The Achievement Myth

It is not necessarily a victory for women that, 40 years after the rebirth of the Western feminism, professional women are just as exhausted as professional men traditionally have been. Women have externalized the feminist ideal as a set of accomplishments and rigors, rather than embracing it as an expansion of freedom, which can sometimes include freedom from eternal aspiration.

NEW YORK – In late September, the American press was filled with data on women’s happiness. Marcus Buckingham, a business consultant, made the case that the data showed that women have become less happy over the past 40 years. Blogs, newsmagazines, and daytime talk shows agonized over the notion that feminism – all that freedom, all those choices – was actually making women sadder.

In fact, the women had told the researchers whom Buckingham cited that they were ‘not satisfied’ with many areas of their lives. If Western women have learned anything in the past 40 years, it is how to be unsatisfied with the status quo – an important insight for the rest of the world, as we seek to export Western-style feminism.

There is truth, for good and for ill, to the idea that Western-style “consciousness-raising” is also about teaching women how to be dissatisfied.

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