Monday, September 21, 2009

The downsides of feminism's fruits? (or--why paid work and children are not all they're cracked up to be?)

Maureen Dowd's very popular column in yesterday's New York Times, "Blue is the New Black," discusses recent data about women's happiness relative to men's. Here's an excerpt that seeks to sum up why men have gotten happier over the decades, while women have become less happy. (African American women are a notable exception--they've gotten happier in the past several decades, but are still not as happy as African American men):
When women stepped into male- dominated realms, they put more demands — and stress — on themselves. If they once judged themselves on looks, kids, hubbies, gardens and dinner parties, now they judge themselves on looks, kids, hubbies, gardens, dinner parties — and grad school, work, office deadlines and meshing a two-career marriage.
So, it seems, the breaching of the public-private divide has not served women well. Or, perhaps it is more accurate to say that getting for women what only men previously had has not been an unmitigated success.

Neither, it seems, are children. Dowd's column is based largely on the work of Marcus Buckingham, a former Gallup researcher, who found that children diminish rather than enhance women's happiness. This surprises me because of U of Michigan law alumni data that suggest the happiest female alums are the ones who are juggling work and family.

Dowd continues with a theme that is near and dear to my own heart (and mind) of late--aging.

Another daunting thing: America is more youth and looks obsessed than ever, with an array of expensive cosmetic procedures that allow women to be their own Frankenstein Barbies.

Men can age in an attractive way while women are expected to replicate — and Restylane — their 20s into their 60s.

She writes from a decidedly hetereo-normative perspective on another problem facing aging women:
Men also tend to fare better romantically as time wears on. There are more widows than widowers, and men have an easier time getting younger mates.
Read an earlier post related to happiness, marriage, and children here. Read an earlier post about the gender double standard regarding aging and appearance here.

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