Yesterday, I said I was in discussion with a fashion magazine seeking transformational exemplars, young women who have taken up the transformational liberties of our day and created a multiple self in the process.
I have had lots of responses, chiefly private ones, by email, from people who have chosen to nominate friends or acquaintances. Some people have asked for clarification and here’s a little.
The age range is 20-35.
Here’s a matrix of transformational opportunities. I don’t think there is anyone out there who covers all of this territory but that might be wrong.
the new age domain offers new identities in the form of past lives, supernatural affiliations, various tribal identities as established by Buffy, Charmed and other chronicles: vampire slayers, witches, etc. I believe astrological signs are for some people relatively thoroughgoing identifications.
the gender domain offers new identities in the form of several gender and sexual choices. This is a tricky one to talk about, but it is customary for women in the 20s and 30s to see themselves in feminist terms and more traditional terms, and to move fluidly between the two. Several sexual identities are also not uncommon. (I realize this puts me in the position of asking young women to identify their sexual identities. Spare me! It is enough to tell me you have more than one, if you do, and you can supply the details if and when you end up talking to the magazine editors.)
the new media domain offers new identities in the form of several online persona, several selves from Second Life and other persistent world. There is also the non persistent worlds created by various games.
the old media domain offers new identities from the movie and the literary world. There was a time when Jane Austin did a lot of the script development and identity formation for young women. Now the authors are, well, how would I know. I guess the Harry Potter women would qualify, as would Anne Rice. I haven’t done the ethnography here.
the status domain, this is in steep decline, but there was a time when people were keen to demonstrate a certain status standing and to engage in upward mobility that would take them still higher in the social hierarchy. It is usual these days for women to wish to show that they have status credentials and performance capabilities but that these are really just for show, and should not be understood to diminish their populist instincts or their social mobility, upwards and down.
the modernist domain is also in steep decline. But Millennials have restored the idea of "swift selves" and career advancement to some of its former glory. For these purposes (and for feminist ones) we would expect young women to have cultivated a ferociously capable career self, someone they let out of their portfolio of selves 9 to 5 but retire again fore evenings and weekends. We might expect a diversity here, with some women cultivating both "for profit" and "not for profit" persona.
the postmodernist domain. This is the one that takes for granted that the self is a various and fluid thing. Women in the 20s and 30s have grown up in a world where there is relatively emphasis on being true to your gender’s or your class’s or your family’s expectation of who you are. They have enjoyed the right to mix and match their identities as the occasion calls for this. I remember one respondent tells me that her favorite thing to do was to monitor a chat room (as they were then called), and wait for someone to leave. My respondent would then adopt the persona of the departed person and spend the rest of the evening so designed. There is in short a certain transformational versatility in this generation, and one of the qualities I think the magazine would like to see is a certain self consciousness about the whole affair.
I hope this helps. Feel free to nominate people who qualify here. And feel free to send me an email directly.