So white, affluent women are depressed, says the Guardian.
Hard on its heels is the news, courtesy of New York Times film critic A. O. Scott, that all of Gen X is having a midlife crisis. Generation X, defined as those born between 1961 and 1981, although Scott periodizes it as 1964 and 1979, includes approximately 46 million citizens. That’s a lot of people.
But I’m not having a midlife crisis. Of course, I’m a lady–a Gen XXer, perhaps–and when Scott writes “Gen X,” he really means “40-something coastal middle-class-or-better dudes who have the luxury of dicking around and pretending that the entire world shares their vaguely dissatisfied sense of “is that all there is?’-ness.” Scott, himself an X-er (b. 1966), goes to great lengths in his article to decry the shuffling, navel-gazing tendencies of men of his generation in a shuffling, navel-gazing essay that still equates being “grown-up” with being married, childed, and apparently, smug.
Scott is low-hanging fruit, but his piece, combined with the one under consideration in yesterday’s seminar, got me to thinking about depression as a function of privilege. Now, don’t get me wrong; I don’t mean the sort that results from atypical brain chemistry, hormones, etc. (I’ve dipped my toes in that water, and oy, privilege it ain’t.)
I do mean malaise. Spiritual ennui. Or even… some other word borrowed from French. Or rather, the chance to mire in it. The male mid-life crisis is long and storied (my dad bought a convertible! and maybe left my mom for a much-younger woman!), and women’s depression (qua “women’s depression”) is usually traced back to Betty Friedan’s “problem that has no name,” which affected a whole lot of Friedan’s peers: educated, privileged white women.
Granted, that problem was more about “not enough to do or be” than today’s “too much to do or be,” but I think the point remains: dwelling on your vague feelings of dissatisfaction is actually something of a luxury, one that those who are hustling just to feed their kids or get through the day alive simply can’t give their attention to.
I don’t want to deny that people, especially women-people (even wealthy white women-people), have real challenges and problems, and that identifying the sources of those problems (oh, like, idunno, THE PATRIARCHY) is important to resolving them, but dwelling on one’s wrongs, stewing in the injustice, is never the solution.
All of this to say: I’ve been a bit of a whiny baby of late. But as a white, educated, pretty-darn-privileged woman, who hangs out with people who are mostly like me, and who teaches students even more privileged, maybe what I need is the STFU a little bit and take some action.