Mind The (nonexistent) Gap

In the comments thread to this post, good ol’ Goggler dirtyrose left us a message clearly crying out for a good rant:

The View just did a segment about a study claiming that women are more depressed now than they were in “the good old days” of the 50s (which is a misconception and never existed the way people remember it…). It was some of the most anti-feminist crap I’ve ever heard and I was SHOCKED by it.

Crowfoot responded with the following, just as clearly crying out for a blogaround:

That stat is familiar – I think Shakesville had a post about that? Or was it Tiger Beatdown? In any event, if that statistic is actually true (which I have serious concerns about), do you think that it might be because while we are constantly told we’re all equal and shit, we’re still actually treated like meat-socks and/or children, but we can’t complain about that because we’re all so apparently equal and shit so we must just be over-sensitive. Also, we’re almost all of us working full time and still doing the lion’s share of the housework, so more exhaustion? Maybe?

As a compromise, I provide for your reading pleasure a blogaround of rants:

Tiger Beatdown did, indeed, cover this gem, in a typically hilarious post titled “IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: Tales of the Backlash,” which begins thus:

Greetings! Are you aware of how sad – so sad! So prone to bleak despair! – all women now are, due perhaps to progress? Well, we are. Sad, that is! I read a study about it! It was full of SCIENCE. I even wrote about the SCIENCE, for The Guardian’s Comment is Free! Observe.

You may notice that the last word there is a quote; this is because Sady actually wrote at The Guardian but I loved her her Tiger Beatdown intro too much, so I quoted that one. Click either link (or both!) for the full-frontal Sady Awesome.

However, Crowfoot was right about Shakesville, too: SKM covered it in “Mini-Brooks Minds The Happiness Gap” — way to pro-actively steal my title-pun, Shakesville! A salient quote:

Douthat begins by accepting the premise that women’s happiness is falling worldwide. He then moves on to speculate about why that might be. First, he whips out the old high school debate tactic of bringing up the explanation he does not believe in order to shoot it down:

Again, maybe the happiness numbers are being tipped downward by a mounting female workload — the famous “second shift,” in which women continue to do the lion’s share of household chores even as they’re handed more and more workplace responsibility. It’s certainly possible — but as Wolfers and Stevenson point out, recent surveys actually show similar workload patterns for men and women over all.

I have not paid $5 to download the working paper, so I do not know if Wolfers and Stevenson do in fact claim that workloads are equal for men and women, or if their data are convincing. But notice that Douthat breezily dismisses the very concept of a second shift, without feeling the need to argue his point.

Incertus also did a great job for addressing the fact that a “happiness gap” doesn’t obviously stem from feminism as its cause, and in fa, in “Liberated Women Are Sad.”

It does not occur to him that the freedom to be honest and complain is actually a part of that revolution he’s talking about. “Being unpleasant” and “being unattractive” are heavy weaponry when used against a group of people who must make their way in the world by being pleasant and attractive, as opposed to by their intelligence, strength, and hard work. A woman in the 60s who sat down and said, “my life is unfulfilling and I am unhappy,” would have to deal with the consequences of “being that way.” A woman today has less to worry about. It’s even (almost) fully acceptable today (in certain circles) to complain about how motherhood sucks and having children ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. This is a case where freedom equals the ability to mention that you’re unhappy.

Now, Shakesville gave the hat tip to Language Log, a blog that I follow gleefully and which was my first source for this lovely story. “The happiness gap is back” features a collection of links on the topic, as well as the following graph and accompanying question:

Happiness1

And I’ll ask a simple question: What fraction of graphically and statistically literate people think that the right way to describe the data summarized in that graph is “In postfeminist America, men are happier than women”?

My final impression: gee, anti-feminists sure don’t need much to get all riled up, do they? We must be doing something right.

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One Response to Mind The (nonexistent) Gap

  1. […] Mind The (nonexistent) Gap « Gender Goggles The View just did a segment about a study claiming that women are more depressed now than they were in “the good old days” of the 50s (which is a misconception and never existed the way people remember it…). It was some of the most anti-feminist crap I’ve ever heard (tags: gender feminism statistics) […]

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