A new poll mounted by Time Magazine on the state of American women is as positive as it is perplexing. In business, power and economics the news is good. Women make up 49% of the workforce and 57% of all college students, and hold jobs that include Supreme Court Justice, Governors, and Ivy League Presidents. However, even on the economic playing field there is still a lag. For every dollar that men make, women earn only 77 cents.
On the home front, things aren’t nearly as rosy. Nearly 70% of women still have the primary responsibility for taking care of children, the sick, elderly and their homes. In 1970, nearly all children grew up with a stay-at-home parent. Today only about 30% do, and 65% of adults view this as a negative phenomenon.
So what’s going on here? Why are we so unhappy? We got everything feminism promised, didn’t we????? I mean, we have so many choices in lifestyle. We can be perpetually single, we can be child-free, we can be gay and bi. We can be the primary wage earner. But can we get any help around the house? Apparently not. And what if we don’t want a career outside of the home (God forbid!) Fat chance ladies. Unless you are Martha Stewart and can turn your canning, crafts and cooking into an empire, few men these days can finance this type of woman’s hobby.
The problem that feminists couldn’t have forecasted when they staged the International Women’s Year back in 1975, was that as women left the household, no one else showed up to do the job she left at home. The down and sometimes dirty work of womanhood: cooking, cleaning, and child-rearing. Or, as I like to call it, playing with fire, chemicals and poop! Sheesh. Mother’s need some haz-mat pay.
And we seem to be depressed about our double duty, even if we aren’t actually diagnosed. Nearly 70 percent of the prescriptions for antidepressants (SSRI’s) are given to women, often with improper diagnosis and little monitoring. One study found that 43 percent of those prescribed antidepressants had no psychiatric diagnosis or any mental health care except for the prescription of the drug. Twice as many psychiatric drugs are prescribed for women than for men. Depression has been called the most significant mental health risk for women, especially younger women of childbearing and childrearing age.
What early feminists also didn’t calculate is this: Feminism would quickly get into bed with Capitalism and give birth to Consumerism. Instead of a gently robust economy, where women replaced men in many jobs, we got a hugely booming economy as women joined men and helped double the workforce in the 1980’s and 90’s. And with the rise of consumerism and ensuing social pressure to earn two incomes to buy all those precious trinkets, today few women GET to stay home with their children, even if they desire it.
Time magazine did point out that the recession is changing the game once again. The new economy has forced more men than women out of jobs and it is forecasted that by the end of 2009, for the first time in history, more than half the American workforce will be made up of women. And what of those unemployed men? Will they finally start to load the dishwasher and fold the laundry? This remains to be seen.