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“If Lehman Brothers Had Been Lehman Sisters…”: Gender and Myth in the Aftermath of the Financial Crisis

Elisabeth Prügl
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1749-5687.2011.00149.x 21-35 First published online: 1 March 2012

Abstract

Prügl, Elisabeth. (2012) “If Lehman Brothers Had Been Lehman Sisters…”: Gender and Myth in the Aftermath of the Financial Crisis. International Political Sociology, doi: 10.1111/j.1749-5687.2011.00149.x © 2012 International Studies Association

In the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008/09, there was a remarkable preoccupation in the English-language press with gender relations in finance. Articles adduced masculinity as a variable that may have caused the crisis, speculated about the more prudent investment styles of women, and predicted the fall of macho and the end of men. Drawing on the work of Roland Barthes and Simone de Beauvoir, I argue that this discourse amounted to an exercise in meaning making through the construction of a myth of woman as financially responsible and men as reckless. I interpret the deployment of this myth in the press as a morality play of fall, rise, and redemption. The play provides a narrative that explains the unfamiliar of the crisis, offers a correcting mechanism in the form of prudent woman, and re-assembles a bourgeois worldview of social and economic harmony by advocating more gender diversity in finance.

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