My last piece reported on a survey by the Institute for Family Studies that finds very “feminine” women to be happier and more fulfilled than others. To that survey, my friends in the men’s movement might respond thus:
Of course those women are happy. For the last 40 years at least, they’ve heard a non-stop barrage of messages to the effect that women can not only do no wrong, but their every act is brilliant, heroic or both. Plus, it is precisely her sex that makes those acts so remarkable, i.e., it’s less the act itself that’s important than that a woman performs it.
Messages in popular culture lauding women long ago became routine. In everything from TV ads to movies to contemporary literature, if there’s a character who represents the moral conscience of the piece, that character is all but bound to be female. Not just moral, women are also strong and resolute. If violence is called for, we routinely see a 125-lb woman knock the stuffing out of a 250-lb man. Possible? Only for Supergirl, whom all women seem, sometime in the 80s, to have become.
Meanwhile, in the non-fictional world, a woman’s considered a miracle worker for accomplishing relatively modest feats. Did she start a small business? Good for her, but nowadays, she’s likely to be called a heroine who’s overcome incalculable odds. Did he? His male privilege allowed him to do something any fool could have. That sentiment, that began as an ooze, now gushes forth in public discourse.
The IFS write-up of its survey thoughtfully provides a current example.
More recently, news is filled with the stories of brave Ukrainian women confronting Russian soldiers, some with no more than the moral force of their indignation at the unjustified attack against their homes and families.
Was it “the moral force of [Ukrainian women’s] indignation” that turned the Russian army away from Kyiv? Or was it the courage and guns of the men who put their lives on the line? In fact, those Ukrainian women make up the great majority (along with children and the elderly) of those who’ve fled the country and who are exempt from the military conscription that nets every able-bodied man over the age of 16. Those men and boys have, for the last six weeks, faced the invaders, doubtless with indignation, but more importantly with missiles, rifles and RPGs. Many have died or been maimed for their trouble. Yes, some Ukrainian women have taken up arms, but they did because they chose to, not because the state made them.
Where was the feminist outcry when the conscription order was issued at the start of the Russian invasion? I suppose it must have been drowned out by the bombs, because I certainly didn’t hear it. Or perhaps by the din of the news media lauding the bravery of Ukrainian women.
So of course those especially feminine women surveyed by the IFS are happy. For decades they’ve been told they’re a gift from Divine Providence to the human race. How could they not be happy after marinating in such universal praise that’s directed, laser-like, at the specific fact that they’re women. Many of them have never lived in a world without that message.
And let’s not forget that, during all the time we’ve been praising women, we’ve done the opposite with men. Men have not only been reviled as violent, immoral, stupid and buffoonish, they’ve served as a foil for women. However men are described, and it’s usually negative, women are the opposite. Pejorative depictions of men in pop culture are actually becoming more common, not less. Pauline Harmange published a book entitled “I Hate Men” to widespread acclaim and translation into 17 languages.
More important is not just the way we describe the sexes but how we treat them on an everyday basis. Did a woman commit a crime? She’ll almost certainly be treated far more leniently at every phase of the criminal justice process than a similar man who committed a similar crime. And, if at all possible, she’ll be described as the victim of some dastardly man or, that old reliable fallback, the patriarchy.
Does she want to go to college? She’ll be the recipient of countless scholarships, grants and programs provided exclusively to women. True, doing so violates state and federal laws, but, hey, it’s all in a good cause - support for women – right?
Are 60% of college students women and only 40% men? Nothing to see here, move along. Elementary and secondary school teachers have been shown by the OECD to grade boys more harshly than they do girls, but once again, the cause is just, so no problem.
Domestic violence? For decades, we’ve known that women hit their male partners as often or more often than vice versa, but we continue to pretend they don’t. There are about 1,500 DV shelters in the U.S. for women and three for men.
Despite decades of information demonstrating the importance of fathers to children, family courts continue to kick dads to the curb, denying them any meaningful role in their children’s lives, to the profound detriment of both. Adoption laws in most states are aimed frankly and directly at getting fathers out of their children’s lives.
Etc., etc., etc., ad infinitum.
So it’s no surprise that women who particularly identify as feminine should feel particularly happy about themselves and their lives. How could they not?
Needless to say, women have problems. No one suggests that the women studied by the IFS don’t. But that’s the point; everyone encounters the hardships and disappointments of everyday life, but only half the population is informed daily that, simply because of a biological trait, they’re superheroes.
Having done that, we then conduct a survey and are astonished to find that the same half of the population is pretty happy with themselves.