I don't care that Marcus Buckingham asserted in his recent post "What's Happening to Women's Happiness" that women today are in the middle of a misery epidemic. He's dead wrong — women today are NOT unhappier than they were 40, 50 or 60 years ago.
I've talked to many, many women of my mother's generation. Women who spent their young adult years in the 1950s and 60s. They were the generation raised under traditional restraints and constraints. Few went to college, almost all married young, placing their husband's needs and ambitions above their own. And they couldn't wait to raise their own daughters to be feminists and throw off the shackles of their mothers' existence.
No, they were not a happy crowd back then. My mother told me that the secret no one wanted to talk about in the supposedly idyllic world of 60's suburban housewives--they were bored out of their frigging minds.
On our own little quiet crescent of a street in the suburbia where I grew up, bored silly housewives turned to alcohol and affairs, that's how happy they were.
These women yearned to have a broader, more varied world, they yearned to do more than raise children, maintain perfect households, and wait for their husbands to come home.
Now, I agree that us women today are not living in the happiest of times either. We're financially insecure, stressed out and tired, as we juggle jobs and families. We're beset by responsibilities and decision making. But in the scheme of life, that's not really a bad thing.
Women today at least are very actively participating in the decisions that will affect their lives versus being treated like the chattel that they were mere generations ago. I can assure you that in the areas of the world--parts of India, Africa and the Middle East--where women are still treated like chattel, they are miserable.
What Buckingham seems to be missing is that people--men and women--are always happier when they feel in control of their own lives. There is no way that when women were considered second class citizens--a mere 40 or more years ago--that they could have been blissful. Women were infantilized--their fathers and husbands made the decisions that women today take for granted--whether they could go to college, buy a dress, drive a car, have a career, go out with "the girls."
My grandfather didn't believe a woman should go to college--so my mother didn't--and she never got over it nor forgave him. During her marriage, she couldn't even get a new dress for herself or her daughters unless my father approved. But he didn't require her permission to buy a suit.
What women have learned in recent generations is that as our sex has become "adult," we have had to take on the responsibilities that come with adulthood. For some women, that may lead to a certain nostalgia for a past where life for women was simpler — a whole lot simpler — yes, because they were treated like they were simple-minded.
Women only have to turn on the TV show, Mad Men, to be reminded of how very different and un-female-friendly a world it was, just 45 or 50 years ago.
Sexual double standards prevailed, there was little effective birth control and women literally bore the price when it failed. Women were secretaries not bosses, and even if they climbed the executive ranks, their earnings were far below their male co-workers
Buckingham can't tell me that women were, nevertheless, still happier under these circumstances than they are today.
As for the idea that there are more pressures on women today to be more physically beautiful than ever before — that's ridiculous. In the 50s and 60s the ideal of female beauty was far more prescribed and rigid than today. Blonde, perky or sexy, Debbie Reynolds or Marilyn Monroe types were It. And God forbid, when a woman hit 40 — she was tossed on the scrapheap.
Today, our eyes appreciate the beauty of a Michelle Obama or Kim Kardashian as much as a Charlize Theron or Scarlet Johansson. And as for aging — that's a whole lot more under our control, too, now that Botox, laser resurfacing and fillers are becoming as common at the dermatologist's office as treatments for acne. And hey, why shouldn't we view aging like acne — as a treatable skin condition.
So Marcus Buckingham, whether it's our sexual, work, love or beauty lives, women have far more control over these than they did 40 or more years ago. And that means that women are happier, whether they consciously realize it or not!
For more on whether women are happy or not, follow Bonnie Fuller on Twitter: twitter.com/bonniefuller
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