We were lied to. The women of my generation were told that we could ‘have it all’, as long as ‘it all’ was marriage, babies and a career in finance, a cupboard full of beautiful shoes and terminal exhaustion – and even that is only an option if we’re rich, white, straight and well behaved. These perfect lives would necessarily rely on an army of nannies and care-workers, and nobody has yet bothered to ask whether they can have it all.
We can have everything we want as long as what we want is a life spent searching for exhausting work that doesn’t pay enough, shopping for things we don’t need and sticking to a set of social and sexual rules that turn out, once you plough through the layers of trash and adverts, to be as rigid as ever.
As for young men, they were told they lived in a brave new world of economic and sexual opportunity, and if they felt angry or afraid, if they felt constrained or bewildered by contradictory expectations, by the pressure to act masculine, make money, demonstrate dominance and fuck a lot of pretty women while remaining a decent human being, then their distress was the fault of women and minorities. It was these grasping women, these homosexuals and people of colour who had taken away the power and satisfaction that was once their birthright as men. We were taught, all of us, that if we were dissatisfied, it was our fault, or the fault of those closest to us. We were built wrong, somehow. We had failed to adjust. If we showed any sort of distress, we probably needed to be medicated or incarcerated, depending on our social status. There are supposed to be no structural problems, just individual maladaption.