Thursday, October 18, 2007

new girl order?

I wanted to love the idea of this article, "The New Girl Order," by Kay S. Hymowitz, which ran in City Journal recently. But it's a conservative journal and the article's tagline gives away the real intention behind it---

The Carrie Bradshaw lifestyle is showing up in unexpected places, with unintended consequences.

---and so always with stuff like this you have to know that the writer is ultimately going to go to the place where you wish she wouldn't go.

Dun-dun Dun-dun Dun-dun DUN-DUN DUN-DUN! (think Jaws)

The cool thing about what she's pinpointing is the existence of a New Girl Order, and the phenomenon of what she calls the SYF (Single Young Female)---and we've gone international! We've got major earning power, we're living our lives for ourselves, we're marrying later (if at all), we're buying all kinds of shit with our big bucks because we're not spending them on things like kids...

This trend is very real, but it's written about in a problematic way here. For lots of reasons. But one that struck me right away is the fact that there are lots of SYFs who are barely making ends meet. Hymowitz writes that one of the defining characteristics of this "lifestyle" is "long hours of office work, often in quasi-creative fields like media, fashion, communications, and design---areas in which the number of careers has exploded in the global economy over the past few decades."

But I question how many of these women are making six-figure salaries. If they're living in major metropolitan cities---San Francisco, New York, Tokyo, Madrid, wherever---they're not living this high-flying lifestyle that Hymowitz's portrays. Almost every SYF I know, myself included, is struggling to make ends meet in our quasi-creative fields.

It's a nice sentiment, though, this idea that we're living the high life. There's so much to admire! Goodbye to the limitations of our foremothers; hello abundance. "It's a dramatic advance in personal freedom and wealth," she writes. And that's true. It is.

But wait. Don't forget what this article is actually about!

Dun-dun Dun-dun Dun-dun DUN-DUN DUN-DUN!

Unintended consequences? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Fertility decline. Yes, that's correct. You didn't have to accidentally stumble upon it. You knew that that's what it was going to be about. But the notion that we're experiencing some sort of massive crisis where fertility is concerned is so absurd. Yes, birth rates are down in lots of places---mainly in Europe. And people are bemoaning it, and have been for a while. I was living in Spain in 1993 and people were freaking out about population---the decline in the number of Spanish births, though, coupled with the increase in immigration. (Bad word.) So really, this is such a problematic topic.

The New Girl Order is not at all about choices and options and the fact that women are making different decisions---including not having children---for lots of different personal reasons. It's really about our country----and now our world----going to hell in a hand basket because women are more interested in "partying on" than we are in getting married.

It's a common strategy: Tell us we're awesome but that we'd better be careful. One day we're going to wake up and regret our decisions. One day it's going to be too late. I'm getting that the New Girl Order is not a demographic this writer admires at all. I'm getting that it scares her shitless. Cause what happens when SYFs turn into SOFs? Hopefully they just party on to their graves and look back and love the life they've lived. Or, if Hymowitz's crystal ball turns out to have all the answers, they'll be miserable old wenches who start online communities for women who have too many cats, and who should've married and had children before it was too late. Unintended consequences indeed.

I leave you with this: Dun-dun Dun-dun Dun-dun DUN-DUN DUN-DUN!


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