City Journal contributing editor Hymowitz (Marriage and Caste in America: Separate and Unequal Families in a Post-Marital Age, 2007, etc.) examines how the career-first trend among young Americans has led to social and economic gains for women and a destabilization of gender roles for men.
In this witty book, the author argues that the shift toward an information-driven economy that began in the 1990s has created a major demographic event she calls “preadulthood.” The author describes this new stage of life as “a novel sort of limbo, a hybrid state of semi-hormonal adolescence and responsible self-reliance.” Preadulthood usually begins in college, where more women than men now earn four-year degrees. From their early 20s to early 30s, these young people often wander “from job to job…city to city, country to country” as they attempt to determine what they want to do with their lives. When they settle into a stable work life, it is typically in a knowledge-based profession. Many of these jobs—especially those in teaching, communications and health care—are dominated by women brought up with the idea that “[c]areer and independence [are] required. Love, marriage, husbands, and children entirely optional.” Confronted with the rise of the “alpha female” and pop-culture icons who often glorify adult male childishness, many men go into a state of slovenly “arrested development.” Sex, beer, and video games become the focal points of goalless lives that can extend into early midlife and even beyond. No such laxity exists for professional women, whose lives have the added constraint of a relentless biological clock. Hymowitz neither critiques feminism nor apologizes for modern male behavior. Rather, she offers enlightened observations to help women and men—who still say they want careers and families—make sense of cultural paradigms no longer based on the traditional life-scripts that once delineated gender roles. Women must come to better terms with their biology and hold males to greater account, while men must dispense with the self-destructive “navel-gazing” and “man up.”
A witty and insightful cultural analysis.