The Great American Cultural Shift, Part 1
I just came back from South Carolina, a state to which I had never been before. While there, I met two absolutely stunning young women from Charleston who got me thinking about refining some thoughts I’ve had in recent years. Hotties to amateur philsophizing? God, I have to get some perspective….
In any case, my working hypothesis is that we are in the midst of a shift in the center of gravity in American culture away from the Coastal Elite metropolises to the South, West and small regional centers. I believe that within the next generation, the tastemakers and trendsetters will hail from cities like Charlotte, Nashville, Denver, and Phoenix rather than from New York, Los Angeles and Miami. I posit that American culture will become more conservative over the next 20-30 years, and we’ll see a return to “traditional values” becoming mainstream.
If I were you, I would be scratching my head going… how do we get from a couple of hotties in South Carolina to grand pronouncements. Well, here’s how it connects.
Being that I was with a group of young single men and women, they naturally began talking about love. One of the young men — who I’m certain had designs on one of the young women — asked what kind of expectations she had in a man. She answered, “Maturity, Intelligence, Ambition, Nurturing… someone who will give 110% of himself.” That alone is not surprising; what was surprising was what she added: “I’m a traditional woman.”
I inquired what she meant by that. She said, “I love my job, I want to have a career, but really, family is my priority, and I have higher expectations of myself than I do my man. I’ll be there for him 110%, take care of the family, cook his meals if that’s what he wants, do his laundry, as long as he mows the lawn and takes care of the outside stuff. I’ll support him completely, pick him up when he’s down, make sure he gets everything he needs from me as his wife.”
I have to say… I was somewhat stunned. It was not the response I was expecting.
Here’s a bright young woman, in her 20′s, college-educated, with a nice job as a professional, explicitly yearning for that which women of my generation (the Gen-X’ers) explicitly repudiate as backwards sexist misogynistic patriarchal phallocentric thinking. And her friend fully agreed. What’s going on here? Did I miss the memo about the beginning of the post-feminist era?
It’s dangerous thinking to extrapolate from one conversation with two young women. But that is the nature of sophistry, so… hell with it, why not?
These young women are southerners, and products of proud South Carolinian culture. They’re far from the stereotypes prevalent in the NYC crowd of southerners as racist rednecks. They were both cultured, urbane, sophisticated in every sense of the word… and yet, they proudly proclaimed themselves as “traditional women”. I posit that their worldview is evidence of the shift in the cultural center away from liberal northeast/west-coast enclaves of New York, LA, and San Francisco. It could almost be classified as a counter-revolution going on in the hearts and minds of the next generation, people born in the 80′s, who grew up during the Hip Hop era when values were mocked, religion belittled, and anything smacking of tradition, patriotism, or “wholesomeness” was seen as goody-two-shoes naivete. Instead, we celebrated the gangsta, the sexually promiscuous, hollywood celebs with their soap opera lives, and the bling-bling.
On the other hand, those of us who came of age during the 70′s and 80′s were also bombarded with the feminist message that a woman who doesn’t place career at the top of her priority list was a brainwashed traitor to her gender. Or something like that. It seemed perfectly reasonable to think that a woman could be a globe-trotting investment banker who attended all of the hip shows and charity benefits while raising three kids, with a husband who was the senior partner of a law firm. And still kept her girlish figure, and ran the Boston Marathon. I’m sure there are women like that out there, of course. Just no one I know.
Instead, I know dozens of incredibly smart, ambitious women in their mid-30′s to early-40′s who are partners at their law firms; who age prematurely; who fret about the lines on their face and the cellulite on their thighs; who rail against the perceived glass ceiling and bemoan that there aren’t any quality single men “out there”; who go home to an empty apartment at midnight to cuddle up with Tivo.
Maybe the two young women I met in Charleston reject that life? Perhaps the fact that they grew up in the South, went to school in the South, still think that Sunday is for church and not just football, and think there’s nothing demeaning about beauty pageants… perhaps their culture oriented them towards a different outlook?
More to come.
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