I always thought my love of Friday nights in with Frasier and Niles Crane was something that just arrived automatically in my 30s, as if from a stork above, along with the existential hangovers and fertility angst.
But apparently it’s not something just us older millennials are doing. According to Kaitlyn Tiffany’s report in Vox, the “homebody economy”, as she terms it, is built around women who basically plan on never leaving the house. Tiffany describes this group as “a big and profitable demographic of young women who sleep. Or, more broadly, stay home, in bed”. She points to the tougher mattresses being designed so you can sit up and work or watch TV from them, the business collaborations that send wine over if you tweet an emoji when bingeing on certain Netflix shows, and cites a study that found US millennials spent 70 per cent more time at home than any other group of the population.
So why the hibernation when you’re meant to be footloose and fancy-free? Perhaps one reason, Tiffany suggests, is because “self-care” – and all its problematic connotations – has become the greatest status symbols of the last five years. Coined by black feminists, co-opted by Gwyneth Paltrow, a bath and an early night have more cultural cache than say, a Mulberry Alexa at a secret Camden gig – the social symbols that defined my mid-twenties and involved, critically, being out. Yet today, with our collective angst-ridden self-obsession (hi Instagram!), why would we leave the house and take a trip on the night bus when we can be culturally relevant from the comfort of our own beds?
Of course, millennials don’t need to leave the house either, thanks to a tech-heavy gig economy which allows anyone to deliver anything at anytime. Phones are meant to convenience us, but perhaps they’ve chained this generation to their bedposts – quite literally. Gone are the days that youth was synonymous with trying your damnedest to emulate Kate Moss falling out of a black cab in a dress that sticks to your skin like sweat. Gone are the days when you went to places to experience them, not for the sole purpose of a heavily-liked selfie.
Last week saw the 10th anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, which sparked the 2008 recession, and in this country, left those in their 30s the worst affected
But the homebody economy isn't just built out of our reliance on Goop and Netflix. These are the profitable comfort blankets millennials are huddling under to keep warm and dry from the storm that's raging outside. Last week saw the 10th anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, which sparked the 2008 recession, and in this country, left those in their 30s the worst affected. (Another episode of Frasier, anyone?) Mental-health issues are soaring among young people, another recession is apparently around the corner, personal debt is mounting, and for last 11 months we’ve continually heard a public conversation around sexaul assualt, a trauma nearly all women can identify with on some level. We continue to starve ourselves. First came the green juice, now comes the veganism; originally in the name of wellbeing, now in the name of sustainability. We have no financial security, and wages are stagnant. Oh, and Donald Trump is President, Boris Johnson makes racist “jokes” about Muslim women, Roe vs Wade looks like it could be overturned and we haven’t even left the EU yet. So, hey, who feels like heading out to happy hour tonight?!
But I think there is a third factor as well. On the one hand, we shout loudly for women’s rights, we aim to topple the most powerful men in the world and we have successes like repealing the Eighth Amendment in Ireland. We’ve seen Cynthia Nixon – the lawyer from Sex and the City that no one wanted to be when dishing out roles amongst your circle of mates – become a fierce and inspiring political candidate. Her transition from sex chat over cocktails to socialist lesbian mother is perhaps a neat reflection of the journey society has taken when comes to accepting and viewing women.
But, simultaneously, we’re also seeing a rise in the regression of women’s perceived role in society. There’s been a growth in traditional ideas about women's place in the home from young people, especially men. (The fact that very few men are taking paternity leave in the UK seems to support notions around traditional gender roles). In the US men don’t feel they can be alone with the opposite sex without temptation striking. The lads’ mag image of women in Love Island was only questioned when adverts for surgery appeared in the commercial breaks. And as the word feminism became so commercially viable, it started to feel hollowed and emptied out. You can pay thousands of pounds to wear on it a T-shirt but you’re still not allowed to put on weight or go grey or get paid fairly. So right now, exactly who do we want young women to be?
This chaos of contradictory messages is the no-man’s land that young women are being asked to step into and fit into. Outside they see political carnage, economic insecurity, and an angry fight over their bodies and their place in the world. No wonder they’re not getting out of bed.