Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Capturing generational disillusionment

The best review I've read of the movie Sex and the City comes from an unlikely source: the Melbourne Age.

The reviewer, Julie Szego, was once a fan of the TV series:

... the show represented a parallel universe of sorts ... for my group of 20-something girlfriends. Carrie Bradshaw and her cohorts spoke to professional women who fancied themselves as sassy, powerful and poised to uncover the ultimate truth in their quest for love.

But the lifestyle pursued by these women didn't yield all that it was supposed to:

... the show tapped into the Zeitgeist of young women reaping the rewards of the sexual and feminist revolutions, but dancing around their fears that all this freedom wasn't yielding any lasting rewards ... in truth, these girls weren't really having fun.

The movie carries on where the TV series left off:

Relationships remain fragile or out of reach, families complicated by separation, divorce or problems with reproduction, the future very much a whatever-will-be-will-be proposition.

For Julie Szego this is all too familiar terrain:

A stocktake of my girlfriends 10 years on suggests many of their stories are still unfolding; they are yet to partner, or have partnered just in the nick of time and are crossing fingers with hope, or they're grappling with the joys and challenges of blended families, or they're quietly mourning as careers, or dreams of parenthood, slip away.

Reading Julie Szego's review, you understand why feminism is currently in one of its down phases. A generation of women, who thought they were on the cusp of radical liberation, have instead experienced a radical disruption to family formation. There is a sense of sadness and fatalism in the way Julie Szego writes about the situation.

It's a pity that Julie Szego doesn't develop her idea that the feminist and sexual revolutions, with "all their freedom", hadn't yielded "any lasting rewards". It seems highly relevant to ask why not.

What was wrong with the feminist concept of freedom? Is freedom the only good to be conserved? Why didn't 30-something professional women meet better husband material? What did 30-something women do to undermine their own chances in love and marriage? What do these disillusioned women now owe a younger cohort of females?


  1. Perhaps the interesting question is; what does she mean by "lasting rewards"? What would these be and how would she get them?

    Negative outcomes to avoid don't always make for useful social guidelines in the absence of positive outcomes to aim towards. Explaining that "freedom at all costs" leads to a lonely and unfulfilled later life won't help many people (women or men) for whom there is no obvious alternative model to follow.

    Promoting marriage and family as a social and personal good and a source of lasting happiness is necessary to give people a path to follow. In times past the notion of having to explain this to people would have seemed risible, but after decades of liberalism it seems the obvious really does need to be explained.

    P.S. Want to say I appreciate the work that goes into this blog. It's a valuable source of information even if much of the content does manage to raise my blood pressure to dangerous levels.

    Thank you and keep up the outstanding work.

  2. Peter B, an excellent comment - thanks too for the positive feedback.