About the "Women are Unhappy" study

Posted on October 23, 2009

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I really appreciated this study (more on it here) when it came out, which essentially states that women are generally unhappier since the women’s movement of the ’70s (findings exception: black women).

Then I was bewildered by the response to it, most of which drew that women are unhappy because of the strides in equality we’ve made. Total Alice in Wonderland conclusion. A post by Judy Warner on New York Times‘ Domestic Disturbance blog explains the real reasons. A pull-out summary if you’re not in the mood to read the whole thing, but I encourage you to read it-read it and decide what you think (a mixture others’ quotes she uses in the post and her own):

“The opening up, diversifying and expanding of women’s sphere of existence may have given them more things to potentially be unhappy about …”

“The wage gap persists, particularly for mothers, who now earn 73 cents for every man’s dollar. Our workforce and education system is still sex-segregated, operating along generations-old stereotypes that steer most women into low-paid, low-status, low-security professions. Women pay more for health insurance than men, have more extensive health needs than men, and suffer unique forms of discrimination in their coverage. (Women may be denied coverage because they had a Caesarean delivery or were victims of domestic violence — both ‘preexisting conditions.’) Regardless of the number of hours they work, they continue to do far more caretaking and housekeeping work at home than do their husbands. And discrimination against mothers (but not fathers) in the workplace is all but ubiquitous.”

“Entering the world of men may very well have raised the bar of expectations … greater equality may have led more women to compare their outcomes to those of the men around them. In turn, women might find their relative position lower than when their reference group included only women. … In other words: if you expect less for yourself, you’re easier to please.”

“In public opinion surveys, women consistently rank their own inequality, at work and at home, among their most urgent concerns. … If the women’s movement raised women’s expectations faster than society was able to meet them, they would be more likely to be disappointed by their actual experienced lives.”

In other words, June Cleaver wasn’t happy because she got to cook and clean. She was happy because she succeeded within that limited sphere.

On a happier note: “The happiest marriages … are those in which a couple shares egalitarian values. Men in today’s world who have gone with the flow of changing roles and mores … are healthier, closer to their wives and children, happier and … having more sex.”

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Posted in: feminism, happiness, women