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What's Wrong with the World: The Lie about Women
On Twitter (X), NYT columnist Ross Douthat recently shared a chart that shows the happiness by gender since 1972. Both men’s and women’s happiness has tended to decline since that point, but in the case of women, the decline is particularly striking. Men’s happiness leveled off and even increased through the year 2000 before undergoing a sudden decline. Women’s happiness, on the other hand, underwent a fairly straight decline that only seems to be continuing. Women, put simply, are not happy and report that they are only becoming less so. What should we make of this?
If anything, it almost seems that the reverse should be the case. Women, we are told, are freer than they have ever been, have more opportunities, access to free contraception and abortion, and participate in the workforce at almost higher than ever rates. According to the Center for American Progress, approximately 75% of women 18-54 are in the workforce, the vast majority of them working full-time. In addition, women are having fewer children and having them later than they have in the past. All these things, according to progressives of the past, promised women happiness. Employment, money, power, contraception and abortion, and fewer children. And yet women are not happy.
It is at least possible that women are not happy because, like the lie about children, there has been a popular, loud, and oft-repeated similar lie about women. The promises of the sexual revolution are that lie. If only women entered and remained in the workforce, delayed (or declined) marriage, avoided or limited children, they would have money, power, and equality. As those promises have so clearly not been met, we must start to ask if they are merely a modern lie about women.
Why has the modern lie about women made them unhappy? Perhaps, at its most basic, it is because those lies have alienated women from their own natures and their own bodies. The birth control pill promised women freedom: freedom from the burdens of pregnancy and children, freedom from the sacrifices and struggles of motherhood, freedom for consequence-free sex of the sort that many (depraved) men seemed to enjoy, and freedom to continue in the workforce.
Yet, this “freedom” came at a price. For in this search for freedom, what enslaved women was their own bodies, their own ability to carry, bear, and nurture children. In short, a woman’s own body was the enemy to her freedom and a hindrance to her liberty. Her body had to be stopped and controlled. Women gained freedom only by acting against their own bodies. Marriage, ordered to the raising of children, similarly became an obstacle to this sense of freedom and so marriage rates among men and women tended to decline, fertility declined, and happiness declined: all because of the alienation of women from their own bodies.
If women since the sexual revolution have become more and more alienated from their own bodies, it seems also reasonable to hold that they have become increasingly alienated from men. Different forms and “waves” of feminism proposed men as the enemy against whom women had to struggle for equality. Marxist divisions of society into oppressor and oppressed almost necessitated seeing men as enemies. These views were hardly calculated to form harmonious relationships between the sexes, leading them to happy and harmonious marriages. And they have not. Marriage rates in America are now the lowest they have ever been since the government started keeping records in 1867.
And this seems to be the real rub. For amidst all the unhappiness in our unhappy age, marriage seems to be the one real predictor of happiness. A recent university of Chicago study found that marriage was the most successful predictor of happiness. Marriage rates have declined along with happiness.
Now, it might be suggested that if the real problem is just lower marriage rates, then why discuss the other issues: women’s workforce participation, contraception, abortion, and all the rest? Because those issues are intrinsically connected to declining marriage rates. As women have become alienated from their own bodies and from men by those developments, it is in vain to suggest that they can simply put them aside and choose marriage . Those very developments are why they have not chosen and are not choosing marriage. And all because of the modern lie about women.
The lie about children has held that children are burdens and obstacles to self-fulfillment; the lie about women has held much the same, that women’s own bodies are obstacles to their self-fulfillment and, until this lie be rejected, the long decline of happiness is likely to continue.
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