Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Unliberated and Unhappy

In an op-ed piece Liberated and Unhappy, Ross Douthat gives his thoughts on a study on the paradox of declining female happiness: as women have more freedom, they are less happy relative to men than they were in the 1960's. Douthat correctly zooms in on motherhood as an issue that makes women's lives difficult: there is still inadequate support for working mothers. However, he chooses to focus on single motherhood as an issue that decreases the happiness of women, suggesting that we should save women from unhappiness by bringing them back under the wing of good ol' patriarchy. He writes:

They should also be able to agree that the steady advance of single motherhood threatens the interests and happiness of women... There’s no necessary reason why feminists and cultural conservatives can’t join forces — in the same way that they made common cause during the pornography wars of the 1980s — behind a social revolution that ostracizes serial baby-daddies and trophy-wife collectors as thoroughly as the “fallen women” of a more patriarchal age.

There are many ways to make women happier; instating social stigma that enforces expectations of responsible patriarchy will not do it. Rather than creating stigma that causes unhappy and unsupportive men to stay with the mothers of their children, society should support these women in raising children alone. One of the reasons working mothers have been increasingly unhappy is the lack of a support network beyond the nuclear family*; perpetuating the cult of the nuclear family to solve the problem of female unhappiness would be missing the point.

* A product of the conservative 1950's, I believe.

1 comment:

Greg said...

Just a heads up: there's been some discussion at the Language Log about the happiness gap that you may be interested in reading.