I was at work and I caught some blip on the television. A typical trash news or entertainment news agency, whichever term you prefer, CNN, was going through the involuntary digestion and expulsion of the latest supposed news-worthy event. Some study came out that documents the rising unhappiness in the general female population that correlates with their rising equality over the past thirty years, I believe -- forgive me for not knowing the exact details. Men, on the other hand, are getting happier.
What does this mean? Why would women become more unhappy as they attain greater levels of social and economic freedom, slowly creeping up to men? It is a foolish and often abused idea stemming from an Enlightenment, rationalists understanding of human psychology that happiness and freedom are somehow related. They are not. Such a thought is dangerously simplistic and frighteningly out of touch with the last hundred years. A relinquishing of responsibility and engagement in the world is what allows for the greatest level of happiness. The dream that forever destroying institutions and beliefs that stand in the way of rationality will bring about a great joy is just that a dream -- utopian notions are as damning as the dogmatic institutions they fight. We've seen the rationalist's psychology fail in various rising and failings of fascist regimes. We've also seen it fail in the complexification and secularization of societies that often leads to, if I may borrow Durkheim's concept, anomie; a general sense of confusion, anxiety and isolation in regard to social expectations and society resulting in levels of sadness and unproductive behavior.
Another study that came out a couple years back, which furthers my point, is that religious persons often report the greatest levels of happiness compared to their secular neighbors. Simply believing in a god significantly reduces your anxiety and depression levels. While some bad theologians would like to build the idea that belief in Christ is actually liberating and allows for a greater level of freedom and responsibility, those with any decency in their psychological assessments will rebuke such a claim. The belief in god allows for an assumption of control and an appearance of patterns in the world that allows for false comfort, it also doubles the world allowing for one to remove themselves from their Earthly responsibilities and focusing on things as means toward a new, unseen world like Heaven.
But before we get too far into that tangent, in sum, the greater level of freedom and personal responsibility one brings upon themselves, the more miserable they will become. Anxiety and dread will be so unbound it will be tangible; this is the condition of modernity, and all of us honest, and not so honest, atheists are usually overcome by intense fits of despair. Touch your pills in the medicine cabinet if you take them, I'm sure if you don't everybody around you does. These are the little formed stalactites growing in our caves. The usage of medicines, illegal and pharmaceutical, are everywhere to relieve the mental anguish.
Why are women so sad? Because women are becoming more free through the growth of their material wealth, the development of their own self-interested identities, and their greater levels of intelligence through education and leisure. The responsibility is incredibly heavy.
They are also becoming more sad because the powers that have slighted women and always made them secondary voiceless, faceless beings to men have slipped away and returned in new forms. No longer is a woman controlled, regulated and manipulated as ruthlessly by the social expectations of fulfilling household work, but instead, many women are endlessly presented with images and displays of what the perfect woman is like. There is not a tough man, a father, a brother or a husband to use his economic and physical power against her, but rather, a social organization through an onslaught of media to show women -- you are free to do whatever you want and be happy! But the best women do these things: where you can list off a thousand expectations of what intelligent, beautiful, free, happy women do. Women are also more miserable now then ever because the things that once controlled them are waning but a new, very nuanced and very psychologically vicious control is taking place in the use of symbols and unspoken expectations. Women are self-regulating more than ever, and slowly driving themselves insane trying to attain all of these new goals that they expect for themselves and society expects for them as well.