Sunday, November 29, 2009

Are women less happy today as a result of the women's liberation movement?

I recently read a study entitled "The Paradcox of Declining Female happiness" by Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolpers, economists at the University of Pennsylvania. I was first drawn to the study by the interest it has been getting lately. It was conducted in 2007, but is still getting a lot of attention.

Based on in the General Social Survey (GSS) 1972-2006, the results from the Stevenson and Wolpers study suggest the possibility that the women's liberation movement and feminism may be partly responsible for the decline in happiness evidenced by modern US women.

According to Maggie Humm and Rebecca Walker, the history of feminism can be divided into three waves. The first feminist wave was in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the second was in the 1960s and 1970s, and the third extends from the 1990s to the present.

Feminism has altered predominant perspectives in a wide range of areas within Western society, ranging from culture to law. Feminist activists have campaigned for women's legal rights (rights of contract, property rights, voting rights); for women's right to bodily integrity and autonomy, for abortion rights, and for reproductive rights (including access to contraception and quality prenatal care; for protection of women and girls from domestic violence, sexual harassment and rape;for workplace rights, including maternity leave and equal pay; against misogyny: and against other forms of gender-specific discrimination against women.

An article by Pelle Billing in Mens News Daily, September 14, 2009 purports the results of the Stevenson and Wolpers study to be interesting in that it shows that as women have entered the workforce, their subjective happiness has declined. Contrary to what is politically correct, women were happier when they were housewives than they are nowadays. They explain these results in the following way:

  1. Working outside the home is not as glamorous as feminism would have us believe. Many jobs are exhausting without offering a large monetary reward.
  2. Many women are torn between the feminist expectation to work fulltime throughout life, and their own desire to work part-time when the children are small.
  3. Young women are taught that they can have it all: a successful career, a loving relationship, beautiful children and interesting vacations. In reality, life is much more messy and you often need to sacrifice what is important to you in order to achieve something that is even more important to you. Impossible standards lead to unhappiness.
In addition, the researchers are saying, in effect, that women and men have had certain roles for thousands of years, and our biological and cultural makeup have adapted to those roles. Sudden changes to those roles may cause a stressful reaction in either sex, and according to this research women’s liberation has actually been more stressful to women than to men.

For more information on this topic, check out my series of articles on women's happiness at Hubpages

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  1. Interesting. I'd love to see other studies on this subject. This would make a great forum discussion.

  2. Yes, I think it would make a great discussion.I'll see if I get get it into one of the forums. Thanks for the comment