New Girl Order

New Girl Order


In the autumn issue of the City Journal, Kay S. Hymowitz eulogizes the rise of a new international role model:

"Yes: Carrie Bradshaw is alive and well and living in Warsaw. Well, not just Warsaw. Conceived and raised in the United States, Carrie may still see New York as a spiritual home. But today you can find her in cities across Europe, Asia, and North America. Seek out the trendy shoe stores in Shanghai, Berlin, Singapore, Seoul, and Dublin, and you’ll see crowds of single young females (SYFs) in their twenties and thirties, who spend their hours working their abs and their careers, sipping cocktails, dancing at clubs, and (yawn) talking about relationships. Sex and the City has gone global; the SYF world is now flat."

And why is this a good thing? Because it points to a "New Girl Order" where, one, women are getting married and having kids later in their lives. Two, this is because "today’s aspiring middle-class women are gearing up to be part of the paid labor market for most of their adult lives; unlike their ancestral singles, they’re looking for careers, not jobs." And three, their leaving home to live in big cities to do so, which in turn implies greater economic and personal freedom.

And what are they doing with all this new-found autonomy: shopping, of course.

"With no children or parents to support, and with serious financial hardship a bedtime story told by aging grandparents, SYFs have ignited what The Economist calls the ‘Bridget Jones economy’–named, of course, after the book and movie heroine who is perhaps the most famous SYF of all. Bridget Jonesers, the magazine says, spend their disposable income ‘on whatever is fashionable, frivolous, and fun,’ manufactured by a bevy of new companies that cater to young women. In 2000, Marian Salzman–then the president of the London-based Intelligence Factory, an arm of Young & Rubicam–said that by the 1990s, ‘women living alone had come to comprise the strongest consumer bloc in much the same way that yuppies did in the 1980s.’"

The trends that Hymowitz are real. There’s no doubt that globalization is changing the lives of middle class women everywhere. Call centers in India, for example, offer young Indian women who work there — often sharing apartments in cities like Bangalore etc. — unprecedented indpendence from familial and societal restraints.

But the only downside of this new order that the author seems to consider is plummeting fertility rates in many countries. "[T]he New Girl Order has given birth to a worrying ambivalence toward domestic life and the men who would help create it," More worrying for most feminists is that this is exactly the kind of "liberation" that better serves the corporate bottom-line than a woman’s well-being. Running up ridiculous bills to maintain a vapid lifestyle is hardly a strong foundation for an independent life, with or without husbands or kids.

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