Saturday, August 1, 2009

OPINION: Did Feminism Get Us in Trouble?

By Yana Berlin

Feminism has been alive and thriving for over 40 years, but is it giving us what we want?

Thriving it may be, but whether it's alive and well is another question altogether. Recently I read an article pointing to the fact that women are actually significantly less happy today than 30 years ago. How can this be? You would think that all the years of "progress" towards equalizing rights, shrinking the pay gap and the ever-growing number of women attaining advanced degrees would promote better feelings and happiness, yet the statistics indicate otherwise.

One explanation is that women have, for many years, felt that they perform dual occupations: career woman and domestic attendant. At the end of the workday, women would come home to wrangle all the household chores and still needed to be done. However, experts disagree about the soundness of this hypothesis; some counter with statistical evidence showing that the workload (workday combined with other obligations) of both men and women has decreased since 1965. Technology has advanced tremendously in the domestic field, with an ever-expanding array of helpful household cleaning appliances that take a chunk out of the workload. Remember Roomba?

But just because the workload has been diminished slightly doesn't mean women don't spend the same amount of time thinking about the chores left to be done. The counter argument to the technology-based theory, is that women may have more help to accomplish their domestic tasks, but that these new devices can't take off the mental pressure women feel to "get it all done."

Perhaps the unhappiness is better linked to the fact that when women in the past several decades fought so fiercely to join the ranks of, and even replace men in the workplace, they really didn't know what they were getting into.

Neil Lyndon, author of, No More Sex War, believes feminists never gave men enough credit for having it tough. Spending hours away from the family is tough, gender-regardless, he argues. Having young children, a (demanding) job and additional mental preoccupations (aging parents, marriage concerns, ex-spousal concerns...) means decreased happiness.

There are also non-work-related grievances that women are faced with more these days than thirty-years ago. Divorce rates are sky-high, not to mention the pay gap has not been filled in completely. Getting through the grind is getting more difficult, it seems.

Women are not coping well with their stresses and concerns, too. These days, women aren't eating their feelings, so much as spending them. Having an independent source of income means having more money at one's disposal; in one online survey, reported that 79% of women take themselves on shopping sprees to calm their nerves. While shopping, they experience a kind of buzz, a high that comes with buying something new and shiny, getting the shopping bag and experiencing feelings of temporary happiness. The worst part of all is this feeling quickly fades, leaving them no happier than before the shopping trip.

So what can we do to combat our anxieties and worries? The answer does not lie in your freezer, no, Ben and Jerry's won't fix this pickle. What has been reported as a good longer-term solution, is reestablishing a system of support-creating a community to cheer you on. Women often lose touch with extended family and old friends, and then neglect to rebuild close ties later on in life. So here's the treatment: call your old friends, talk to an old lady, join a book club, or better yet, invite your friends to join

Do what it takes to find those feel-good feelings without swiping your credit card or digging into Haagen-Dazs.

Yana Berlin is the founder and CEO of, devoted to the celebration of all things, primarily women and the challenges and joys they face juggling their careers, children, relationships, and life's other issues. Fabulously40 is a social network for women that catalyzes its members to celebrate and embrace their life. Since launching Fabulously40, Mrs. Berlin has been connecting, and supporting women all over the world.

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