By Caryl Rivers
Friday, August 13, 2010
We've had the latest salvo about careers and romance not mixing for women. This time it's from Camille Paglia. Why don't any of these writers take a look at the data, asks Caryl Rivers? In reality, the "marriage penalty" for high-achieving women is disappearing.
(WOMENSENEWS)--What should smart ambitious women with some measure of career fulfillment do to prove they're not miserable and sexless? Hold a mass demonstration with smiley-face banners?
The latest incarnation of these false charges comes from critic Camille Paglia, who in June wrote a New York Times article, "No Sex, Please, We're Middle Class," saying that a sexual malaise consumes the country. The culprit: "the anxious, overachieving, white upper middle class."
Women in this group, says Paglia, postpone childbearing and "men and women are interchangeable, doing the same, mind-based work."
And she adds, "Physicality is suppressed; voices are lowered and gestures curtailed in sanitized office space. Men must neuter themselves, while ambitious women postpone procreation. Androgyny is bewitching in art, but in real life it can lead to stagnation and boredom, which no pill can cure." These brainy female drones certainly don't turn men on, Paglia believes, calling to mind the old saw that "men don't make passes at girls who wear glasses."
No matter how many times researchers debunk that story with real facts, it refuses to die. Feminism is always the culprit for women's alleged unhappiness. I've tracked this story over the past few years on Women's eNews, and its hardiness is astonishing.
For example, in a 2009 op-ed piece for The New York Times, Ross Douthat wrote, "All the achievements of the feminist era may have delivered women to greater unhappiness. In the 1960s, when Betty Friedan diagnosed her fellow wives and daughters as the victims of 'the problem with no name,' American women reported themselves happier, on average, than did men. Today, that gender gap has reversed. Male happiness has inched up, and female happiness has dropped. In post-feminist America, men are happier than women."
A different story was conveyed by a study done by Professors Betsy Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, researchers at the Wharton School of Business in Philadelphia. They reported on data collected each year since 1972 in the United States General Social Survey, which has asked men and women: "How happy are you, on a scale of 1 to 3." Over the years, some 50,000 men and women have participated, making it a huge study.
While the results have varied over the years, Rosalind Barnett, senior scientist at the Women's Studies Research Center at Brandeis and my frequent co-author, points out that in large-scale studies, very small differences can rise to the level of statistical significance. However, the differences between the sexes in this study are so small that generally they are less than one-half of 1 percent. This tiny difference tells you nothing about men, women or happiness.
And when the researchers looked at men and women in particular domains of life--employed, married, single etc.--they found virtually no differences in overall happiness between men and women. It was only when they looked at the sample as a whole that very small differences emerged. Journalists hyped these findings far beyond their true meaning.
In 2007, Forbes.com published an article by editor Michael Noer with the headline, "Don't Marry Career Women" and subtitled "How do women, careers and marriage mix? Not well, say social scientists."
In 2005, the news media had a field day with a study that appeared to show that the higher a woman's IQ, the less chance she had to marry. It garnered headlines in the Chicago Sun Times, Toronto Star, The New York Times and The Atlantic magazine and was featured on "60 Minutes." Atlantic titled its story, "Too smart to marry?"
By Caryl Rivers
By Caryl Rivers
By Rivers and Barnett