Why Women Can't Get No Satisfaction

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), October 11, 2007 | Go to article overview

Why Women Can't Get No Satisfaction


Byline: By Lynne Barrett-Lee Western Mail

Forget the myth of the modern bear-with-a-sore-head caveman. Today it's the women who are grumpy. Has feminism failed us? Lynne Barrett-Lee examines the evidence AS WITH buses and all things that fall under the banner of "important new findings", you wait an age for one to come along and then you get three.

You do if you live in the US, at any rate. Writing in the New York Times recently, the columnist and journalist David Leonhardt noted that something unprecedented had happened in the increasingly big bucks world of happiness research. Since we're all so dead keen on finding happiness these days (as opposed to nine or 10 centuries ago when we were just dead keen on not being, well, dead), the news - that, for the first time since the 1960s, men have reported being happier than women - has sparked frenzied debate on both sides of the pond. How, it's all saying, can this possibly be? Isn't it the other way around?

The findings come from two separate studies. The first has its origins at Princeton University, where economist Alan Krueger and a team of psychologists collected data on how men and women reported they felt when doing day to day activities such as shopping or spending time with friends. Their results showed that overall men were the happier sex, reporting greater happiness than women of all ages and social groupings across a wide range of activities. The other - which is the work of economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers at the University of Pennsylvania - looked at more traditional happiness data amassed over the past four decades (that is, people's reported satisfaction with their overall lives) and observed a similar turnabout; whereas in the 1970s women were happier than men, today the reverse is apparent.

Which state of affairs might seem counter intuitive. Bombarded, as we women have been over the years, by endless reportage of the sorry plight of our increasingly emasculated men, it seemed fairly safe to assume that male dissatisfaction was, even if sad, at least credible. Men, we were told, had lost their status, their rag and, by extension, their way; with their traditional roles (protector, provider, top dog) no longer needed on board, and with women ever more encroaching on traditional male territory, they were flailing and uncertain and felt largely redundant. Little more than walking sperm banks, in a growing minority of cases.

But it would seem that our menfolk are, in fact, bearing up rather well. Instead of bleating about their lot in an increasingly girly world, they have, it would appear, been quietly adjusting. While women have been taking on ever more responsibilities, data reveals that men have actually been cutting back on work hours, making more time for leisure and capitalising on women's determination to have it all by altering their work-life balance rather nicely. No wonder they all smile as they flip through FHM.

This change has also brought about another downer for women. New York is not only the home of the New York Times, of course, but also the TV programme Sex And The City, which features a character called Miranda, played by Cynthia Nixon, right. A go-getting lawyer, with a wastrel of a boyfriend, she has now lent her name to a new social dynamic. The stylishly named Miranda Complex sees powerful, economically independent women in New York finding it difficult to bag themselves suitable men, and having to play down any mention of their money and power lest they scare all the good guys away. No wonder they're all feeling so grumpy.

Of course, the more cynical among us might be tempted to suggest that anyone would be grumpy if they had to spend all their time stomping about the place in stilettos and scratchy skirt suits but, as any woman who has ever found herself repeatedly passed over for a girl with childbearing hips and a Tupperware container full of muffins under her arm will confirm, money and status might buy you freedom and independence but to many men they represent the worst kind of turn off - a woman who doesn't much appear to need them. …

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