The modern gender divide

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They say we are the chosen few
But we're wasted
And that's why we're still waiting
On a number from the modern man
Maybe when you're older you will understand
Why you don't feel right
Why you can't sleep at night now
In line for a number but you don't understand
Like a modern man. (Modern Man, Arcade Fire, The Suburbs, 2010)
The Wall Street Journal has an article complaining about the age of the men-child, with the sensationalistic title: "Where have all the good men gone?" The demographic in question was the 25-34 age group, in which 34% women with a Bachelor's degree were held up against the boys in the limbo state of what the article called pre-adulthood, an extension of the adolescent age. To illustrate the new(ish) gender divide, the author Kay S. Hymowitz tossed up this interpretation of Knocked up (Apatow,2007):
The story's hero is 23-year-old Ben Stone (Seth Rogen), who has a drunken fling with Allison Scott (Katherine Heigl) and gets her pregnant. Ben lives in a Los Angeles crash pad with a group of grubby friends who spend their days playing videogames, smoking pot and unsuccessfully planning to launch a porn website. Allison, by contrast, is on her way up as a television reporter and lives in a neatly kept apartment with what appear to be clean sheets and towels. Once she decides to have the baby, she figures out what needs to be done and does it. Ben can only stumble his way toward being a responsible grownup.
I'm not all that surprised that this is true for some part of the population - a less defined career role for men and a growing disparity in higher education may lead to feelings of uncertainty about having to commit to or be responsible for anything (which is a hallmark of adulthood). I was particularly intrigued by the conclusion of the article, as the author assumed these men's inner voice in stating "Why should [I] grow up? No one needs [me] anyway. There's nothing [I] have to do." Indeed, clearly defined expectations can help shape identity. That is, if you assume these men have no inherent, willful desire to forge their identity. And that's a big assumption on the author's part.

Something struck me while I was reading the article though: I have heard complaints about the men-boys from these presumably more ambitious women, but what about these women's fun times? They are often portrayed as some sort of a super woman, juggling home and work like some skilled Cirque du Soleil performer. These ambitious go-getters with their eye on the prize, what do they do for fun? It would seem from what is perpetuated by the media that men have all the fun and women are left to do all the work. I seriously doubt that to be the case, even amongst the selected demographic of certain SES. It makes me wonder though: how come we don't talk about these young women having fun? How do they unwind? I'm not saying they need to find similar things fun, but other than shopping, what else is supposedly fun? Why are these women hanging out with the men they supposedly detest? Could it be that they are having vicarious fun? I'm going to have to investigate this. To be continued?

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5 Response to The modern gender divide

Jason person
February 23, 2011 at 11:47 PM

Katherine Heigl cannot possibly play (or be) a grown-up.

Also, aren't she and Rogaine both in their 30s? They can't be 23 year olds in that movie. The cast of "Pretty Little Liars" is girls 20/1-25/6 playing sixteen year olds. No way those two granolaheads above are early-twenties.

I'm wondering if you're trying to be saucy with this question about what young professional women do for "fun"? I think they do cocaine. Seriously. I trust a young professional woman as far as you can throw her; which, if the catwalks in London are to judge by, is rather a way.

The only other option I can think of is knitting. I wouldn't trust these women too much either.

I *am* being rather serious! Maybe you just mean these sorts of pop representations shouldn't portray women as hyper-together types with no time for creativity, cuddling or unwinding. But if you're asking a directly sociological question about what the Katherine Heigls of the world *do* with themselves, then yes: it's coke.

And I don't think that's a happy state of affairs.

February 26, 2011 at 2:33 AM

Are you speaking from experience?

This has to be researched somewhere. I want to know how I fit in. I haven't had the time to look for it. For serious.

Jason person
February 26, 2011 at 5:36 PM

*Experience*? What is that, anyway?

Well, I'm cynical. And I do believe derivative swapping has something to do with cocaine.

I'm a puritanical libertarian: I think many drugs should be decriminalized, but I retain the right to scoff at the people who do them. More importantly, I want the key professions of responsibility to be stringently drug-free. Personally, I'm suspicious of medical professionals, always. Alec Baldwin nailed it: they think they're God, a lot of them.

I think I've said to you before, long back: anyone who says "I work hard and I play hard"-- that's a cokehead. If they're not doing coke, it's something just as bad, like bungee jumping, which I also think is a hubristic and sinful attempt to scramble consciousness in the pursuit of cheap thrills.

Well, since it's Fashion Week(s), it's a propos to chide about the cokeheads. What a terrible waste. All those girls thrown to the wolves.

And have you heard of "Meow Meow"?! I just found out. I'll relate about it sometime. Doctors and midwives experimenting with Meow Meow, outrageous!

February 27, 2011 at 2:59 AM

It's something you've encountered and remembered? A unit of memory? A passage of your life surrounding an event? A person??

I've never heard of Meow Meow. Is that an attempt at being cat-like?

Actually, I'm surprised that not more people do drugs. No, scratch that. I'm surprised that most people can function without drugs becoming a major part of their life, especially in the traumatized section of the world. And I mean drugs in the general sense: substance that alters mind/behaviour. Emotional/ego injury + accessible drugs + existential anxiety + pressure to master own domain independent of others = why not take something to escape? It's easy to scoff at the symptoms, but who's to say you won't do the same in their position? Of course, even if you were to do the same, it doesn't mean you have to approve it. But it's not all that difficult to fall into darkness.

Jason person
February 27, 2011 at 5:04 AM

I quite agree actually: it's remarkable that some kind of majority of the population 'keeps its nose clean', more or less.

The use of institutional pressure (from medicine, schools, employers) to commit people to taking Ritalin or what have you is deeply problematic, seeing as how a lot of it plainly stems from a will to delegitimize normal human behavior-- like being utterly bored with the enervating routines of a classroom. Human nature is the 'norm'; not what satisfies the edicts of the managerial bourgeoisie. Of course Ritalin and its surrogates are more benign 'interventions' than, say, a lobotomy or electroshock. But I'm not sure the principle involved is discontinuous. Cf. the psychiatric redefinition of grief! Two weeks and you're supposed to cut it off? What are these people, Marcus Aurelius?!!?

I'm more inclined to forgive the drug behaviors of people who are self-sequestered in some kind of bohemia than those who live and work inside centers of real responsibility and power. I'll assume (safely, I imagine) that Jeremy Scott has known some drugs. Probably this will lead to some d!ckheaded behavior on his part, but what can you do? Tell him to go home and read "Pilgrim's Progress"? As long as he does what he does among likeminded people, my panties aren't getting rolled up in a knot.

The problem, of course, is that when you back up you see how people like that make a fetish of corrupting people, in the sense that the melodrama about Peer Pressure is, of course, perfectly true. How many coke virgins walk the catwalk only to have their peers cajole them into it? And what the devil business does anyone have to cajole anyone into anything?--*that's* what pisses me off about party people.

The desire to perpetuate our own preferences is so powerful-- and there certainly is *not* a moral equivalence between getting a sixteen-year old away from her parents for the first time into Mozart, versus getting her into Meow Meow.

But I feel like I'm dragging you way off topic. What were you meaing about "research" and "where you fit in?"


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