay, so it’s not the most pressing question facing contemporary feminism. But it is a surprising one to see taken up in The New Yorker’s profile of Gina Rinehart. A mining magnate, Rinehart is the richest person in Australia — sometimes the richest woman in the world, depending on the price of iron — but seems to have been made utterly miserable, paranoid, and lonely by her conflicting obsessions with honoring her father’s legacy as a mine prospector and being recognized as more than his heiress. William Finnegan writes:
“Is she an heiress? Inarguably. And yet she has, by hard work and guile and historic luck, multiplied the value of the business she inherited several hundred times over. The “h”-word seems to be partly a gender thing. The male scions of Australian family fortunes, such as Lachlan Murdoch (the eldest son of Rupert), are not routinely described in the press as heirs.”
A convenient example: When The New Yorker profiled Lachlan Murdoch’s sister, Elisabeth — who left the family business after publicly fighting with her boss, founded her own television production studio, and sold it back to News Corp. for $673 million — the article was titled “The Heiress.” The sexism does not stop there:
“Rinehart is the only woman among the rough lot riding the mining boom at tycoon level, and none of the others probably have to read much in the papers about how they really should be able to afford a hairdresser or a personal trainer. Neither do they see, on national television, a beloved comedian, Barry Humphries, demonstrating the alarm with which he would react to waking up next to her in a motel.”
For the record, noting this double standard is not to say that you should feel bad for Rineheart. Relative to Australia, she’s worth as much as seven Michael Bloombergs. (Compare your measly existence to hers here.) The New Yorker reports she plans to stay that way by buying newspapers that will advance her preferred policies, such as deregulation, climate change denial, lowering the minimum wage, and suing anyone who speaks publicly about her into bankruptcy, including her children. Gender-neutrally insult away.
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