Mar 12, 2011

Generation Y We Suck

There’s really a lot of factors to go into when examining a group, but youth culture can essentially be broken up into facets of pop culture. Because let’s face it, pop culture pretty much is youth culture.

However, for simplicity’s sake we’ll be looking at 3 factors in this post that exhibit what effects youth culture: Fashion, Music, and Ideology. Since most Generation Y’ers came of age in the 00s, that’s the decade I will be comparing to the 90s and the 80s.

The argument that Generation Y is just not as good as Generation X is one that I’ve debated for a good amount of time. Gen X has drawbacks, notably among a percentage of the 40-somethings that share the Boomers’ utter disregard for political sanity, but the Me Generation had something nearly approaching originality. Generation Y is by comparison a bland, reheated leftover, the difference between eating paste and chowing down on a brownie.
  • Fashion

If I said I thought the styles of the1980s and the 1990s were tasteless compared to today, I would only be partly lying. Sure, I owned the platform sneakers--everyone did--and you pretty much had no choice but to wear mom-jeans because that was what they sold most of the time. The pocket chains remain en vogue today; also, I’m pretty sure the beanie hat ain’t going anywhere. And girl, you know I had jelly shoes.
The 00’s
brought us a slew of WTF-ery with basically the philosophy that defines Generation Y: the less taste, the better. The scatter-brained, more-is-better attitude was marketed like so many ridiculously expensive sweatsuits (why would you buy a sweatsuit that you can’t really sweat in?) and Generation Y lapped it right up. Why? Because it was there. Because it was soooo edgy. How do we know it’s edgy? Because we were told it was!
Generation Y is pretty notable for blindly following trends (though every generation can say this). In addition, Generation Y closely associates the purchase of a trendy (and probably expensive) look with, or in many cases replacing,
organic satisfaction. In essence, the message that if you just get the perfect pair of shoes, make yourself up just right, lose the right amount of weight, wear all the right clothes, get perfect cosmetic surgery, or wear the precise perfume/cologne advertised, everything in your life will suddenly fall together like a perfect game of Tetris©...well, that message is blaring loud and clear. Buy all the right things and you’ll become a fey, marvelous creature, envied by all, romantically tragic, and therefore marvelously appealing.
As stated on Love Your

One escape for a sick soul is materialism, in buying nice clothes and houses and so on, in becoming enviable in your loneliness. [source]

Sure, the message of “Love yourself the way you are” is loud and proud, but often gets misconstrued. The person eating their way to obesity will shout down their detractors with the justifying battle cry of “I love myself the way I am! Don’t judge me,” while the person who spends spends spends on hair dye, a monumental amount of piercings, funky clothing and god knows what else will also shout down their detractors with the same battle cry, yet neither of these examples are openly facing the world as themselves. That is, one is hiding behind massive amounts of food, and the other is also remaking themselves in a new form. In either case, it could be argued that neither new shape is the “real person,” ergo neither of these examples are genuinely accepting of themselves.
This is not to say that all people of a generous build are self-medicating with food. Some are merely endomorphs no matter what. Nor are all people who coat themselves with dye and lacquer attempting to chisel a new persona out of an original that they are unhappy with.

Another side of the “remake yourself in this ideal” is the pro-ana and pro-mia subcultures, composed of young women (and an increasing number of young men) who have forums, LJ communities, etc, to network and enable each other. They also use the “Don’t judge me” battle cry, though in this case it might be the wail of the suicidal. The lure of proclaiming that one loves themselves “just the way they are” runs contrary to nearly everything that’s trendy in Generation Y. Why? Because it’s fashionable.

Eating disorders are by no means new, but they’ve skyrocketed in this generation. Appearance is considered important to the point of obsession. More important is the pursuit of “perfection.” And what is perfection? Why, whatever they tell us it is.

In the fashion world of Generation Y, the follower instinct is strongly at work. Fashion has ingrained itself into what I can only describe as a philosophy, stressing the importance of looking sleek and perfect at all times (according to the approved trends, of course). Essentially, Generation Y places more weight on packaging than content.
  • Music

In the 80s, hair bands ruled almost all that was before them--and quite frankly, I worship at that altar. And yeah, Luke Goss drummed in a band with his brother, apparently hell-bent on setting a new standard for being part of the movement of MJ-style pop bands with singers that sound eerily like women. Fortunately, Goss has mostly seen the error of his ways and proceeded to give us a rather sexy Frankenstein Monster.

In the 90s, straight up dark rock held their own in the scene, with renowned and still-revered bands like moody, soul-baringly poignant, witty and highly-skilled Type O Negative, love-them-or-hate-them Nirvana, and grunge-soaked Soundgarden delivering a pure and glorious antidote to the sugary-sweet pop of both the current decade and the too-cute-for-words pop of the 80s. These groups, especially the first two, had an impressively large impact and occasionally overlooked influence in the music scene and pop culture from the very day they came to light.

Today, however...we have Lady Gaga, Justin Beiber, and a plethora of rap musicians who are mostly notable for their ability to sound like each other. And the key word in most of their music is not talent, but auto-tuning.
Enjoy Your notes:
Jihan Forbes, a contributor at, stated that "Lady Gaga is in some ways a reincarnation of Elvis Presley: She takes cues from other truly forward-thinking and innovative artists of color, and repackages it so that white America can comfortably digest it." At Racialicious, a website on "the intersection of race and pop culture," one reader commented:

“To combat the lack of message in her music is really Gaga’s ultimate weapon: the way she panders to her fans, her “little monsters”. She includes them in on [sic] her charade in a way that no one does, overly praising them on Twitter while penning vague platitudes about living life to the fullest and never giving up. However strong and subversive she may appear in public, she plays coy and victimized to her fans who then feel it is their duty to love and defend her. It’s basic and people fall for it like hotcakes.” [source]

Lady Gaga beautifully exemplifies the Generation Y attitude in music: nothing new, nothing original, but extremely faddish. Essentially, it’s a stylized caricature of itself, a sort of black hole that compels the viewer with a strange fascination with how unbelievably dull and self-destructive it is. Why is this kind of music popular? It features synthesizer hooks and dull, throbbing beats that stick in the mind. The lyrics are pretty much empty shlock, with almost nothing penned to mean something personal. Britney Spears asks in her trademark little-girl nasal purr “If I said I want your body now, Would you hold it against me,” essentially taking a ridiculous pickup line that was sad and tired at first use and making it worse by putting it to music. Rihanna’s “S&M” fares no better, repeating what has been plastered on messenger icons and forum signatures for years: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, But chains and whips excite me.”

These are examples of songs and artists that are given radio play almost to the point of inducing madness, overlooking more talented artists that produce better quality songs. But the talented artists are often much less popular. Lady Gaga is showy and a palatable amount of outrageous; Sinead O’Connor lacks the willingness to make a (large) spectacle of herself and rarely flaunts her sexuality to market her music. Again, Generation Y is far more eager to plunk down cash on packaging than content.
  • Ideology

Whether it’s protesting fur with the calculatedly hip PETA2 crowd, jeering conservatives based on (badly or un-researched) rumors, or trying to save the polar bears with the global warming groups, Generation Y launches itself at the always-on-sale self-righteousness inherent in all the rabid, frenzied buzzwords of the day that give the consumer a feeling of really knowing what’s going on in the world. The Generation Y’er who finds themselves sucked into yet another black hole of devout faith in pretty much anything, often blindly following their chosen leaders with the kind of devotion approaching or straight up fanatical. I would include links for this section, but it’s so damned depressing. Do your own googling.
Point is, Generation Y cares more for buzzwords and the sense that they’re “really doing something” than actually doing something. It’s easier to rant and rave about whomever the leaders have chosen as the enemy of the day than to do one’s own research. It’s easier to rant about the evils of capitalism while wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt that cost you $10 to $20. Again, packaging is preferred over content. Generation Y cares more about the appearance than anything else.

In short, you can tell a lot about any given group of people by what they produce. And the main thing my generation has produced is what looks like a compelling argument in favor of eugenics.

Mar 3, 2011

Women who can't cook and other tales of woe

I ran across this article, which talked about something that I’d been observing for the last 10 years.

While today's women are advancing in the workplace and making more money, a new study found that few of them know how to do the same domestic chores their mothers and grandmothers did every day.

Researchers found that only 51 percent of women under 30 knew how to cook a roast while 82 percent of baby boomer females thought it was a cinch.

Notably, the young women of today are more likely to simply buy something new instead of repairing it:

McCrindle also noted that because these women have bigger paychecks, they don't feel the need to have to bake a cake from scratch or iron their own clothing when instant mixes and dry cleaners are readily available.

"We live in a throw-away culture where, rather than repair something, we will buy a new one, even if it is just a matter of darning holes or sewing on buttons," he said. "As such, many women have lost these skills. If we do want something repaired, women today are more likely to take it to their local drycleaner because they are busy and can afford it."

Naturally, the article ended on a slightly snide note, asking “[If] Over 70 percent of women under 30 admit to taking out the trash, mowing the lawn and washing their own cars, [...] Why is sewing a button back on still a "lady skill" if we've taken over in all of these departments?”

My quick answer to that is that men’s big fingers don’t handle needles well, but I think Charlie Sheen disproves that theory.

What amused and irritated me was the comments on the article. A good amount were from men extolling not the personal satisfaction they get from a woman cooking for them, but the emotional satisfaction.
Predictably, some of the women agreed. And some of them went on rants about how men shouldn’t be cooked for, because apparently cooking for a member of the male gender immediately makes you June Cleaver.

Favorite comments (emphasis mine):

dannyfrom504 said:

i don't think i've evern [sic] had a woman who isn't related to me, cook for me. but then again, i cook quite well. hmmmmmmmmmm.

“E” promptly went ranty on his butt:

E said:

It's a good thing that you cook well for yourself and don't ever hold your breath on a woman cooking for will be very difficult to find June Cleaver these days...women just do not want all that crap like the women from generations ago....and frankly, I don't blame them! There is more to life than cooking OR cleaning for MEN!
Commenter Joe remarked on the above:

Joe said:

Lord Danny, you do you very best, tell the TRUTH about the matter and you get some female to tell you how WRONG you are! lol Well origamib [sic?] Danny is 100% correct, as far am I go [?] he is anyway. When I see my lady, and yes I MEAN lady, cooking for me and yes even cleaning for me, I not only find that sexy but also am very thankful! How can it be sewxy [sic] you ask? Simple, she's doing something for ME and what she's doing is something that no one "likes" or "wants" to do, she's doing it becuase [sic] she wants to help ME out and THAT is what's so sexy! It's a real shame I have to explain such a simple thing to you but oh well, maybe one day you'll find out that not all men are like to described in your post. Some men not only love their Lady but also respect and even ADORE her as well. So, maybe next time before you begin talking on how men are, maybe you should take a good look into the mirror and ask yourself WHY your man doesn't seem to look at you like we look at our ladies. Then again, I'm veery [sic] sure that you've got it all going on for yourself and have ALL the answers right.
Joe also posted again, saying:

Joe said:

No, it's NOT the females JOB to do the cooking. It would sure be NICE though if the female would cook becuase [sic] she wanted to cook some really nice food once in a while though. I can cook and do a fine job if it and I don't mind it either. What Iv'e [sic] found though is today, females say things like, "it's not my job" or some other very stupid thing. It has NOTHING at all to do with a "job" but rather why can['t] we BOTH cook for OUR family? Why can't they just do something nice becuase [sic] it's nice? Seems like there has always got to be a "reason" to do something for someone. All you females out there who don't cook becuase [sic] of (whatever reason you may have) you just don't get it. Maybe you females don't care all that much if your man cooks for you but by God us men DO care, we LOVE IT when you cook for us. Maybe that's why, maybe today if the female isn't gettting [more sic] something out of it other than a thank you and knowing how much your man loves it, it's just not worth it to you? I have NO IDEA of the real "why" only I know if a woman isn't willing to cook for me once in a while then she's not worth my time. Something as simple as cooking a meal and I'm just not "worth it" to her? Well excuse me lady, but there's the door.

504danny said:

christine- i have 2 sisters (i'm the eldest); and when my mom left my dad, she had ZERO life skills outside being a homemaker. she was on a mission to ensure me and sister's didn't have to depend on the opposite sex. i learned how to do laundry and clean. well, my youngest sis was cool with it, but my older sis wasn't. lol. when my mom tried to explain that there was a bigger picture involved, especially if she was planning on becoming a mother she said, "my husband's gonna have money, i'll get a maid." well reality finally set in when she married a man with 2 kids and she had to feed them; things got real, really quick. she was suddenly behind the bell curve. lol.

but i think what a lot of women forget, is that those "feminine skills" are VERY sexy to us. most women love when a guy does "man things". i used to chuckle the way my girl would just stare as i changed her car's oil, or would fix something at her apartment. it works the same for us. i'd never EXPECT my lady to cook or clean for me, but i really appreciate when she does. and it makes me want to do more to show her how glad i am that i have her in my life.
Commenter Chris pointed out the flip side, which is that a lot of men under 30 really do expect women to do everything for them. I call this learned idiocy.

chris said
@ Danny
your comment was sweet and you sound like a retro man. I can tell you this though.. now a days your luck if you can find a guy to do the so called man things. I know many young men including in my own family that would be sitting in the dark with no clothes and starve to death. The young men of today do not know how to be men they are all about their hair and clothes and material things but heaven forbid something breaks or needs to be wont find them doing it. I know my sis has three boys and a husband and who do I usually see outside mowing the grass or power washing the deck, shovel snow, all the while they are sitting on their butts asking her what is for breakfast lunch or dinner so then she gets to do that as well but now that she is in the house she gets to wash everyones [sic] clothes, vacume [sic] mop, dust, do the dishes and the list goes on and on she will then ask any one of them to take out the garbage (mind you just a short walk from the kitchen to the curb and the answer in reply is from them com'on [sic] cant you see we are in the middle of watching TV can't you take it out. This is her usually [sic] routine in addition to being a school teacher. so...with that said now tell me why on earth would anyone want to get married and have kids now a days I know I don't nor would I want my daughter I would tell her to go have a great life and then if you find someone who you can (not just be in fantasy love with) be a real partner where you compliment each other and pick up the slack where the other needs then great but it should never be one sided where the other one does all the caring and the other does all the taking.

Finally, one of the women doesn't start in whining about the men.

jgholt said:

I really have to agree with Danny and Joe. I am a woman, 50' ish..... I have found that none of the women today can cook a "for real" meal. I am so glad I grew up in a time where microwaves and packaged foods were not around. I think it is very rewarding to cook for a man and I am not married. I do foster care and I love to teach my foster teen girls to cook. Yes, I love to be taken out to dinner or have a man do the bar-be-cuing, but I can cook anything and everything and when I see him take that first bite and know that he realy [sic] appreciates a home cooked meal, well, that warms my heart.

oyvey61 said

I have to agree with 504danny - as busy as I am working full time and trying to fit school in too - there is nothing that makes my husband happier, and like me more than when I cook a meal and straighten up the house. It's not a sexist thing - Doing these things make him feel cared for and that intensifies his affection for me. It's simple math!

Roughly what I said:

I totally agree with Joe, Chris, and Danny. I do find men who can actually do "man things" like handy-work around the house, fixing their car, or even hunting to be sexier than their relatively foppish counterparts. You know why? Because they have skills that I think men should bother to learn. I can fix a cabinet and hang shelves myself, and indeed have a huge tool chest in the house at my disposal, but I like knowing that a man will do those things for me simply because he wants to (this is with the assumption that I have given the guy a reason to want to do things for me, and in my experience, being nice to them and treating them like people--something I think more women should try--is more than enough).

Oh, and I'm in my 20s. My early 20s. I left the man-hating and the irrational belief that every guy who appreciates a woman who can cook is part of "the Patriarchy" in my teens, along with too much makeup and a tendency to listen to Marilyn Manson. Seriously, girls, ease up on the men. They're NOT saying that they think women should be barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen. They're saying that as men, they perceive women who have domestic skills as extra nice because, well...whether or not you particularly like it, a good woman can be the difference between a house and a home. This is what I call a "guy instinct." Seriously, this kind of thing gives them emotional comfort. And that really is OK. If I get emotional comfort from being wrapped up in strong arms and reassured that whatever I'm worrying about at the moment is going to work out, then I'm not going to be a hypocrite and complain if giving a man a sandwich and a kiss brightens his day.

And do you know why I like men who do "man things?" Because I appreciate that they do them. I show my appreciation with hugs and cooking. Men show theirs in return by changing the oil in the car, etc. This is not a feminist issue. This is just how men and women interact. While there's exceptions to this dynamic in many cases, it's not "bad" or degrading for either.

Then again, I was raised in a family (single mother, grandmother, basically no father figure) where learning skills like sewing, cooking, and housework were NOT encouraged for their husband-snagging potential, but for their practicality. I learned to cook at 8 years old and I'm pretty durn good at it. But I was never once told that men were superior to women. More importantly, I was never told that women were superior to men, either--I was taught that we're all equals, though not interchangeable (men are better suited physically for working on oil rigs, etc). I was also taught by example that knowing how to do "woman things" and also owning and running one's own business is not mutually exclusive. Knowing these skills does not mean you're going to suddenly be some kind of so-called June Cleaver caricature.

Point is, women my age who can't cook, clean, or basically look after themselves are, in my opinion, less self-sufficient than they should be. (I also think men should know these things, but I grew up in Mormon culture, where the boys are often pretty coddled and only get a crash course when they go on their missions.) These are valid, useful skills that ought to be encouraged and admired, but they just aren't anymore. I've grown up watching girls in my age group never learning how to cook anything more than boil-n-bag meals and anything you can put in a microwave. I literally don't even know how to use a microwave because I already know how to cook food from scratch, so what do I need a microwave for!? And I definitely agree with the commenter who said that cooking for yourself results in less weight gain. I have a very organic, relatively low-fat diet. I'm 5'6", slim to average build, only a little jiggly, between 110-120 lbs and around a dress size 4 to a 6, depending. Knowing what goes into your food is invaluable for maintaining a healthy diet. And besides, cooking is FUN. Sewing is FUN (if tricky). Cleaning...ok, cleaning sucks, but it's important to know how to do it.

And for the record, I enjoy homemaking and am happiest when doing little things to make someone I care about happy. This does not make me a June Cleaver, thank you very much. It doesn't make me anything, except someone with more practical skills than most women in my age group. My only regret in regards for this topic is that I have no significant other at this time to unleash loads of pies, casseroles, mended trousers, and smoochies upon. Being a partner in a business is great, but it doesn't provide the emotional satisfaction of seeing the "Aw shucks, thank you!" expression on the face of the man you love when you do something nice for him. And yes, it really can be as simple as a little sandwich. Hardly anything to start a war of the sexes about.

I’ve been told before that my appreciation of men who act like men made me less as a woman. I find that offensive. No one, certainly no other woman, may tell me that I am not female enough for their tastes, especially if they view any shouldering of “traditional” roles as a betrayal. You know what, feminism is supposed to be about choice. If I can be educated according to my career decisions, gainfully employed, AND enjoy cooking for people I care about, then I don’t give a flip if anyone is offended. If anything, the fact that I can be the flirt, the domestic goddess, and the businesswoman makes me rather good at this woman stuff.