Social Question

CugelTheClueless's avatar

Are we too hard on teenage girls, and too easy on women in their early 20's?

Asked by CugelTheClueless (584 points ) August 6th, 2012

As my friends’ daughters and nieces reach their teen years, I’m finding that they don’t fit the negative stereotypes of teenage girls that I see portrayed in the media. Now, I don’t have to parent them or date them, so maybe my view is skewed, but I’m actually finding that they are more pleasant to be around than women in their early 20’s—women at that age are impossible. There’s no talking to them. Their lives are just one big soap opera, and if they’ve gone to college, their heads are full of social science half-truths which have not yet been tempered by life experience. Yet women in their late 20’s are the human beings whose company I most enjoy, so something must happen around age 25. Maybe this question should be, what’s the deal with women between the ages of 20 and 24?

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37 Answers

bolwerk's avatar

No idea how to account for your personal experience (“social science half-truths”?), but I wouldn’t mediate life through mass media – much less televised mass media, which is mostly reducible to a few cheesy sitcoms, propaganda celebrity PR news, and cruelty-celebrating reality TV. Some teenage girls are going to be perfectly decent people, and others will vote for Mitt Romney when given the chance.

gailcalled's avatar

How big is your sample of women in their early twenties? Surely all of them aren’t “impossible.”

JLeslie's avatar

I do think being the parent of a teen probably makes the view of teens much different as you pointed out. I would have to agree that young women in their early 20’s can be pretty full of themselves. I probably was back then. My sister worked at a university medical center for a while and she said the college students were idiots. They drove her crazy. Maybe it is our expectations? We are ok with younger teens not knowing things yet, or being rebellious, but by the time someone is in their 20’s we have higher expectations. Since adolescence seems to be rather extended in modern day, we maybe need to accept 20 year olds are still sorting through separating from their parents and their brains are still developing.

Also, younger teens have to play a part, they need to project being good girls, no sex, no alcohol, etc. While 20 somethings don’t have to hide it anymore.

marinelife's avatar

I believe that you are generalizing. I am sure there are miserable teenage girls just as I am sure there are women in their 20s who are thoughtful and nice.

In fact, I know some on Fluther.

Mariah's avatar

Huh, my observations have not been the same. I’m biased, of course, as a 20 year old woman! But in my experience, most girls go through the dramatic soap opera phase in high school, and tend to mellow out a bit in college.

Shippy's avatar

I think a lot of ages brings on different challengers, the 20’s are no different. It is how the person handles the challenges and or the support and love they are given during this phase. I had a baby and was on my own at this age. As a working mum and with a child I had little expectation of life. A lot of my peers around this time, were having fun and enjoying finding themselves. Plus had higher expectations. Women and men at different ages can be difficult and kind all at once, or more one of the other. I used to be quite ageist in my approach but really there are silly fools at 50, and women at 50 who expect a lot too. (For example). However, I am finding that parents are helping their kids a lot more now, and so therefore a lot of growth is stunted, and the expectations of life go higher. Which can be annoying to others.

JLeslie's avatar

@mariah I can’t imagine you were ever overly dramatic or ditzy.

Aethelflaed's avatar

I agree that media representations of teenage girls aren’t that accurate. But instead of shifting the hate, you could just stop hating.

nikipedia's avatar

Can you be specific about the encounters you’ve had with women in their early 20s that bothered you?

Bellatrix's avatar

I talk to a lot of young people and I can’t say this has been my experience. Women in their early 20s are individuals and as with any other age group they come from a diverse range of backgrounds. Perhaps you could look at where you are meeting women of this age. Broaden the activities you undertake that bring you into contact with women. Join different groups, clubs and talk to women in different settings.

Mariah's avatar

@JLeslie Haha, you’d be surprised.

CugelTheClueless's avatar

@gailcalled It’s hard to gauge my sample size, since I’m going partly on memories that go back a while, including memories of how some of my friends have changed over the years.
@JLeslie “Full of themselves”—that’s exactly what I mean.
@Shippy Yes, I should have limited these observations to childless women. Women in their 20’s with kids are more grounded.
@Aethelflaed Hate? Seems a bit strong, but ok.
@nikipedia Here are few cases: (1) I’m at a bar talking with an acquaintance. He has a dim view of the American public and says that most people lack a basic understanding of how our system works. I say he is overstating the problem. To prove this, I turn to the two young women next to us at the bar and ask them to name the three branches of the US gov’t. I lose the bet, because between the two of them, they can’t name even one. (2) I’m at a party. The host is a southerner and has a Confederate flag draped on a wall. A young woman sees a couple of us looking at it (I may have been scowling) and asks us what it is; she’s seen it before, but doesn’t have any idea what it means. (3) I have several female friends and acquaintances who are or were active in various causes, usually left-wing. The ones under 25 tend to be more dogmatic, with less nuance, and less tolerance for anyone who questions their ideology. The older ones used to be that way but have mellowed. (4) I’m poking around on a dating site that has a video chat function. A young woman invites me to chat. I ask her why so many young people are using a site like that, since I would think they would have lots of opportunities to meet in person. She gets mad and says I’m just like her mother, and continues to berate me until I close the channel. I could go on. The three biggest problems seem to be ignorance, self-righteousness, and rudeness, but fortunately very few young women have all three of these faults (the ideologues are generally well-informed, and the ignoramuses don’t care about politics or other serious topics).

nikipedia's avatar

@CugelTheClueless, I guess I have a very different read of these situations than you do.

Regarding (1) and (2), failure to grasp basic facts is not something that develops between the teens and early 20s (as far as I know); I doubt these women would have performed much better on these tasks in their teens. Further, I am not altogether convinced ignorance is a female-specific problem. So neither age nor sex seems to be relevant to those situations. I wonder why you thought they were?

Regarding (3), that is not a specific case, just another description of your observations, so it is difficult to discuss.

Regarding (4), you do not see why someone would be offended that you implied that she should have a better way to meet someone than using a dating site…while you were using the same dating site? And again, in what way is that directly related to her being either in her early 20s, or female?

Paradox25's avatar

I think that it comes down to how conformist any type of person is, regardless of their sex, gender, age, race, ethnicity. I can only speak from my own experiences, but my experience has taught me way too many times that it is people who are too worried about conforming, or people who are clique prone that seem to be the most difficult to get along with.

submariner's avatar

I’m having a hard time making up my mind on this one. I have no daughters or nieces :-( , and most of my friends’ daughters are pre-teens, but I did substitute teach grades 6–12 for a while, and have also taught college, so I have some basis for observation. Most of the teen girls were ok, generally less trouble than the boys, but the few who did act out were the ones I most wanted to give the back of my hand to. As for women in their early 20s, well, I am reminded of what the protagonist of Lolita said about US co-eds (of course, the character was a pedophile, but Nabokov taught college in the US, and he may have been expressing his own view through the character). But I don’t necessarily see them at their best in my classes. I’ve also met some very bright young women and girls through volunteer activities.

I too have been shocked by what young women and girls don’t know, and I’m not the only one. I heard an piece on NPR many years ago, maybe it was on This American Life, from a producer of a trivia game show for girls on Nickelodeon(?) that was supposed to counteract the peer pressure that some girls feel not to appear too smart or studious. Unfortunately, the writers had to dumb down the questions below grade level to avoid stumping the contestants. There was an example of a young woman who thought that WWI came before the American Revolution. But I wonder, do girls know less, or do they just know different stuff? I could rattle off the dates of all the major US wars when I was 12, but I didn’t know there was such a color as fuchsia until I got to college, and I didn’t learn to identify several common flowers like hollyhock and iris until I was over 35.

As for their behavior, I think women in their early 20s (unlike many girls in their teens) have grasped that they are desired, and that this gives them a certain power, but they haven’t figured out how to use that power, and having that power doesn’t stop them from getting burned in various ways. This probably causes the strange mix of arrogance and insecurity that some of them exhibit.

Vaguely related: Sacagawea was 15 when she joined the Lewis & Clark expedition. I bet teenage girls could accomplish a lot if appropriately challenged and if certain distractions could be removed.

JLeslie's avatar

@sumariner I know for me, especially when I was in my teens and 20’s, I could have solved a calculus prolem easier than answer a history question. I hated history, I still have trouble retaining it. Although, for whatever reason, the basics of our government, like the three branches, how many people in congress, succession if a president could no longer perform, how many states in the US, that stuff stuck. It definitely deoends on the subject matter, and when Jay Leno, or whoever, walks around on the street asking questions it is almost never a question about math or science. Having said that, I think a lot of young people and adults in America, both male amd female, are quite clueless about a lot. I know a lot is very vague, but I don’t know what else to call it.

CugelTheClueless's avatar

@nikipedia It’s hard to say. If somebody starts falling behind at age 16, the gap might be more obvious later in life when they’ve lost more ground. As for gender, I’m pretty sure I’ve never met an American male over 14 who couldn’t identify the Confederate flag, but I admit I haven’t taken a poll. I’m just going by the cases I’ve been confronted with. I’ll say this much, men who are ignorant don’t let that stop them from having strong opinions (go ahead, take the shot), unlike young women. But young men also seem to enjoy getting into it with people they disagree with more than young women do.

On the dating thing, I wasn’t criticizing anyone for using a dating site. My question was anthropological. I hate dating sites and use them as a last resort. I was trying to find out whether young people actually prefer using dating sites, or if they too are having trouble connecting and so are turning to dating sites. On the face of it, it would seem that they would have more opportunities to meet in person than older people.

JLeslie's avatar

@CugelTheClueless Do you live in the south?

CugelTheClueless's avatar

No, the Southerner was a transplant.

JLeslie's avatar

@CugelTheClueless I’m confused. Are you saying a southerner did not know the confederate flag?

CugelTheClueless's avatar

No, the Southerner I was referring to hosted the party and owned the flag. He knew what it was. The woman (a recent college grad at the time, btw) who didn’t know what it was was not from the South.

nikipedia's avatar

If you really mean to take the position that you think women are more ignorant than men, that is going to be an unpleasant conversation for you.

JLeslie's avatar

@CugelTheClueless I see. It doesn’t really surprise me. The confederate flag is just a piece of history to people not from the south, and many times the flag is not seen again for long periods of time, unless they go to a movie, or specifically watch politics and catch a news story about how some southern state wants to keep the flag on a building. The 20 year old might have received an A on the test in school, but 5–10 years later doesn’t pull it out of her memory so quickly. I really really doubt if you polled 200+ men and women from the north who were in their teens and 20’s that there would be much of a gender difference in who knew what the confederate flag was. I agree I think it should be recognized, since it is so symbolic of a time in our history, but I don’t find it very surprising.

Also, there is a difference between not being able to recall something and being able to recognize an answer. Like the difference between an essay question and multiple choice. Multiple choice might trigger memories, while a question out of the blue it might be difficult to find the answer in our memories.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@CugelTheClueless If you’re shocked that a college grad wouldn’t know that, instead of getting pissed at young women, you could get pissed at the older men who totally failed to set any kind of standards at the college she went to.

JLeslie's avatar

@CugelTheClueless I was just going to add a personal example, I think the first time I saw a confederate flag in real life outside of a museum was when I moved to North Carolina at the age of 31.

CugelTheClueless's avatar

Actually, my point is not so much about gender as it is about expectations. Conventional wisdom has it that males aged 16–24 tend to be oafish and callow, and on the whole, they are. Conventional wisdom about females aged 14–17 is that they are airheads—think of John Updike’s short story A & P, in which the protagonist says,

You never know for sure how girls’ minds work (do you really think it’s a mind in there or just a little buzz like a bee in a glass jar?)

I used to more or less agree with that view, but my recent admittedly limited interactions with girls this age lead me to believe they’ve got more going on upstairs than conventional wisdom gives them credit for.

As for women in their early 20’s, conventional wisdom seems to give them a pass. In a way, it’s worse than excusing males with “boys will be boys”, because at least that view admits that there is something that needs excusing. Women in their 20’s can get away with anything except breaking the arbitrary rules they impose on each other, and nobody bats an eye.

Case in point (here’s a specific example for you, @nikipedia): I went out for a drink last night. The place was pretty busy for a Tuesday. I found myself sitting next to three attractive young women at the bar (one was conventionally pretty, the other two were hot in ways only connoisseurs like myself appreciate). So anyway, the “pretty” one taps me on the shoulder and suggests I buy the three of them shots. No how do you do, no introduction, just exercising her God-given right to demand free drinks from older guys because she’s young and cute, I guess. But I am not feeling inclined to be anybody’s patsy that night, so I refuse, and suggest she buy me a shot instead. Then I turn to her friends and ask if they are softball players. (They had the build for it—fine big strapping country gals visiting their skinny city cousin, from the look of them. Damn, maybe I should’ve bought the drinks. One chance in a thousand is better than nothing, considering the payoff. Having principles can be a real pain sometimes.) But the pretty one butts in and announces, “No! You can’t talk to us if you don’t buy us drinks. I’m gonna be a bitch about this. The bitch wall is down!”, and illustrates this with a downward motion of her arm, like the descending gate at her favorite store at the mall at closing time. She insists that her friends follow her lead on this, and they do, though to be fair, they seem embarrassed, and one of them mutters “Sorry” as I left, which I do after telling the pretty one that her behavior displayed a lack of self-respect.

Aethelflaed's avatar

Wow. The way you talk about young women… probably shouldn’t be congratulating yourself on your “connoisseur” levels of appreciation for them. I can see why they thought they’d need many, many drinks to enjoy your company.

nikipedia's avatar

@CugelTheClueless, interesting that you choose to generalize about the behavior of all women in that age range based on the behavior of one, even juxtaposed against two women who behaved differently.

It really sounds to me like you have an axe to grind and are looking for reasons to look down on these people.

I admit to taking this personally; I am 27 now but up until a few years ago would have met your definition of woman-in-early-20s. I finished college at 21, moved across the country by myself, got 2 jobs, worked 7 days a week for a long time, paid off a good chunk of my student loans, and started grad school, all in my early 20s. I don’t think I was stupid. I also don’t think any of my friends were stupid. My best friend started her own business in her early 20s and now (at 28) makes more money than I ever will. And guess what, we both knew what the confederate flag is.

CugelTheClueless's avatar

@Aethelflaed—yeah, you’re right, I should allow the fashion industry to tell me what to find attractive instead of finding something to like in women of various shapes and sizes. Sorry. I’ll run right out and buy the latest Vogue.

Geez louise, lighten up! If I can laugh at my predicament, you ought to be able to laugh at it too.

@nikipedia I hope it goes without saying that any generalization has it limits, especially generalizations about human behavior. But which of us is overgeneralizing the most? Are more women in their 20’s like the one at the bar, or like you and your friends? You rightly take pride in your accomplishments—but that presupposes that you are a cut above the average. So you shouldn’t take my comments personally.

I don’t have an ax to grind and certainly wasn’t looking for conflict last night. I would have been delighted if these three young women had proven me wrong about women their age. Maybe two of them would have if their obnoxious friend had let them. So I will give women in their early 20’s the benefit of the doubt and consider the possibility that I have committed a sampling error, compounded by the well-documented human tendency to give negative experiences greater salience in memory.

No one seems to have a problem with my claim that teenage girls are smarter than they are given credit for, or that women over 25 are pretty cool, so I’ll for the time being I’ll assume that I’m not completely wrong about them.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@CugelTheClueless I didn’t say you should let the fashion industry dictate your terms. I’m saying you shouldn’t pride yourself on managing to find women who aren’t models to be not ugly when you clearly still have a low opinion of them, and expand that opinion to all young women. This was one woman, one time, and she was drunk. Are you drunk while typing all of this?

Just to be clear: you created a thread just to announce that those in a group I’m a part of sucks, and then I’m the one that needs to lighten up? Who was so bugged by this bar encounter that they needed to ask a whole question about it?

gailcalled's avatar

@CugelTheClueless: As with any generalization about a huge group of people, it will apply to some some of the time.

submariner's avatar

Well, Cugel, you seem to have arrived at an answer to your question, but I’ll add a few comments anyway.

Re. the flag: I live in Michigan, and I am annoyed at how often I see it up here. It seems to be some kind of redneck pride thing. I’m not sure these bozos who stick it on their trucks really understand what it means. The country music industry seems to have successfully turned it into a marketing gimmick.

Re. the “pretty” one: Dude, I think you played it wrong. You should have offered to buy drinks for the country gals if the pretty one would buy drinks for you and her (i.e., you and she would pay for two shots each). That way, you would know whether she just wanted to use you for free drinks or if she was actually also looking for a conversation opener (and would also leave them guessing about which one you were interested in). Some younger women are into older guys, and others have older friends they might introduce you to if you reveal yourself to be a nice guy. You have just have to start making connections.

JLeslie's avatar

@CugelTheClueless I think girls in a bar is a ridiculous place to make generalizations. I am typically not rude, but in a bar I definitely have been. And, I generalize a lot. I generalize about southerners, you can see it all over fluther, and Jewish people, and Americans, and men, and more, but not based on something they say or do in a bar. And, I met my husband in a bar, a dance club, he was dancing on a speaker when I first scoped him out. LOL.

@submariner Lord, in MI they are waving the confederate flag? I find that so depressing. I never saw one in East Lansing when I was there. Although, a few swastikas were drawn on dorm doors when I was there. <sigh>.

CugelTheClueless's avatar

The encounter with those three young women happened a day or two after I started this thread. The universe wanted to respond to my thread, I guess. This thread is based on lots of encounters over the years (with women over 20—I have much less experience with teens).

@Aethelflaed Yes, she was drunk. I didn’t say anything about that in my story, but you figured that out right away—faster than I did in the actual event, in fact, because it wasn’t immediately obvious. I have to surmise that you’ve witnessed (or engaged in? I hope not) similar behavior.

JLeslie's avatar

@CugelTheClueless Just curious, how old are you?

CugelTheClueless's avatar

I’m in my extremely late 30s.

bolwerk's avatar

Looking back on this question, it’s kind of funny that someone would even think him/herself righteous judges of all teenage girls and women in their 20s. Who is posting this question? The medieval church?

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