Why men are getting happier (and women more miserable) Part IV
While women work their brains out, men get more
and more 'neutral downtime.' Does this make them
the real beneficiaries of the women's movement?
all this is going on, the respective life cycles
of men and women are increasingly at odds, with
serious potential consequences a generation or
two down the line. While men are resisting the
trappings of adulthood through their late 20s,
revelling in the sort of infantile world depicted
in the Will Ferrell comedy Old School, women are
establishing careers and accumulating wealth. "Realistically,
men can get their shit together at 40," laments
Sarah. "They can catch some woman 13 or 14
years their junior just like me who's going to
say okay, because all the guys my own age are turkeys."
Which is fine for women who find successful mates,
or who happen to appreciate older guys. But pity
those who must settle for a man who, at 40, never
launched a career, frittered away his money, burned
off a few too many brain cells and left the hard
work of child-rearing until he was too tired to perform
it well. That's as surefire a formula for female
disaffection as a person can imagine. And if Kimmel's
observations are anything to go by, it's one we'd
better get used to.
will be all the more irksome if another long-term
trend that is transforming the workplace holds. While
women are leading dual lives as employees and nurturers,
they're steadily supplanting men as occupiers of
the desk where the buck stops. In 2004, the proportion
of women occupying managerial positions had reached
37 per cent — a number that today's feminists
see as too low, but would nonetheless impress their
mothers and grandmothers. In certain prestigious
professions, women are actually overrepresented.
Fully 55 per cent of the doctors and dentists in
Canada are now women, up from 43 per cent in 1987;
women make up more than half the business and financial
professionals in this country.
of this has unfolded according to the plans of
the women's movement; if feminists have any complaint
it's that it's gone too slowly (certain sectors,
such as engineering and natural sciences, remain
male-dominated). What no one seemed to anticipate
was how women who attained heights formerly reserved
for men would wind up feeling. How would they cope
with the anxiety and long hours that come with rank
and responsibility? How would they deal with the
related pathologies of obsessiveness and workaholism — the
curses, so to speak, of the ambitious classes?
much the way men do, it turns out. "The
women's movement gave women permission to get on
the gerbil wheel," says Barbara Killinger, a
Toronto psychologist who has written extensively
on workaholism. While almost no women came to her
for treatment 25 years ago, fully half of her patient
load today is female, she says, and they demonstrate
the same addictive patterns as men. "There is
a very definite breakdown syndrome: fears of failure,
of laziness, of boredom, that other people will find
out they are not effective; then chronic fatigue
and paranoia. The obsession to work is coupled with
the addiction for control."
to say, this is not the sort of analysis that sits
well with modern feminists. As the data
on female unhappiness piles up, they increasingly
question the connection to careerism, or the entire
premise of happiness surveys. "The women's movement
was never about happiness," says the Pulitzer
Prize-winning journalist and feminist Susan Faludi,
in an assertion that will surely surprise many a
woman who marched for equal rights. "It was
about claiming one's full place in the world. What
is described as women's unhappiness isn't about them
being unable to handle all of these great new opportunities.
It's unhappiness over the fact that things haven't
changed: that they are still burdened with a second
But the findings to date are disturbing enough
to lead researchers to drill deeper in search
of a more nuanced understanding of women's responses.
Is unhappiness a reflection of their emotions on
the day they are surveyed? Is it frustrated ambition,
as Faludi would have it? Or is it something less
tangible, such as spiritual hunger, or longing? Stevenson,
for one, floats the hypothesis that women are simply
conditioned to expect more from life than they did
three decades ago. This tends to apply to all aspects
of life, however, meaning all but the most gifted
women are bound to run up against their own limitations.
Stevenson tells a troubling story about a teenage
girl who had just accomplished a near-perfect score
on her college admission tests. She was brainy and
athletic, but that wasn't enough. "She said
it was very important to her to be 'effortlessly
hot,' " Stevenson says. "I was flabbergasted."
Charlie Gillis & Barbara Righton Source:
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