Gracing the finance section of BusinessInsider.com, and I’m sure elsewhere, is “The Unofficial Goldman Sachs Guide to Being a Man”, written, in collaboration with John Carney of CNBC.com, by @GSElevator (whoever he may be). At the time of writing, over 500,000 people had visited the page on Business Insider’s website in less than 24 hours. I imagine this number will explode in the coming days. The guide purports to present “a thoughtful look at what it means to be a man today.” Many of you have seen it, and fewer of you may be wondering why Goldman Sachs is guiding anyone in anything, except maybe fiscal irresponsibility. Of course, the guide is not actually affiliated with the firm, but I think that it reflects the money-crazed and superficial culture that Goldman is very much so a part of.
To be fair, the guide is often comical (I thought it was a spoof at first) and manages to put forth a slew of redeemable suggestions that I would qualify as good advice for both men and women. Read books. Take an interest in art. Don’t be a drunk asshole (a disproportionate amount of the guide’s pieces of advice pertain to post-collegiate drinking etiquette). Don’t use your cell phone at the table. Look for a partner who is well behaved in public (“Times New Roman in the streets,”), but who is also good in bed (“Wingdings in the sheets.”) (props for the wording). Hang out with your friends. Wear an undershirt if you sweat profusely. Staying angry is not worthwhile (although it subsequently suggests that you exact revenge to rid yourself of anger. This is not good advice). Don’t be pretentious. To me, all of these things are good pieces advice.
However, much of this good advice is undermined by the piece’s pretentious tone and misguided message. Remember, this is supposed to be a “thoughtful look at what it means to be a man today.” Throwing money around, especially in public ways, is seemingly a fundamental part of being a man in today’s world. The guide has little in the way of what’s really important for being a man, especially a family man. Things like: Spending time with his family (only spending time with friends sans kids is mentioned). Being a good boy friend or husband. Being a good father (the only advice pertaining to raising children — a pretty important part of being a man — is that men should start a wine collection for their kids as soon as they are born). Doing what makes him happy, not rich. Being morally upright. Things like these. Important things. Instead, the guide largely focuses on superficial things that men should be buying or doing.
Many of you are probably saying that I’m over-reacting. Being overly sensitive. Missing the point. Perhaps I am. Perhaps I would be less disgruntled if the list wasn’t published as a product of Goldman Sachs — unofficial or not. However, as a man, I find it problematic that this list of ways to be cool, stylish, and attractive (at least in the eyes of the authors) is being virally circulated as a list of what it means to be a man. In other words, my primary issue is that these largely superficial and often pretentious pointers are being collectively framed as “what it means to be a man.” As not only a man, but a citizen, I am concerned with our growing consumerism (in this, I am certainly complicit). I am concerned with Wall Street’s greed and the financial irresponsibility that goes with it. I find the misogyny and elitism that the finance industry, and other industries like it, continue to breed to be a corrosive agent in our increasingly damaged society. I think that in subtle ways, “The Unofficial Goldman Sachs Guide to Being a Man” is merely perpetuating these trends.
I can only imagine what “The Unofficial Goldman Sachs Guide to Being a Woman” would look like. Just some food for thought.