"Sex and the City" has gone global, and not just on television. The single young woman in New Delhi has replaced her graceful sari, bare midriff and decolletage with slim-fitting jeans or a chic short skirt. Similar young women are dressing just like her in Shanghai, Singapore and Seoul, from Berlin to Madrid and Budapest to Warsaw.
They're not just imitating the clothing fashion of Carrie Bradshaw and Company, they're forging a similar lifestyle of fun, fun, fun. This is disturbing to more than the prudes. The changes in feminine fashion foreshadow major implications for the politics and economies not only in Asia and Europe, but for everyone else.
Kay Hymowitz, who writes about culture, marriage and caste systems, calls this "The New Girl Order." These single young females even have their own acronym, SYF. These SYFs are marrying later and having fewer children than ever before. They have high incomes to support chic buying habits, and they're sophisticated producers and purchasers. They have more close women friends than male companions, and their mantra is "work hard, play harder," made easier now by credit cards, cell phones, iPods, and BlackBerries. The good life is a click away.
These women resemble a late version of the Yuppies, so abundant in the 1980s, but without the marriage license. They buy their own kitchen accessories -- temperature-controlled wine racks, toaster ovens and blenders -- rather than wait for someone to choose a gift from a wedding registry, which they may never have. They buy themselves diamond rings and wear them on the right hand, suggesting how much someone loves them, even if those "someones" are themselves. The Diamond Trading Company in Canada markets with the motto: "Your left hand is your heart; your right hand is your voice."
But the voice suffers something akin to laryngitis when it talks about hopes for marriage and family. Under the New Girl Order, women delay marriage and childbearing, which reduces the number of children born into the population. Sometimes these women forgo children altogether. This has driven down fertility rates across Europe, where only in Albania are the young replacing themselves. Italy, Spain and Poland have the lowest fertility rates in Europe. Such statistics reflect greater freedom for SYFs, but when they become SOFs (Single Old Females), they're not going to get much support from the generation following them.