Apparently adulthood is over.
YA fiction, comic book movies, etc. It all apparently points to a state of perpetual childhood that adults are increasingly living in. Or so some people think.
Thankfully, there has been some extremely thoughtful and sober commentary on this. Among my favorites so far are this Salon piece. I emphatically agree with the economic arguments it makes as well, but it was this part which stood out to me for obvious reasons (bolding is mine):
It’s all very well to discuss feminism as a force of cultural liberation expressed by Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Lena Dunham, but for millions of women in the Western world it has also been an economic imperative, one that set them free from some (but not all) traditional expectations and thrust them into a job marketplace where they are often underpaid relative to their male counterparts. This is too complicated an argument to develop here, but I suspect that the “death of adulthood” is so much more evident among men than women because women are still called upon to perform productive labor – the bearing and nurturing of children – that cannot be or generally is not performed by men.
Elsewhere, another very thoughtful analysis (in Twitter form!) by cultural journalist Jeet Heer, includes truisms like these:
Women have worst of both worlds: must bear the burden of adulthood without enjoying the privileges of patriarchs.
In other words, women, due to endemic sexism and calcified gender norms, have to present as adults, but don’t accrue any of adulthood’s attendant benefits. In this, as in other things, we don’t get much of a choice. Furthermore, Heer points out that laments such as these about the supposedly dismal state of adulthood are themselves a way to prop up the patriarchy (bolding again mine):
Rhetoric of “we are not men our father’s were” has been used to shore up male privilege since at least time of Homer.
Fear of the decline of patriarchy is inextricably from patriarchy: it’s an essential rhetorical weapon by which authority is shored up.
If that’s “adulthood,” I say the 1950’s and 60’s can keep it.