The Triumphs and Tribulations of Feminism

The State of The American Woman.JPGNancy Gibbs writes an interesting cover story on feminism’s remarkable transformation of the workplace and the culture:

College campuses used to be almost 60-40 male; now the ratio has reversed, and close to half of law and medical degrees go to women, up from fewer than 10% in 1970. Half the Ivy League presidents are women, and two of the three network anchors soon will be; three of the four most recent Secretaries of State have been women. There are more than 145 foundations designed to empower women around the world, in the belief that this is the greatest possible weapon against poverty and disease; there was only one major foundation (the Ms. Foundation) for women in 1972. For the first time, five women have won Nobel Prizes in the same year (for Medicine, Chemistry, Economics and Literature). We just came through an election year in which Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, Tina Fey and Katie Couric were lead players, not the supporting cast. And the President of the United States was raised by a single mother and married a lawyer who outranked and outearned him.

Gibbs also acknowledges the following:

Among the most confounding changes of all is the evidence, tracked by numerous surveys, that as women have gained more freedom, more education and more economic power, they have become less happy.

The cause of this trend is a subject of much disagreement. Feminist Susan Fauldi, for example, has observed that the feminism movement wasn’t really about making women happier.
It seems to me it was about making women more successful by means of academic, professional, and economic metrics, regardless of what impact such advances might have on women’s subjective sense of well-being. Maureen Dowd, in an op-ed piece in the New York times, writes:

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.

The sense that one must do all these things–and to all these things well–creates a mountain of stress. Dr. Albert Mohler sums up the matter this way:

In reality, feminism was never only about opening doors for women. In order to make the case for the vast social transformation that feminism has produced, the feminist movement aspired to nothing short of a total social, moral, and cultural revolution. Along the way, feminism redefined womanhood, marriage, motherhood, and the roles for both men and women.
Nevertheless, it appears that most women are uncomfortable with this total package. Instead of producing a vast expansion of happiness among women, the feminist movement must now answer for the fact that women, by their own evaluation, appear to be less happy than before the revolution.
The reason for this is probably quite simple. Women are in the best position to evaluate, not only what feminism has gained, but what it has lost. Maybe Susan Faludi is right — The women’s movement wasn’t about happiness.

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