Fox News recently interviewed blogger and creator of the site "Women for Men," Suzanne Venker, who made some pretty sweeping statements about how career-oriented women are focusing their energy in the wrong arenas of their lives.
In the segment entitled "You Do Need a Husband?" and in her article "Why Women Still Need Husbands" on the Fox News website, Venker not only criticizes modern women for trying too hard to reduce their reliance on men, but she debases the value of women having their own careers. She also urges the more driven sector of the female race to take it down a notch and allow men to be the breadwinners in order to lead a more balanced life.
First off, I'd like to thank Venker for answering that bothersome question of what we should be doing with our lives for the entire female race. On a less sarcastic note, I found her statements to be highly generalized and chauvinistic. Here are my two biggest problems with Venker's argument.
The most glaring controversy in Venker's statements lies in her generalization of the nature of men and women, as well as her bold statement that women everywhere will find the ultimate fulfillment in marriage and creating a family. She asserts that "a man's identity is inextricably linked to his paycheck" and that women are better suited for creating a loving household.
Unfortunately, these broad statements neglect to recognize the unending variety of personalities housed within both men and women. For every driven businessman "bringing home the bacon," I can name for you a lazy bum who's perfectly content to lounge paycheck-less at home while his wife or girlfriend works tirelessly at her career.
Another glaring omission from Venker's argument: the large population of divorced women in this country. I'm curious what sage advice she'd have to offer them: "Pick up the pieces and find a new husband stat, or else?" Anyone who's been through or in close proximity to a divorce knows that it can often take years to recover from the emotionally draining process. As a seasoned dating coach I often suggest to my divorced clients that a vibrant career or new business venture can provide a healthy, productive distraction, and even some solace. What else would Venker prescribe for that dilemma?
Venker also fails to account for women who simply don't enjoy or excel at household chores and feel much more in their element in the workplace. What of these situations? Does Venker expect women to simply force themselves into those roles because, in her words, women who fail to embrace their traditional roles are becoming "increasingly annoying" and "less marriageable"?
While I do encourage even the most career-driven women to cultivate and exercise their feminine energy in everything they do, that can still be easily practiced while working hard at a career. And for the men out there who want to be the breadwinner? Find yourselves a "traditional woman." They're out there!
Misinterpretation and Ignorance
Venker also exercises a severe misinterpretation in her evaluation of the cause of the women in the workplace "problem" and in the very narrow solution she proposes to women wanting to lead more balanced lifestyles. In her article on the Fox News website, she blames the "baby boomer adage: 'never depend on a man'" for the ensuing quest for women to become financially independent.
While financial independence may be the main motivator for some, many women simply have a passion for their work and feel it makes them a more three-dimensional person: a person whom the right man will find attractive. Venker's misinterpretation of the reason for women who are actively pursuing careers is unfortunately the basis for her controversial argument.
To support her argument, Venker cites a number of studies that reflect a desire among women to have more balance in their lives: more time for exercise, hobbies, alone time, time with their kids, and so on. This shouldn't be news to any of us; achieving balance is an ongoing and common struggle for both men AND women.
So while she accurately assesses the problem, Venker inaccurately prescribes a solution: "leaning on your husband." But many women who are seeking balance want to achieve it without sacrificing the job they love; in fact, they would feel lost without it. Again, her misinterpretation of women's need for balance leads her to ignore other solutions to the balance problem such as improving on time management at work, adjusting your sleep/exercise schedule, or making more of a point to take completely work-free personal days.
I don't disagree with Venker that being in a healthy relationship and creating a family can enrich your life beyond what a career can, but I also recognize that many women care dearly about their careers. Just as a woman shouldn't rely on her career to define herself, she shouldn't rely on a man to define herself either. It's all about balance.