We live in an age that champions female empowerment, yet the mental health of young women paints a starkly different picture. * Even as icons of "girl power" dominate the cultural landscape, anxiety seems to have a tighter grip than ever.
In an era that hails female empowerment—when pop divas and dolls alike are touted as paragons of "girl power"—why are young women enmeshed in a spiraling crisis of anxiety? According to a recent article, "Anxiety in the Age of Barbie," published in the New York Times, the situation is as complex as it is concerning.
At first glance, one might think that the summer celebrations of "girl power" by cultural luminaries like Barbie, Taylor Swift, and Beyoncé would naturally pave the way for increased female self-assurance. However, the reality contradicts this assumption. As the article notes, many young women "seem to have everything, yet they are unable to fully enjoy a stretch in their life that should be sizzling with adventure and promise."
These women are caught in a web spun from a myriad of societal issues—from harmful social media algorithms to a "never enough" achievement culture. Lisa Damour, the author of “The Emotional Lives of Teenagers,” aptly remarks, “Young people are taking in a lot of alarming information, and due to digital devices, they—like many of us—are taking the information in all day, every day."
But what might the Torah say about such a paradox? The Book of Proverbs states: "Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad" (Proverbs 12:25). In our tradition, acknowledging the emotional turmoil one experiences is the first step in resolving it. Moreover, offering "a good word" — whether through supportive community or therapy — can be a cornerstone in building mental resilience.
This brings us to the need for effective coping mechanisms beyond pharmaceutical solutions. As the article suggests, we should not simply be "handing out pills and thinking that that’s going to take care of it." Indeed, according to Chassidic thought, enduring challenges and even emotional distress can serve as refining fires, sharpening the soul's capacities for empathy and understanding. This is a vital lesson as we draw closer to the age of Moshiach, an era in which ultimate clarity and peace will reign.
In this disconcerting milieu, a harmonious blend of enlightenment and optimism is imperative. While we must confront the challenges head-on, we must also keep a focus on the ultimate goal—repairing the world in both a physical and spiritual sense. As the article ends on a hopeful note: "Women tend to make it," so too we should all strive to make it, not just as individuals but as a unified, compassionate community, until the coming of Moshiach.