Watch this documentary, Disruption. “We’re the first generation to feel the impacts of climate disruption, and the last generation that can do something about it. The film enlarges the issue beyond climate impacts and makes a compelling call for bold action that is strong enough to tip the balance to build a clean energy future.”
Ford Motor Company studies trends because it takes years for a new car to get to the assembly line. Sheryl Connelly, manager of Global Trends and Futuring, identified an important trend as the Female Frontier. Key factors are the increasing number of women university graduates (a majority in the US and China) and women workers in the new knowledge economy, many of whom delay marriage and parenting to establish their careers. (Half of US adults are single, although most Chinese adults are married.) The report cites the Athena Doctrine survey of 64,000 people in 13 countries.
Globally, 66% of women and men surveyed agreed that the world would be a better place if men thought more like women and 81% said everyone needs both masculine and feminine traits to succeed today. Millennials were especially supportive. Of the 13 countries cited, only one didn’t have a large percent who agreed with the statement (only 45% agreed in Indonesia). John Gerzema and Michael D’Antonio also conducted interviews in 26 nations for their book The Athena Doctrine: How Women (and the Men Who Think Life Them) Will Rule the Future (2013). The researchers asked their global sample to classify 125 human traits and found that values considered feminine are considered the key to effective leadership, success and happiness. The traits include nurturing, listening, flexibility, patience, cooperation, collaborating and sharing. In contrast, traits considered masculine were rejected: control, aggression, and black-and-white thinking. These traits are socialized rather than innate. They think a global referendum on men, with Millennials especially dissatisfied with patriarchy. The shift in values is driven by technology, the financial crisis and globalization of the new knowledge and service economy.
In his classic book Love and Death in the American Novel (1960), Leslie Fiedler shows that American fiction centers on boys and men running from the civilizing control of women, epitomized in Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer and Holden Caulfield and other books found in the children’s section of the library. New York Times film critic A.O. Scott updates Fiedler, maintaining that the popularity of comics and teen young adult fiction like The Hunger Games for adults indicate the continuation of juvenile entertainment.[i] TV and films show the allegorical decline of the adult white male; “It seems that, in doing away with patriarchal authority, we have also, perhaps unwittingly, killed off all the grown-ups.” Examples of bad men who don’t make it are Tony Soprano in The Sopranos, Don Draper in Mad Men, and Walter White in Breaking Bad. Film characters played by Adam Sandler and “bro comedy” films like The Hangover portray “the rebellious animus of the disaffected man-child directed not just against male authority but also against women,” with solace found in male buddies. Shows like Girls and Masters of Sex that indicate “nobody knows how to be a grown-up anymore.” That leaves girls as symbols of success and goodness.
[i] A.O. Scott, “The Death of Adulthood in American Culture,” New York Times, September 11, 2014.
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Mainly girls’ media activism in Australia, England and the US is discussed in Next Wave Cultures: Feminism, Subcultures, Activism (2008), edited by Australian Anita Harris. She pointed out in the book’s introduction that, “Very little has been said about either the political participation or nonparticipation of young women in particular,” with the exception of feminist “generation wars” and the less political activism of the third wave.
Taft reported in Rebel Girls that, “Despite their activism, girls are rarely considered and written about as significant political actors. They appear but do not speak.” They’re left out of academic research on girls’ studies and on youth movements. Taft says that the focus is on college students rather than teenagers. Despite the increasing interest in girls’ studies over the last two decades, Emily Bent agarees that “the research on girls and politics is surprisingly incomplete” and invisible.[i] Most of the interest in girls’ studies, youth studies, and children’s rights is in future interest in politics rather than girls’ current activism. However, several international studies cited by Bent found that girls valued political participation as much or more than boys, although some view it as a masculine arena. Girls were more likely to imagine themselves becoming politically involved in the future if the media discussed women politicians. Anita Harris points out that some girls are interested in politics, but consider the traditional form corrupt and not interested in their views.
Bent applies standpoint theory to her research about girls active in the UN Commission on the Status of Women (established in 1946). The approach believes that research should begin with and prioritize the lives of the marginalized and oppressed as they know most about their situation, named “one of the most influential and debated theories to emerge from second-wave feminist thinking.”[ii] The girls told her they didn’t have actual input into policy-making. A teen named Jessica told her when they tried to say something that wasn’t strictly on the agenda, they took the microphone away. I advocate that researchers change the common practice of ignoring youth or presuming to speak for them without including their voices.
[i]Emily Bent, “The Boundaries of Girls’ Political Participation: A Critical Exploration of Girls’ Experiences as Delegates to the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women,” Global Studies of Childhood, Vol. 3, No. 2, 2013, p. 174.
[ii] “Feminist Standpoint Theory,” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Australian academic Anita Harris believes that girls are used by Western commercial interests to symbolize the self-made “can-do” girl of the future, mutating feminism and the concept of “ girl power” with neoliberal individualism. By making good choices and being consumers, smart girls succeed in being “winners in a new world” of late modernity, success stories in contrast to the “at-risk” girl who makes poor choices and isn’t able to consume much.[i] Girls are portrayed as “the ideal citizens of the future.”[ii] The approach is parodied in an Australian girl’s zine of the 1990s called “My Life as a Mega-Rich Bombshell.” Of course this fantasy ignores the reality of increasing inequality, reduced government support, and youth unemployment. In an insecure era of global change from industrialization to information economies, girls are “constructed as the ideal new citizens” in their individual efforts and consumerism.[iii] The goal to be famous online, in webcams, TV reality shows and teen magazines replaced love and marriage in girls’ fantasies.[iv]
Increasing numbers of government and NGO programs for girls are “preoccupied” with girls’ loss of voice in adolescence, encouraging girls to speak up online and at conferences and other spaces supervised by adults, making them open to surveillance and control. Harris states that the problem with encouraging girls to express themselves is that it’s channeled through adult mediators and authorities who provide guidance:[v] “It could be argued that the more young women speak, the less power they have.”[vi] To subvert this control, girls turn to the new media-based politics of “border work” between the public and private without adult supervision on their websites (“Ms Mediocre,” “Losergrrl,” and “Big Bad Chinese Mama”), zines (“I’m So Fucking Beautiful,”) alternative music (punk, grunge, and hip-hop), performance, graffiti, stickering, culture jamming or “ad busting,” art, and comics (“Re:Vulva Girl”). Some young political activists also use traditional tactics including demonstrations, petitions, letter writing, and lobbying.
[i] Anita Harris. Future Girl: Young Women in the Twenty-First Century. Routledge, 2004, p. 1.
[ii] Harris, p. 184.
[iii] Harris, p. 10.
[iv] Harris, p. 127.
[v] Harris, p. 140.
[vi] Harris, p. 142.