Hymowitz knows that the 20-something, Gen-Y guys she is talking about aren’t children. Her argument is that they are stuck in an extended adolescence — what she calls “preadulthood” — that was a necessary byproduct of the knowledge economy.
My paternal grandfather never graduated from high school. He went straight to work. After spending WWII in the Navy, he ended up working for the Pennsylvania Railroad, and stayed on there until he retired.
Jobs like that are few and far between these days. Kids raised in the 80s, 90s and aughts were raised to go to college and “find themselves” in some fulfilling career, working with their heads instead of their backs. The stable lunch pail jobs were often outsourced, and replaced with job growth in more creative, exciting jobs.
These jobs require education and many offer no linear career path, so if young people want to be “fulfilled” by their careers, they often have to put off getting married and having children. This is true of males and females alike, and while Hymowitz makes much of the “New Girl Order,” she acknowledges that those successful girls are also stuck in a kind of pre-adulthood, too. However, they hear their biological clocks ticking, and they are up against a pressure to get things underway that simply isn’t as pressing for males.
Hymowitz overplays the size and importance of the creative class — while those jobs abound in major metropolitan areas (like New York — Hymowitz lives in Brooklyn), there are too many aspiring graphic designers, web designers, script writers and photographers everywhere else. She also seems to inhabit a mental world where everyone went to Brown or Wesleyan or some posh east coast school, and one wonders if she is writing about the sexes in America, or just Sex in the City.
She is correct, though, that the knowledge and service economies demanded skills which matched female tendencies. Hymowitz concedes that whether nature or nurture is to blame — she’s not sure herself — “manufacturing’s loss has been women’s gain” She also notes that while males aged 13-34 have eluded marketers, young females buy a lot of stuff, and it made sense for employers to look for women to help them create designs and promotions that appealed to their target demographics. This is easy enough to verify. I’ve noted for years that design seems to be getting “cuter” and virtually all of the new businesses in a neighborhood near to me were created by and for women. My favorite is “branch and birdie : retail catering to the modern home, woman and child.” (Notice who is missing…) She writes of the “Bridget Jones economy”:
“the uncomfortable truth is that youthful female careerism is closely intertwined with the growth of consumption for two reasons. First, working women make and spend a lot of money. Second, women can find satisfying (passion-filled?) careers centered around the sorts of products on which women like to spend money.”
Refreshingly, the author doesn’t blame the ad agencies or the media for pandering to women or to her child-men; she understands that most successful marketing trends exploit an existing demand.
When it comes to feminist heroes and doctrine, Hymowitz is not afraid to criticize Betty Friedan, who she portrays as being a bit spoiled and delusional, or Micheal Kimmel. She dismisses Kimmel’s tired 1970s neo-Marxist race and gender “entitlement” narrative tidily:
“The college-educated inhabitants of Kimmel’s Guyland never knew a world where women weren’t lawyers and managers or where slayers named Buffy didn’t take care of the vampires.”
Hymowitz believes that most men want families, albeit after the age when women want them, and she says that men will have to “man up” if they want to have those families. This feels like an afterthought, because while she spends the entire book outlining the problems young men and women face she offers no solutions whatsoever. She admits that the modern young man is “free as men have never been free before,” but gives no suggestions as to changes that could be made to encourage men to invest in families and careers before they’ve had their fill of beer and sluts.
Perhaps she realizes the kind of changes that would be necessary, and doesn’t dare.
(Originally published at The-Spearhead.com)