"Feminism Just...Went Away": On Women And Happiness In The 00s

Just in case you didn't know: women want everything, and everything makes women unhappy. Camilla Long adds yet another piece to this hot trend, noting that though women in the "noughties" seemingly had everything, they're still horribly unhappy.

By the end of the 00s, Long argues, "we'd conquered men and marriage and boardrooms and babies, big pants, bad hair, British teeth and spots. We'd lived and learnt with Sun-in and scrunchies. Finally, we should have been happy. Except we weren't." Long points out the use of Botox and the "cankle" craze as signs that women are as unhappy as ever, and that the decade provided women with a crisis of confidence that led them to shop aimlessly as a means to find some sort of happiness or identity. Plastic surgery, Brazilian waxing, tanning to excess and dramatic weight loss also defined the last decade, Long notes, and the constant battles about what society deemed a woman "should" be doing "has left a generation of girls feeling puzzled and scared. They don't know whether to be fat or thin, drunk or sober, clever or stupid. "

I understand where Long is coming from; as I wrote this morning, covering Patricia Cohen's piece for the New York Times, mixed messages regarding female sexuality, often controlled and disseminated by men, have caused many women to worry about everything from their pubic hair to the lines around their eyes. Yet Long's argument that feminism, which she deems the potential cure for these societal ills, "just… went away. Feminism was last seen in the Celebrity Big Brother household: an old, grumpy Germaine Greer swaddled up like a boiler. For this generation, feminism had become little more than hairy patches and a weird preoccupation with one's vagina. The closest anyone comes to saying anything these days is: 'I'm not a feminist, but…'"

Naturally she's wrong in that feminism didn't just go away, but sadly she's also not far off when it comes to describing the "I'm not a feminist, but" brigade, who often want to reap the benefits of feminism without labeling themselves as such for fear of being stereotyped as a humorless, hairy bitch. "I think that's kind of sad," Long notes about her perceived death of feminism. But what's really sad is the resignation in Long's piece, the "oh, well, feminism's dead and we're all miserable," theme that tends to run through the "women have everything, but they are still sad!" pieces that often tend to neglect the fact that a. women do NOT have everything and b. men are still controlling many of these messages that affect the emotional, physical, and social well being of women.

Yes, the 00s were a decade of Girls Gone Wild and Female Chauvinist Pigs and the "I'm Not A Feminist, But" Brigade, but continuing to push the notion that women should be happy in the face of so many mixed messages and ridiculous expectations in a world still controlled by men is just as depressing as assuming that feminism has just up and died (it also doesn't help matters that Long continually refers to women as "girls"). Perhaps instead of looking back at the decade and wondering why women are so unhappy and so willing to go through surgeries and makeovers and injections, we should be questioning why society as a whole pushes women in that direction.

You Are A Very Noughtie—And Unhappy Girl [TimesOnline]