Maureen Dowd has an interesting column in Sunday’s New York Times. Today’s young women, she says, who reject the beliefs of the feminist movement may wake up 15 years from now in suburbia, disullioned housewives, left by their husbands who ditched them for a younger woman, seeking a new Betty Friedan. Dowd makes some interesting points, but she leaves out three important factors that have shaped our culture since the feminist movement- the media, technology, and America’s obsession with youth. Let’s face it, sex sells and sex has been selling for thousands of years. But today we have the Internet and MTV and a gym on every corner.
Dowd makes the following statement toward the end of her column, referring to Betty Friedan’s well-known book on feminism, “The Feminine Mystique,” “Now they [women] want to be Mrs. Anonymous Biological Robot in a Docile Mass. They dream of being rescued – to flirt, to shop, to stay home and be taken care of. They shop for “Stepford Fashions” – matching shoes and ladylike bags and the 50’s-style satin, lace and chiffon party dresses featured in InStyle layouts – and spend their days at the gym trying for Wisteria Lane waistlines.” I hate to break it to Dowd but I don’t know anyone who shops for “Stepford Fashions” and most of the moms I know who work out at the gym do so to save their sanity (pure uninterrupted bliss on the treadmill!) and their waistline, not because they are throwing feminism out the door. Come on…give us a little credit. We’re not all mindless Botox machines who can’t get enough of the latest nip and tuck procedure.
Our society is bombarded with media images that are larger than life and in real time. But it’s not just women who are slaves to fashion or beholden to Botox. This is the Viagra decade. Men get hair plugs. Men buy Harleys. With so much emphasis today on branding and image, people are marketing themselves.
We’re obsessed with looking good and staying young in America. Some of that obsession is healthy, no pun intended. Madonna has traded in her Like a Virgin look and is now a fit mom in her 40s who writes children’s books and touts Pilates and yoga. Who would have imagined that in the 1980s?
Dowd features comments from Cosmopolitan’s editor (and Cosmo really is the pulse of American women, ha ha) and a Yale professor, that I think are in line:
Kate White, Cosmopolitan’s editor, told Dowd she sees a distinct shift in what her readers want. “Women now don’t want to be in the grind,” she said. “The baby boomers made the grind seem unappealing.” Cynthia Russett, a professor of American history at Yale, told Dowd women are simply more “realistic,” having seen the dashed utopia of those who assumed it wouldn’t be so hard to combine full-time work and child rearing.
Most moms I know either work full time or part time or are taking classes while they also do the very tough job of mothering. It’s tough to balance it all and society seems to be critical if a woman goes to one extreme or another.
We want to be the good mother, good wife, good daughter, good sister, good employee, good co-worker, good friend, and good neighbor. Yes, that can be exhausting. Maybe we do want to be rescued…by our husband, by our friends, by a personal chef, by a weekend at a spa, by an afternoon spent shopping. We’re human. Now excuse me while I go shopping for a matching handbag and shoes and a chiffon dress to wear to my company holiday party.
Click here to read Dowd’s article.