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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


How Vital is Our Youth?

‘Blue is the New Black’ wasn’t the ill-conceived article that Maureen Dowd wrote attributing President Obama’s newfound unpopularity to his race instead of his policy, though the title may have applied. It was the one explaining that women are generally unhappy thanks to a combination of societal and internal pressures that men are not similarly prey to. The two pieces have one apect in common, however; they both highlight a completely illegitimate, humiliatingly outdated disticintion that will only continue to exist as long as we entertain it as such. We don’t empower ourselves by bridging these so-called race and gender gaps, but by refusing to recognize them.

There is a pernicious and limiting effect of blaming factors out of our control, or the nebulous villain we describe as ‘society,’ for our problems, as though we are unaccountable or powerless. This mentality is perpetuated by overstressing the effects that demographic information such as age, race, and gender have on the way we choose to live our lives.

Dowd shrewdly points out the rift between people who take advantage of the opportunities presented to them and those who blame their inadequacies on society. Unfortunately, she makes a clumsy attempt to broaden the scope of and colloqualize her work, leading to gross overgeneralizations. When a woman who influences so many chooses to blame her own sense of dissatisfaction on her gender role, she has the responsibility to make sure that her claims hold water. She cites a study that shows that women are happier at the beginnings of their lives , and that mens’ happiness levels peak at a later age, and chooses to invent relationships of causation that she cannot possibly prove.

Dowd bases this piece on a gender and generational gap to which she ascribes many of the differences between the way men and women view themselves and one another. She postulates that women are ‘doing more and feeling less,’ a preposterous assertion in an era when self-referential writing is abundantly available everywhere from Facebook to her own column.

She explains our interest in youth as a downfall of the new era of productive, successful, and beautiful women; unfortunately for this theory, our obsession with youth dates back to the Neolithic age.

She fails to recognize individuals in her column, or to acknowledge that our personal outlooks (and, resultantly, our futures) are a function of our temperaments and self-made circumstances, not our genders. The overgeneralizations that Dowd makes are widely available in culture and media, yet fail to represent our current generation or recognize that men and women are predominantly similar, not different.

It’s an onslaught of anti-feminism dosed with a heavy helping of self-pity. In yet’ another humiliating’ perversion of psychological research by’ today’s unscrupulous’ media, Dowd explains that women are ‘hormonally more complicated and biologically more vulnerable’ than men, though extensive psychological testing has proven women to be more capable of withstanding solitude and living longer than men. While no scientific study will ever comprehensively quantify the differences between men and women, suffice it to say that we are built somewhat differently from one another,’ not unequally so, and’ that we compensate for these differences through personality and motivation.

This kind of bilge begs for a second glance at the decade in which it was written. Psychological research on happiness and self-satisfaction is notoriously unreliable, as participants are influenced by their own moods and the ways the studies were conducted; to assume that the entire female population is unhappy after reaching ‘a certain age’ based on one study is ridiculous.

Happiness and unhappiness, such as we experience them, are exclusively derived from our senses of self-sufficiency, belonging and contribution to society, which lend to and cause our confidence more than our gender or gender roles could.

This is where we begin to look for ‘trade-offs’ in the lives of successful women; a woman with a lucrative or established career may not be considered emotionally or personally successful because other women tend not to view her as someone who could occupy a dual role. We also think about people the way they choose for us to; if we’re convinced that we can’t achieve a balance between all the hats we have to wear, others will percieve us as unable to do so as well.

Dowd may have been attempting to describe a sense of decay or unfulfilment that is associated with aging, for those who are unready to age.

Our youth worship, which Dowd refers to as yet another unfair consequence of age that only negatively affects females, is something that we have to see as having a cohort, not a group of critics. Youth is something of a perspective or lens, which we ideally hold onto as an aspect of our eventual maturity.

Although Dowd seems to see youth as vital to women in today’s society, her observations lack the vitality of youth: namely, the idea that the self is mutable and dynamic rather than restricted by what society expects of us. No matter how indsustrialized we are, and despite the knowledge that barring a a major tragedy we’ll live for three quarters of a century, we’re perpetually gripped by a fear of aging.

Unfortunately, the fear is not of death or no longer contributing to our families or society. Few of us regularly contemplate the former; we’re more afraid of being deemed irrelevant or unattractive because this hurts our sense of self worth.

The youth we want is more akin to the novelty we seek out in our media and products. Its short lived nature is what’s so attractive about it, and also what’s most false about it. Our generation may suffer from overextended teenage years. We indulge in a lack of responsibility and self sufficiency well into our adulthoods, and as Taylor Swift and the Twilight novels demonstrate, we maintain immature aspects of dependence on others rather than seeking out mutual partnership in relationships.

Confidence, substance, and love based on partnership are things we have forever. They contribute to the actual nature of youth. Satisfaction comes from a sense of achievement derived from responsibility, not the resolution that society is prejudiced against us due to our age, race, or gender.

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