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Natasha Devon: The 2000s are BACK

Natasha Devon: The 2000s are BACK

‘Dresses worn over trousers are this season’s latest trend!’ declared the headline, alongside pictures of various models and celebrities wearing something strappy and/or floaty over baggy jeans. That’s when I knew. The 2000s are officially back.

All eras have to have their renaissance at some point, of course. That’s the cyclical nature of fashion. There was always going to come a point where we were once again worrying about Britney’s wellbeing by furrowing our tragically overplucked eyebrows.

Yet, there is something a little different about the way we have dived enthusiastically into the nostalgia, this time. In 2023, everything’s gone a bit wrong. The planet’s on fire and no one with any power to do anything is taking it seriously enough. Despite constant railing against so-called ‘wokery’, racism, homophobia and misogyny are on the rise. The global economy is in meltdown. The present looks bleak, so we’re taking refuge in the past.

This is a known symptom of anxiety – escaping to memories of times hence, because it’s safer. But we also have a tendency to sanitise those recollections – to forget that the early 2000s wasn’t all shaking it like a polaroid picture to Hey Ya whilst sipping on Smirnoff ice and unknowingly enjoying the benefits of low inflation rates.

I came of age during the millennium and it was a weird time to be a young woman. We’d gone through the poppy, zig-a-zig-ah, Girl Power style feminism of the 90s and, on paper, we’d never had it so good. Yet ‘equality’ involved partaking in lad culture. If you couldn’t down a pint in one gulp and banter about your own tits you weren’t considered a proper, modern woman.

‘Pick me-ism’ was actively encouraged. Many of us took pride in ‘not being like other girls’ and not having many female friends. Any concept of sisterhood was pretty much non-existent. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl stereotype was at her zenith in movies and on TV.

The messages we received about the ‘correct’ way to be a woman were contradictory, relentlessly heteronormative and exhausting. Magazines emphasised the importance of smashing the glass ceiling, but also of pleasing your man. ‘Curves’ were nominally en vogue, but only if your fat distribution happened to match J-lo or Beyonce’s.

I’ve tried to capture all of this in my new novel, Babushka, which is set in the year 2000. My protagonist, Cerys, is a product of her time: She thinks feminism is something to do with not shaving your armpits and that Carrie Bradshaw from Sex in the City is the height of aspiration. She’s also steeped in the sexism which was rampant at the time, but fails to recognise it because no one was talking about systemic oppression, back then.

With studies showing more than half of Gen Z think women’s rights have gone ‘too far’ and the insidious re-mainstreaming of misogynistic ideas via influencers like Andrew Tate, I think it’s important we remember the reality of the 2000s. Looking back with rose tinted specs will only hinder the progress we still need to make.

Babushka is published by UCLan Publishing on 5 October 2023

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