Generational Dynamics: Forecasting America's Destiny Generational
 Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's


Generational Dynamics Web Log for 24-Sep-04
CBS fined $550,000 because Janet Jackson bared her breast on MTV show

Web Log - September, 2004

CBS fined $550,000 because Janet Jackson bared her breast on MTV show

Women love "manly men"; the gender gap is narrowing. The sex revolution is over.

Janet Jackson's hand covers her bare breast as Justin Timberlake looks on during the Superbowl halftime show on CBS
Janet Jackson's hand covers her bare breast as Justin Timberlake looks on during the Superbowl halftime show on CBS

The FCC's $550,000 fine was historically high, reflecting the public's massive change in attitudes in recent years in matters of public sexuality.

The country is becoming increasingly conservative on sexual matters. While the women's lib and feminist movements of the 70s, 80s and 90s have emphasized the similarity of men and women, today we're seeing men and women emphasize their gender-specific roles. The sexual revolution has ended.

The change began to show shortly after 9/11 -- several news stories indicated that, all of a sudden, "women love manly men." Stories during the 1980s and 1990s tended to indicate women's attraction to "sensitive" men.

I noticed it myself when firemen and policemen were being praised as heroes for their willingness to run back into burning buildings to save people. It was the first time I could remember since the 1950s when men as a group were being called "heroes."

A related sign is that the "gender gap" is narrowing, indicating that the gender wars of the 1990s are ending. Recent polls have shown that the women and men are voting more and more similarly.

Generational Dynamics predicts that this trend will continue for the next two or three decades.

I've written about the end of the sexual revolution on one or two occasions on the past.

One reader criticized my statement, and wrote this to me:

The answer is yes, women will again become very much like they were in the 1950s -- staying closer to home, reluctant to take jobs outside the home, dependent on their husbands to support this. This is a cyclic thing that all societies go through at all times in history. The "Roaring 1920s" was a time of great sexual freedom, just like the 1990s, for example.

An interesting read is Naomi Wolf's 1993 book, Fire with Fire, The New Female Power and How It Will Change the 21st Century. (You may recall that in 2000, Wolf was appointed as an advisor to Al Gore. Her job was to help Gore learn to act and dress as more of an "alpha male.") She details how the poorer women filled factory jobs in the earlier 1800s, while the wealthier women moved "into lives of enforced domesticity, sexual repression, economic dependency, and unpaid `good works.'" It's the first group that continually expanded women's rights through war and peace. And the reader is right -- these changes will not backtrack during the next decades.

But there's another aspect. People don't understand the 1950s. It's true that women stayed at home and depended on their husbands, but that wasn't caused by the feminists' evil patriarchy.

The mothers of the 1950s were not the same as the mothers of today. The mothers of the 1950s had lived through the 1940s, and seen their brothers, fathers and friends killed overseas. Even people who've seen the movie Saving Private Ryan see the D-Day invasion as something like a live cartoon, but these 1950s mothers had seen the men they love storm the Normandy beach and get shot down like fish in a barrel. If we were traumatized by 9/11, imagine how they must have felt when all those men, the men they loved, were massacred, almost by their own choice.

So in the 1950s, these mothers wanted to stay home and be close to their children. Thus, women in the 1950s focused much more on home life than women today. It's what 1950s women wanted for themselves and their daughters.

Today, after forty years of women's lib and feminism, women are becoming increasingly anxious and concerned about terrorism, and this is causing them once again to assume feminine roles more and more, and to depend on men more and more. It's not a massive overnight change; instead, it's a gradual change that will take place over a period of years.

People in older generations today are confused by this, but the point of the generational paradigm is that what's important to a boy (or a girl) varies in a cyclic manner. During an awakening period like the 1960s, society stresses individual rights, and equality of men and women becomes the political goal. In a crisis period like today, individual rights are sacrificed to the needs of the nation as a whole.

Today's young men and women in the Millennial generation have noticed how anxious and frightened their parents are about terrorism, and they're concerned about their parents' welfare. Not only that, they've noticed that young men who serve as policemen, firemen and soldiers -- who are on the front lines of the war against terror -- are being called heroes. This is a vast change from the 1990s when, boys were expected to act like girls. Today's boys want to be those heroes, and today's girls want to be those heroes' girlfriends - they want to love "manly men." That's a major reason why there's no antiwar movement in today's colleges.

If you want to understand young people today, you have to reverse everything you concluded during the 1960s. The public got angry at Janet Jackson's breast bearing because women are expected to be increasingly modest today. Women are voting more like men because women trust men more than they used to, and because they have the same concerns that men have. As we approach the "war of civilizations" world war, we'll see more and more examples of how the sexual revolution is over -- at least for a decade or two. (24-Sep-04) Permanent Link
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