By Hilary White

October 29, 2009 ( – In an Op Ed in the New York Times, leading US feminist Maureen Dowd has expressed her surprise that recent research continues to find that women, who may have been economically “emancipated” by the feminist revolution, are more unhappy now, forty years later, than men.

Calling it a “paradox” that women may have thrown off the aprons, Dowd wrote, “But the more women have achieved, the more they seem aggrieved. Did the feminist revolution end up benefiting men more than women?”

Dowd, a journalist and regular columnist for the New York Times, is known as one of the last of the old-school radical feminists, and is the author of the book “Are Men Necessary? When Sexes Collide”.

Dowd's Op Ed follows a report by Time Magazine showing that despite increased economic opportunities, limit-free “reproductive choice” and easy divorce, men are more happy overall than women in the US. Women, Dowd said, are being “driven to distraction” by maintaining both their status as mothers and wives while at the same time maintaining high-powered careers. Citing several different researchers, Dowd said that a big part of the problem is children. “One area of extreme distraction is kids,” she wrote.

But an even bigger threat to women's happiness, she said, is the natural instinct of women for forging strong emotional bonds and relationships. “They tend to attach to other people more strongly, beat themselves up more when they lose attachments, take things more personally at work and pop far more antidepressants.”

In the Time piece, Nancy Gibbs says that the magazine's research showed that although women have “gained more freedom, more education and more economic power,” the study found that “they have become less happy”.

Since Time did a piece on feminist gains in the early 1970s, Gibbs wrote, “close to half of law and medical degrees go to women…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.”

But women are still saying they are not happy compared to men, according to the surveys, and are suffering more than men in the financial downturn. The mysterious “paradox” of modern, emancipated, contracepting and high-achieving women is not so mysterious to some.

Gibbs writes that among the “most confounding” changes is the evidence “that as women have gained more freedom, more education and more economic power, they have become less happy”.  “No tidy theory explains the trend.”

Gibbs herself points to an answer, saying, “Among the most dramatic changes in the past generation is the detachment of marriage and motherhood” and that women “no longer view matrimony as a necessary station on the road to financial security or parenthood”.

She notes the leap in the numbers of children born to single women (from 12 per cent to 39 per cent) and notes that while “a majority of children in the mid-1970s were raised by a stay-at-home parent, the portion is now less than a third”.

But Albert Mohler, commenting in a column, followed the evidence, saying, “The big question raised by these studies is this: Has feminism produced unhappiness among women? That question is inescapable when seen in light of the historical context.”

Mohler is the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, a board member of Focus on the Family and hosts a Christian radio talk show that discusses social issues. He quotes Gail Collins, who wrote in her book “When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present,” that the achievements of women “did not resolve the tensions of trying to raise children and hold down a job at the same time”.

“Sadly,” Mohler writes, “most feminists seem incapable, given their ideological commitments, of asking the hardest questions.

“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.”


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