So, women have finally succeeded in becoming all they hate?

In the post below, one of the links embedded with in the text takes you to a piece by Leah Libresco, wherein she lets loose a bluebird’s yawp about Hanna Rosin’s celebration of the hook-up culture as “an engine of female progress”.

[writes Rosin:] Single young women in their sexual prime—that is, their 20s and early 30s, the same age as the women at the business-­school party—are for the first time in history more success­ful, on average, than the single young men around them. They are more likely to have a college degree and, in aggregate, they make more money. What makes this remarkable development possible is not just the pill or legal abortion but the whole new landscape of sexual freedom—the ability to delay marriage and have temporary relationships that don’t derail education or career. To put it crudely, feminist progress right now largely depends on the existence of the hookup culture. And to a surprising degree, it is women—not men—who are perpetuating the culture, especially in school, cannily manipulating it to make space for their success, always keeping their own ends in mind.

Plenty of room in the comment thread to talk about sex more specifically, but the thing that’s really creeping me out about this piece is that it’s essentially an attack on intimacy. An “overly serious suitor” may indeed interfere with your career, but I’ll bet a too-close friendship will, too. (Though that’s not mentioned, because we don’t take friendship seriously enough already.) After all, whether or not your relationship in sexual, commitment and mutual dependence will constrain and limit your freedom from.

The trouble is, if that’s what you’re paring off, the freedom to that you’re preserving is pretty much just your freedom to work and advance. Letting your job be your life makes more sense if your career is also your vocation, if it’s making it easier for you to be the person you ought to be and grow in goodness. That’s not generally how I hear people describe the kind of high powered finance or legal jobs that Rosin’s profilees seem to hold. And even if you’ve got a stressful job that does good (let’s say you work in the public defender’s office), the results of your work may be service, but the way you work may not be good for you.

If we’re actually claiming that the only way to get good works done is to call twentysomethings to a kind of emotional martyrdom (viz throwing unprepared, hastily trained teachers into the worst classrooms to hold the line for two years til they burn out), they we should admit that’s what we’re doing. And then we should reel a bit in horror and try and think if there’s a better solution.

Read the rest of the chronically compelling Leah’s sensible take. I have a feeling she’ll be writing more on this as her synapses fire and she develops her thoughts further.

One of Rosin’s lines in that excerpt jumped out at me, though:

For college girls these days, an overly serious suitor fills the same role an accidental pregnancy did in the 19th century: a danger to be avoided at all costs, lest it get in the way of a promising future. [. . .] The women still had to deal with the old-fashioned burden of protecting their personal reputations, but in the long view, what they really wanted to protect was their future professional reputations. “Rather than struggling to get into relationships,” Armstrong reported, women “had to work to avoid them.” (One woman lied to an interested guy, portraying herself as “extremely conservative” to avoid dating him.) Many did not want a relationship to steal time away from their friendships or studying.

Read the whole piece. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that these younger women rely on hook-ups for impersonal sexual gratification so they can set their sights on career, money and power without personal encumbrances; no clinging vines requiring their company or their humanity; no kids to distract them from the office and their pursuit of the brass ring — or the brass idol.

How utterly depressing. The sexual revolution and its illusory notion of “having it all” has folded in upon itself to forge a chain-link of perfect irony: 21st Century women have become precisely the shallow, insincere, career-fixated, corporate people-users that early feminists decried.

Women were going to teach men how to be human, remember? Instead, they’ve become everything they claimed to hate.

Now, all they need is a wife to raise the kids, if there are any, and make them look good at office-functions, and the metamorphosis from butterfly to cocoon-wrapped caterpillar is complete, from spare button-down shirt in the office to the meaningless sugar on the side.

Liberation looks a lot like a lonely captivity, as the women join the men in leading lives of quiet desperation, and everyone works so hard to convey the gladness they don’t really feel. Don Draper hasn’t gone away. He’s just changed his name to Donna.

No one wants to be Betty. Or Donna Reed.

The DNC doesn’t want to be punished with a child. The children are becoming just pawns, for so many.

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About Elizabeth Scalia