Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Rise of Women and Fall of Their Happiness

Many of you have heard me talk about this, here is an article describing an interesting statistic. According to some polls women's reported happiness has fallen over the last 30 years despite rising rates of salary, education, graduation, employment out of the home, etc. On the flip side, over the same period, men have grown happier. What gives? Any theories? 


Liz Dembski said...

That's interesting, especially since I was reading an article about how women are the physically stronger gender, based on birth/death rates, susceptibility to diseases and infections and life span.

"Men are known to have a shorter life span, are more susceptible to infections and have less chance of withstanding disease than women. In short, men are the weaker sex."
-Professor Marek Glezerman expert in gender-based medicine

That article, along with another article that said men are feeling less powerful these days because of the lack of leadership opportunities, (which I think is totally ridiculous, have many women have been President of the US?) shows that women as a whole have more responsibilities. Not only do we live longer and are more resistant to disease, but we raise children, have careers, bring home the bacon, become leaders in our communities and still take time to look fabulous. That's a LOT of stress, and stress = unhappiness.

Jesse said...

Well according to the article I cited, the idea that men don't do any housework is becoming out dated. According to studies I don't have to cite, it is approaching a ratio of unity. I'm sure that it depends on the individuals, but statistically speaking...

Also, using the President as an example of inequity seems a bit off to me as well considering we were very close to electing the first female President this year, clearly we are comfortable with the idea. Also, while yes there are fewer female CEOs in the world (positions of business leadership) the number of women in those positions are currently on an exponential, as well as presidents of universities.

There has also been a rapid rise of men staying at home to take care of the kids so I don't think that is really fair either.

I find the truly interesting thing to be the switch. Men weren't as happy pre-sexual revolution, and women were happier- what gives?

Liz Dembski said...

I don't want to over-comment so this is the last I'm going to say about this, but I still think its stress.

Yes, more men are staying home these days to help raise kids (possibly due to loss of jobs and our less then stellar economy) and hopefully the rate of housework is becoming more equal. But, like you said, more women are getting more advanced degrees then ever before and becoming business, academic and political leaders. With power comes responsibility and that equals much more stress.

Oh, and a woman wasn't even close to winning the 2008 Presidential election, remember?

Jesse said...

I'd argue that if Hillary had won the primary against the Big O, she would've won the presidency.

I know that there are MANY arguments against this, and who knows, maybe McCain wouldn't have added nutter-Palin to the ticket, but the economy would have still slid, and that was the main force driving people away from the party in power, the Republicans, in my humble opinion. You can actually see it in the polls, Bear-Sterns falls and so does McCain.

Matt Fate said...

I'd agree that stress is likely the main factor in the decline of women's reported happiness.

I think its a more deeply rooted psychological stress though, resulting from the recent and rapid divergence from a state of natural gender role balance forged genetically and evolutionarily over thousands of centuries.

I'd argue about men being the weaker sex, however. And, really, define "weaker"? I see men and women as equal in strengths (or weaknesses), with one able to find aspects of life in which each could be considered "weaker" and "stronger". Women may live longer and get less infections, but men on average have larger and stronger muscles, and don't get breast cancer as often. The conclusion that Professor Glezerman reaches doesn't seem to consider the why's - only the result, which makes his statement shallow bordering on meaningless. If, on average, men have had much more stressful lives (for the same reasons women are just now starting to feel stressed), a shorter life-span and greater susceptibility to disease would be expected. There is no "weakness" in the situation when viewed in this light, its differing degrees of "wear and tear" between lives led with different foci and risk. I'd be interested in seeing the statistics on longevity and "weakness" after another generation or two, especially if true gender role neutrality is achieved and maintained by our society. My guess would be that the gap in expected life-span between sexes closes.

The prudent question here seems to me to be: If moving towards complete gender role neutrality is diminishing the happiness of women, what logic would have them choose to pursue it? Are gender roles truly bad? I always thought of it as a good thing in general - a team with each member doing what they enjoy and are better at than the other, combining strengths and working together to create a team that is greater than the sum of it's parts.