As we celebrated the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day this week, there was a lot of retreading over the age-old question: Has feminism made us happier? So, so many people think they’re quite clever by telling us: No! It has not! It has, in fact, ruined everything! Phyllis Schlafly and her niece, Suzanne Venker, wrote The Flipside of Feminism to tell us this in many, many pages, over and over again. Venker states baldly, “Feminism has sabotaged women’s happiness,” while the book goes on to detail the many ways the women’s movement has ruined everything: It gave most families two incomes, thus making us want more money and more stuff. (Definitely feminism’s fault, not mass consumerism or anything.) It emasculates men. (Poor, poor dears.) And most of all, it apparently screws up sex in all kinds of confusing ways.
See, men want marriage and kids more than ever, while we women want to maintain our independence longer, Shlafly and Venker tell us. Except we apparently also don’t want to have enough sex: “Sex is a problem, too. More and more wives today say they’re too tired for sex. …Naturally, this poses a problem for husbands, who are rarely too tired for sex. Sex is a man’s favorite past time, and the wives who are too tired to have it are often resentful of this fact. If change is going to come, it will have to come from women—they are the ones who changed the natural order of things. Moreover, men aren’t the ones who kvetch about their place in the world—not because they have it so great, contrary to feminist dogma, but because it’s not in their nature. Men tend to go along with whatever women say they need.” Except, of course, we also want to have too much sex, because men are getting it somewhere, which is making them not want to get married, which is how feminism is apparently ruining marriage (which is sad because traditional marriage is always such a treat). Except, of course, as we learned earlier in this paragraph, there are men who do want marriage, who are seeking it and begging us for it while we selfishly and stubbornly maintain our independence.
In any case, it seems we’re caught in some kind of vicious (and nonsensical) cycle of unhappiness. That, dear ones, is the point here. We’re unhappy because men won’t commit, and because some of them want to commit; because we want easy sex, and because we’re too tired for sex. Know what’s weirdest of all about this? I agree. With all of it, in all of its nonsensical glory. Here’s why: It’s true, I’ve been frustrated by noncommittal men in my life; I’ve also run away from men who wanted to commit to me. I have wanted easy sex, and I have been too tired for sex, and I have even wanted easy sex sometimes because I was too tired for complicated sex. Oh, life, you vexing vixen, you! And the main reason for all of this complexity in my life is, in fact, feminism.