Happiness

Sep. 2nd, 2008 08:41 pm
porphyry: (Mensur)
Today on NPR I heard part of an interview with two economists who had just conducted a survey that was part of a program of surveys going back to the 1960s in which people are periodically asked how happy they are. I won’t go into the preposterousness of asking such a question and expected to treat the answers as objective scientific data, but rather will say that the main finding they talked about is that women are much unhappier now than they were in the 1960s.

They dismissed out of hand the possibility that the feminist project was all wrong and that the traditional gender-typed social roles that existed for thousands of years actually made people happy. ‘That’s just crazy talk. We know that feminist ideology is true and simply have to interpret the data to support it.’ They suggested as answers the possibility that women were happier in the 1960s because they knew the feminist revolution was starting and its fulfillment now couldn’t possibly make women as happy as the exuberance of its beginning. Or again, women lied in the 1960s about how happy they were because they knew they were supposed to. But whatever the reason, the economists knew it couldn’t be because today women have to work outside the home for the family to make as much as money as the husband alone could earn in the 1960s and they still have to do almost all of the housework and child care duties—it just couldn’t be that.

What I’m still trying to figure out is why Anne Sexton, whose husband in today’s dollars made about a quarter of a million a year, who had to look after the house and children with the help of a maid and nanny, who had the free time and disposable income to go to therapy and take graduate seminars in poetry composition, was so unhappy.

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