March 6, 2006


Desperate Feminist Wives: Why wanting equality makes women unhappy. (Meghan O'Rourke, March 6, 2006, Slate)

In The Feminine Mystique, the late Betty Friedan attributed the malaise of married women largely to traditionalist marriages in which wives ran the home and men did the bread-winning. Her book helped spark the sexual revolution of the 1970s and fueled the notion that egalitarian partnerships—where both partners have domestic responsibilities and pursue jobs—would make wives happier. Last week, two sociologists at the University of Virginia published an exhaustive study of marital happiness among women that challenges this assumption. Stay-at-home wives, according to the authors, are more content than their working counterparts. And happiness, they found, has less to do with division of labor than with the level of commitment and "emotional work" men contribute (or are perceived to contribute). But the most interesting data may be that the women who strongly identify as progressive—the 15 percent who agree most with feminist ideals—have a harder time being happy than their peers, according to evidence that has been provided exclusively to Slate. Feminist ideals, not domestic duties, seem to be what make wives morose. Progressive married women—who should be enjoying some or all of the fruits that Freidan lobbied for—are less happy, it would appear, than women who live as if Friedan never existed.

From the Mets' World Series victory to the Men's Hockey win over the Soviets was a disaster and all of it a result of our not settling Stalin's hash in the '40s.

The return of the happy housewife (Charlotte Allen, March 5, 2006, Los Angeles Times)

A new study by two University of Virginia sociologists concludes that stay-at-home wives whose husbands are the primary family breadwinners don't suffer from "the problem that has no name," as Friedan famously wrote in 1963. In fact, the majority of full-time homemakers don't experience any kind of special problem, according to professors W. Bradford Wilcox and Stephen L. Nock, who analyzed data from a huge University of Wisconsin survey of families, conducted during the 1990s.

Here are the figures, published in this month's issue of the journal Social Forces: 52% of wives who don't work outside the home reported they were "very happy" with their marriages, compared with 41% of wives in the workforce.

The more traditional a marriage is, the sociologists found, the higher the percentage of happy wives. Among couples who have the husband as the primary breadwinner, who worship together regularly and who believe in marriage as an institution that requires a lifelong commitment, 61% of wives said they were "very happy" with their marriages. Among couples whose marriage does not have all these characteristics, the percentage of happy wives dips to an average of 45.

Lest you think the statistics come out this way because tradition-minded women happen to like tradition-minded wedlock — or they're just brainwashed by their churches — you're wrong. In an unpublished second paper, Wilcox sifted through the survey data and discovered that even wives who describe themselves as feminists report being happier with traditional marital arrangements in which they stay home with the kids and their husbands provide for them.

"They might think of themselves as progressives and believe in gender equality, but the same pattern holds for them," Wilcox said.

One more surprise: Even for wives who work full time outside the home, the key to marital happiness isn't splitting household chores and child care down the middle with their husbands. It's much simpler: an affectionate and appreciative husband who believes, along with his wife, that marriage is forever.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 6, 2006 10:59 PM

It is difficult if not impossible to improve on this model for marriage:
Ephesians 5:22,25. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

Posted by: TGN at March 6, 2006 11:49 PM

I've always believed that the release of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers' single "Refugee" was a prophetic prefigurationof the Reagan revolution. 'Course, that's just my theory.

"Honey, it dont really matter to me/Baby, everybodys ha d to fight to be free/You see, you dont have to live like a refugee"

Posted by: Mike Morley at March 7, 2006 6:20 AM

Equality doesn't mean men can't do all the heavy lifting.

Posted by: erp at March 7, 2006 9:30 AM

I'm a feminist, and I believe in gender equality, but apparently those words don't mean what I think they mean, because other so-called feminists have really radical interpretations of those terms that hinge on hatred of men, hatred of religion and hatred of society overall. No wonder they're miserable, married or no. My husband and I both work full time, we share the chores and child care, and we don't really go to church very much, although I wouldn't say we were devoid of religious sentiment. But I'm a happy wife, because both of us are very committed to the marriage as a lifelong union and partnership that transcends even the very important aspects of being best friends and being in love and making each other happy. It's simply out of the question that we would ever divorce. Knowing of my husband's loyalty to me makes me a contented wife. Women who spend their day with their children, and who have husbands devoted enough to work hard and enable their wives to stay at home, are likewise.

Posted by: Lisa at March 7, 2006 11:20 AM

Lisa, there will never be gender equality, we're not set up that way.

Besides, why lower yourself to be equal?

Posted by: Sandy P. at March 7, 2006 12:24 PM

Sandy and Lisa, Bravo!

During the time when militant feminism was first taken to the streets, it was inquired why I didn't join them, I replied, why would I want to be equal, when I've been superior all my life?

Feminists have proved that they think men are superior because their goal was that women should be equal to them. What fools they!

Posted by: erp at March 7, 2006 1:07 PM

I don't actually think women are superior to men. And my definition of gender equality is simple equality before the law and equality of opportunity. (I think very few women would want to go back to the days when women weren't, for example, allowed to attend college.) What feminism should be about is expanding women's abilities and access to resources in order to be responsible for others, not just nattering on about rights unrelated to duties or the capacity to perform those duties.

Posted by: Lisa at March 7, 2006 3:03 PM