Does feminism make women happy?

One blogger says that's a really stupid question.

By Tracy Clark-Flory
March 18, 2006 5:40AM (UTC)
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Thanks to Alternet for directing us to The Happy Feminist's refreshing take on the question of whether feminism makes women happy. Or rather, why ask the question to begin with? "To frame the effectiveness of feminism in terms of whether it makes women happy is just one more way of patronizing women," she writes. "It smacks of, 'Oh, but the slaves are so well-fed and content on the plantation' or 'you'll be so much if it [sic] happier simply accepting the status quo rather than challenging it.'"

The discussion was sparked by Slate's recent reporting on a study which, among other things, found that "women who strongly identify as progressive -- the 15 percent who agree most with feminist ideals -- have a harder time being happy than their peers." (Not surprisingly, the New York Times' columnist John Tierney covered the same study, which Broadsheet covered here.)


In other words, feminists aren't as happy as their traditionalist counterparts. Wouldn't you expect a group that feels discriminated against to feel a little less optimistic about the world? (Then again, if you ascribe to the Bertrand Russell school of thought, that yearning is essential to happiness. So I guess we should thank our lucky stars that feminism hasn't been an overnight success.) Would it be too harsh to cite the tried and -- arguably -- true phrase, "ignorance is bliss"? Of course, here we enter perilous territory -- that of the Mommy Wars, where women choosing different lifestyles are pitted against one another.

Maybe the original question would be worth considering if we had achieved a more equitable stage in society -- then maybe we could dissect the emotional "results" of feminism. But regardless, as Happy argues, "To require feminism to serve up happiness on a platter for women is to ask of it something that is not asked of any other political or cultural movement or philosophy."

Tracy Clark-Flory

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