The War on Joy
“Before [today], the fact is that primarily, a 20-year-old woman would have been a wife and a mother,” author Kay Hymowitz told the crowd of about 100 for the Manhattan Institute in New York City. Men would have been mowing lawns and changing the oil in their family sedans instead of playing video games and watching television. In previous decades, adults in their 20s and 30s were too busy with real life for such empty entertainment, Hymowitz says. “They didn’t live with roommates in Williamsburg in Brooklyn and Dupont Circle in D.C.”
I’m going to quarrel with Hymowitz’s assumption that the vast majority of men in their 20s and 30s live in two neighborhoods in the country that probably have like, what, 20 square miles put together. Even if they have roommates, that strikes me as pretty dense. I’ve been to both of these neighborhoods, and while they aren’t, thank god, suburban sprawl, nor are you talking about an impoverished block in Calcutta. I’m just saying. Also, many women live there as well, riding their bikes along and scandalizing the religious fundamentalists with their freedoms. No one tell Hymowitz, or she’ll start writing her next book about how the freedom afforded women by the bicycle is secretly making them unhappy.
Matt makes a less facetious point:
Hymowitz’s argument, essentially, is that not only has feminism opened up new doors of opportunity to women[Marcotte’s note: including the riding of bicycles. Women even have the freedom to remove the gears, a scandalous fact I’m sure will be an entire chapter in Hymowitz’s new book.], but it’s helped contribute to the growth of a society in which young men are less crushed down with family and household obligations and are spending more time enjoying themselves. Except she means this as a bad thing! In both cases the conservative conceit seems to be that a decline in human suffering is a bad thing because it leads to a corresponding decline in admirable anti-suffering effort. John Holbo memorably dubbed this Donner Party Conservatism.
I think it’s important to remember that no matter how much huffing and puffing and rationalization goes on, a great deal of conservative ideology can be summed up as “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy“. Or even just the fear that someone might just be having fun, at least without clearing it with the authorities first that they’re the right race and income level to feel pleasure.
Take this quote that Jamelle Bouie nabbed from Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association:
Welfare has destroyed the African-American family by telling young black women that husbands and fathers are unnecessary and obsolete. Welfare has subsidized illegitimacy by offering financial rewards to women who have more children out of wedlock. We have incentivized fornication rather than marriage, and it’s no wonder we are now awash in the disastrous social consequences of people who rut like rabbits.
He had to work up to it, but he eventually got to the point, which is this strange obsession with stomping out the sexual agency of black people, who he clearly thinks are all on welfare. Which, by the way, if you’re wondering why the pro-choice community thinks anti-choice billboards targeting black women are rooted in a ridiculously racist view of black women’s sexuality, I think this “rut like rabbits” comment should be a solid clue to where we might get such an opinion.
I often find myself wondering, and today more than most days, how things can get this bad. It seems to me that if wingnuts put a tenth of much effort as they do into resenting others into improving their own home and sex lives, they’d be too busy being happy and blissful to give a fuck what anyone else is doing. It’s just basic logic, and I wonder why not just do the math and go for it.