Rant: Deborah Schoeneman’s Woman-Child

I spent most of yesterday rolling my eyes and snorting in derision at a post which popped up on Jezebel about the woman-child and how this is becoming a worrying cultural phenomenon. It sounds more like a rant which throws together some of the cultural and fashion trends along with consumerism than an insightful analysis of the lives of women in their twenties and thirties.

The woman-child, the female equivalent of the man-child, is in Schoeneman’s mind, a new entity created by consumerism and pop-culture which allows women to continue with girlish behaviours and avoid growing up. She engages in behaviours which are at odds with the traditional things done by her peer-group, like watching and reading young adult films and books, liking glittery nail polish, and admiring the fashion sense of Katy Perry and Zooey Deschanel. She blogs, instagrams and tweets her way through life. She also says in an interview with Glamour magazine that these women are also about desexualisation and not appearing sensual. In essence, she is a girly girl, a figure our culture tends to ridicule anyway.

There are two big problems even with this definition. The first is the idea that you belong to a peer-group because of your age, location and economic status, not because of your interests and preferences, and because you are a member of a peer-group, you should act like them and mimic their fashions. The second is the disdain in which girly activities and traditionally feminine pastimes which have came back into fashion like crafting and baking are held. Are those things outlined above feminine or childish, or should we even  bother analysing half those things as even saying anything remotely insightful about another person?

Her main argument is that the woman-child is choosing not to grow up into an adulthood full of potential trauma, but I would argue that young women are choosing to grow up in a different way to their mothers and older sisters. What was for them may not be for the younger generation and for plenty of good reasons. The economic recession in Ireland at least has meant that plenty of people have had to put important “grown-up plans” on hold, like starting a career or buying a house and end up getting stuck in the post-college graduation void of having enough money to have some fun but not enough to settle down or make long-term plans. The other thing is really do we want it? We have grown up watching men getting to have all the fun while our mothers got the stress and heartache of taking care of a household, raising children and trying to work at the same time. Why would we settle for that?

Here’s the thing, we need to stop problematising other people’s decisions and choices. What other people do with their lives is mostly noone else’s problem. You can like all sorts of different things at the same thing, something I thought we all learned when we were children.

So here’s my giant list of contradictions: I have a degree and a masters in politics but I like chick flicks. I love steak and proper grown-up food but I frequently eat cupcakes for breakfast. I have read a wide range of the classics from English literature, Greek philosophy and the American greats but I also love the trend for easy to read young adult books. I like spending my weekends in the outdoors covered in dirt but during the week, I dress up in feminine clothes and wear makeup and perfume. My toenails are currently painted blue and I have glittery shampoo, shower-gel and eye-shadow. Am I a woman-child? Do I even care?


5 thoughts on “Rant: Deborah Schoeneman’s Woman-Child

  1. God, that post annoyed me so much. Adulthood already has such a bad rap as the place where fun goes to die; we don’t need women like Deborah Schoeneman reinforcing that. Frankly, I think that as long as I can keep up with my responsibilities, maintain a certain level of civic engagement and treat other people with kindness and respect, I’m doing pretty fucking good, you know? And besides, how ridiculously dull would the world be if every Woman of a Certain Age dressed and talked and acted the same way. SO BORING.

    P.S. She doesn’t seem to understand that the reason why women went to see “The Hunger Games” and “What To Expect When You’re Expecting” is that the former is totally awesome and the latter was boring and trite.

      • Definitely. I don’t really understand her gripe. Are you only allowed to be considered a grown up if you are suitably serious and dour? Life is serious enough with creche fees and mortgages and jobs and bills. Every so often you need a bit of glitter in your nail polish to brighten things up! 🙂 (Incidentally, I enjoyed both the Hunger Games and What to Expect. So where do I fit in her analysis?)

  2. Pingback: I’m Not A Feminist But… | Aurora La Petite

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