Thursday, February 26, 2009

The angry woman - my turn

Readers have had their say about Elizabeth Stewart, the angry upper-class Englishwoman who blames men for her stressful life.

Some readers thought that Elizabeth Stewart was almost too much an embodiment of the worst trends in modern society. They wondered if she was simply made up.

Other readers debated whether her life was objectively stressful and needed downshifting, or whether she had it relatively good and was oppressed by her expectations.

I'd like to add a few observations. Back in the early 1990s, it became clear to me that feminists weren't going to make any compromises when it came to career and family. What they expected was that both men and women would work full-time and then share equally the traditionally female role.

It seemed poorly thought out to me. The male career role was demanding enough without suddenly having a very large extra burden placed on top of it. Accepting feminist demands would make everybody worse off.

I couldn't understand why the feminists of the era weren't aware of this. But perhaps there is an explanation.

According to feminist patriarchy theory, society has developed to maximise male autonomy at the expense of women. It is men who are supposed to have the power and privilege to be able to do as they want. For this reason, many feminists believe that men have relatively easy lives.

So perhaps there were feminists who assumed that the proposed arrangement wouldn't be so burdensome after all. In their eyes, the male role was the easy, privileged one, so women who adopted it would be better off even if they still had to do half of the old role.

Did Elizabeth Stewart have false expectations of what a traditionally male role would deliver to her? Reader Liesel suggested in the comments thread that this was the case:

She believes the society has existed to give men whatever they want, sacrifice free. This is not now, and never has been, the case. Based on this false notion, she has decided the world should give women whatever they want, sacrifice free, to make it up to them.

The first mistake, therefore, was to believe that men are a privileged oppressor class with easy lives that women could inherit.

There was, of course, a second major mistake. The original idea was that men would take over half of the traditionally female role. But this assumes that gender roles are simply social constructs which can easily be abandoned. It's true that men have taken up some extra household duties, but it's generally not anywhere near half.

So the expectations of women like Elizabeth Stewart have been twice confounded. The career role isn't the easy, non-sacrificing role that the theory suggested it to be; nor has her husband, despite being sensitive and supportive, taken over half of the mothering/homemaking role.

So she feels strung-out and enraged with her life.


  1. Spot on! Mr. Richardson. I find it very interesting that in western culture the popular ideal is that a career is somehow more prestige’s than teaching a child correct principles. I think the problem is the focus on bromidic activities women have to perform, such as changing, feeding, cleaning, bathing, ex. I personally believe the most important and prestige’s kind of work is motherhood. It just doesn’t come with the fancy cars, big houses and extravagant vacations. But I can also understand if you feel these are things important and needs rather than wants, then you must do what you must do. But I heard someone wise say this, “No amount of success can compensate for failure in the home.”

  2. When women talk about household duties, they generally don't think about all the household duties that men typically do. Because it's the men doing them, they just get done without all the feminist "glory" of doing "housework". Taking out the trash, doing yardwork, fixing things, maintaining cars, doing sysadmin on the computers, keeping all the electronics and appliances in working order, keeping the garage in order, changing light bulbs, doing the dangerous work (getting on the roof), doing heavy lifting, etc.

  3. I wonder if "Angry Woman" is even aware what a tiny proportion of the world would even consider trying to blend a full-time high achievement career as a woman and looking after your own children at the same time, let alone being surprised it's close to impossible.

    Outside of the English speaking First World and Western Europe (particularly Scandinavian Europe)to attempt what this women wants would be seen as the fools creed it is.

    I think what is really making her angry is that Feminist dream of interchangeable roles not only fails as a lifestyle it fails to compete.

    The question of just how hard you can work at high level job, keep your sanity and still enjoy life has been decided. Nothing can beat the traditional or close to traditional arrangement of a man (or a in few cases a woman where roles are completely reversed)coming home to the household and children looked after by the partner.

    One women trying to do both, or having two people trying to both, sees one function or the other become a frustrating overload.

    Outside of "Angry Women's" part of the world they aren't buying the "Cleo Women experience" in places like South East Asia they never have and no profit making firm is ever going to organize itself so they can , even in her own Britain she can bet any Islamic women no matter how well educated won't be trying on her double balancing act and those women will be spending all their time with with very probably twice the number of children "Angry Women" has.

  4. Jaz, Point well taken and I find this to be very true in my home. But I would rather do “dangerous work” and work all day, than go through the stages of birth and giving birth itself; let alone a menstrual cycle. In the end when my wife complains that I’m not doing enough, I just turn to anther father and gesture a subtle wink and nod; thus becoming apart of the fatherhood “wink and nod club”.


  5. I think what is really making her angry is that Feminist dream of interchangeable roles not only fails as a lifestyle it fails to compete.

    I think what is really making her angry -- ie what actually is, not what she thinks is -- is that her ideology couldn't deliver earthly bliss and the dawning realization that reality kind of, well, "sucks". Which is something the rest of us were always more keenly aware of, but were content with the thought that it can be mitigated some. I'm awaiting a similar dispiriting realization among men that happiness is not the next million bucks.