Are women unhappy?

Recently, I read this article on Freakonomics (one of my favorite sites to check on every day). The gist of it seems to be that, despite improving conditions and rights for women, they appear to be less happy than they were 35 years ago. First of all, I’m not sure they ARE more unhappy than they were 35 years ago. Happiness is an incredibly difficult thing to measure and evaluate. And I think women are more prone to call themselves unhappy than men are. i have absolutely no scientific evidence of this, but I will make the call anyway.
But I think something that might contribute to the increases in reported unhappiness is the guilt factor. Because even though we do, as the article says, have increased ability to control reproduction as well as greater opportunities in the work forces, and apparently men are doing more ‘housework’, we still have the massive guilt factor. If we pursue a career, we feel guilty about not getting married and raising the happy Brady Bunch. If we play the happy housewife and stay-at-home mom, we feel guilty about not going out there and using our brains. And if we try to be superwomen and do BOTH, then we feel guilty all the time about neglecting one or the other part of our lives. That’s my theory anyways. And it’s time to GET OVER IT – do what we enjoy and start being happy!

Comment (1)

  1. LK

    I always wonder what happiness measured in some way really means. I think you’re right that it has a lot to do with expectations: if you believe that having a high-powered career AND a family with 2+ children is the only way you’ll be happy, then you won’t be happy if you don’t have that.

    I think there might be something else going on too though, especially in America. The second point of the research mentioned in the article, that women’s lives are becoming more like men’s lives have been historically is very telling. It also means that the way women’s lives were traditionally is being devalued. I mean the activities of caregiving, nurturing, focusing on community (like immediate or extended family) rather than individual satisfaction, along most things traditionally termed feminine.

    I often feel that women in America have it especially tough because being a feminine type of woman is kind of looked down upon in most workplaces, while if you go for a go-getter, career-centered approach, you get attacked for being too much like a man. There’s all this advice – from books, career coaches, etc. – that in the workplace, women don’t get ahead because they act too much like women. It’s apparently a problem that women consider other people’s needs instead of always making strategic career decisions for themselves, ask questions instead of making pronouncements, speak inclusively, so talk about what “we” need/want/should do this or that as opposed to what “I” want/will do this or that. Or it’s also not good that women are less likely to waste company money, actual advice I’ve seen for how to get ahead at work says to semi-abuse your expense account! I’m not saying that being like a man is a good thing… in fact I rather think lots of advice should be doled out to men about how to act more like women… So if it’s bad to be feminine but you’re a woman, what the hell are you supposed to do? I think it’s unsurprising that there is a lot of unhappiness among women, this devaluing of femininity is not what should have happened after Women’s Lib.

    But I also think this is changing, it seems to me that a lot of the 18-22 year-old women are far more comfortable with having feminine identities. And I think there’s a good chance they’ll stay that way, whether at work or in the home – or better yet, both.


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