by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Every year since 1972, the General Social Survey has asked a representative sample of American adults how happy they are. In 1972, women reported being a bit happier than men. Each year since, despite the achievements of feminism, women’s reported happiness has declined, both in absolute terms and when compared with men’s. Around 1990, the sexes passed each other, and since then, women have reported being less happy than men, and less happy than their mothers and grandmothers were at the same stage of life.
A 2011 study found that women were two and a half times as likely as men to be taking an antidepressant. Recent data on suicide rates between 2000 and 2016 show a 21 percent increase for men, but a 50 percent increase for women. Among middle-aged women, the increase was 60 percent. This closes a gender gap, but not in a way anyone would cheer.
The #MeToo movement is another signal flare of distress. Women are fed up with the post-sexual-revolution world feminists did so much to enable. …
… Feminists were early adopters of the sexual revolution, perceiving it as a key tenet of their liberation agenda. By rejecting modesty, courtship, and chivalry, feminists of the 1960s and 1970s rejected the safe harbor of marriage and family and invited the social chaos that has left so many women struggling to raise children by themselves and feeling exhausted, insecure, and cynical. It has also left many men aimless, addicted, angry, and alone.
Feminism need not have rejected marriage and family stability to achieve greater market opportunities for women. In fact, the trend of women entering the paid work force predated Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique (1963), and arguably owed more to the shift toward an information economy than to the Sisterhood. Between 1940 and 1956, the number of women in the work force doubled from 15 to 30 percent, and rose steadily thereafter. As sociologist Daniel Bell noted in 1956, women were to be found in nearly every field, from railroad trainmen, to baggage handlers, to glaziers, to auctioneers.