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Ridiculous Study Blames Feminism for Non-Existent 'Happiness Gap' Between Men and Women

Much-discussed study claims that women are more depressed relative to men in recent decades, when it actually suggests that neither marriage nor children make women happy.

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Another distracting little data point that no one, including the authors, seems to have much to say about is that, while "women" have been getting marginally sadder, black women have been getting happier and happier. To quote the authors: "… happiness has trended quite strongly upward for both female and male African Americans … Indeed, the point estimates suggest that well-being may have risen more strongly for black women than for black men." The study should more accurately be titled "The Paradox of Declining White Female Happiness," only that might have suggested that the problem could be cured with melanin and Restylane.

But let's assume the study is sound and that (white) women have become less happy relative to men since 1972. Does that mean that feminism ruined their lives?

Not according to Stevenson and Wolfers, who find that "the relative decline in women's well-being... holds for both working and stay-at-home mothers, for those married and divorced, for the old and the young, and across the education distribution" -- as well as for both mothers and the childless. If feminism were the problem, you might expect divorced women to be less happy than married ones and employed women to be less happy than stay-at-homes. As for having children, the presumed premier source of female fulfillment: They actually make women less happy.

And if the women's movement was such a big downer, you'd expect the saddest women to be those who had some direct exposure to the noxious effects of second wave feminism. As the authors report, however, "there is no evidence that women who experienced the protests and enthusiasm in the 1970s have seen their happiness gap widen by more than for those women were just being born during that period."

What this study shows, if anything, is that neither marriage nor children make women happy. (The results are not in yet on nipple piercing.) Nor, for that matter, does there seem to be any problem with "too many choices," "work-life balance," or the "second shift." If you believe Stevenson and Wolfers, women's happiness is supremely indifferent to the actual conditions of their lives, including poverty and racial discrimination. Whatever "happiness" is...

So why all the sudden fuss about the Wharton study, which first leaked out two years ago anyway? Mostly because it's become a launching pad for a new book by the prolific management consultant Marcus Buckingham, best known for First, Break All the Rules and Now, Find Your Strengths . His new book, Find Your Strongest Life: What the Happiest and Most Successful Women Do Differently , is a cookie-cutter classic of the positive-thinking self-help genre: First, the heart-wrenching quotes from unhappy women identified only by their email names (Countess1, Luveyduvy, etc.), then the stories of "successful" women, followed by the obligatory self-administered test to discover "the role you were bound to play" (Creator, Caretaker, Influencer, etc.), all bookended with an ad for the many related products you can buy, including a "video introduction" from Buckingham, a "participant's guide" containing "exercises" to get you to happiness, and a handsome set of "Eight Strong Life Plans" to pick from. The Huffington Post has given Buckingham a column in which to continue his marketing campaign.

It's an old story: If you want to sell something, first find the terrible affliction that it cures. In the 1980s, as silicone implants were taking off, the doctors discovered "micromastia" -- the "disease" of small-breastedness. More recently, as big pharma searches furiously for a female Viagra, an amazingly high 43% of women have been found to suffer from "Female Sexual Dysfunction," or FSD. Now, it's unhappiness, and the range of potential "cures" is dazzling: Seagrams, Godiva, and Harlequin, take note.

 
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