Many feminists argue that having different, defined marriage roles for men and women is oppressive, because it contradicts certain abstract principles that men and women must be exactly the same in every way.
However, when deciding what the “ideal roles” for men and women in relationships should be, it seems that we should be more concerned with what makes individual men and women the happiest; not with abstract principles which force everyone to be the same and, in turn, not achieve full happiness by either gender.
A Feb, 6, 2014 New York Times article by Lori Gottlieb, attempted to come to grips with the results of research showing that relationships with egalitarian gender roles were tied to lower marital and sexual satisfaction for women.
Gottlieb reported on a study published in The American Sociological Review by Sabino Kornrich, Julie Brines, and Katrina Leupp, entitled, “Egalitarianism, Housework and Sexual Frequency in Marriage.” Gottlieb reported, “(I)f men did all of what the researchers characterized as feminine chores like folding laundry, cooking or vacuuming — the kinds of things many women say they want their husbands to do — then couples had sex 1.5 fewer times per month than those with husbands who did what were considered masculine chores, like taking out the trash or fixing the car … the greater the husband’s share of masculine chores compared with feminine ones, the greater his wife’s reported sexual satisfaction.”
The study reported that data from the National Survey of Families and Households showed that couples with more traditional housework arrangements had sex more frequently, suggesting that adhering to traditional gender roles exerts a stronger influence over individual behaviors, including sexual frequency, than “marital exchange for sex between heterosexual married partners.”
Gottlieb seems to try to justify this by making the strange argument from couples’ therapist Esther Perel that, “Most of us get turned on at night by the very things that we’ll demonstrate against during the day.” It seems that this sort of inconsistency in individual’s public and private behaviors should be seen as a problem, and as a reason to change one or the other.
However, it isn’t just intimacy that is harmed by the imposition of abstract feminist principles. Former Collegian opinion editor and current associate editor for The Libertarian Republic, Ian Huyett, recently reported on a study in which, “Psychologists surveyed a representative sample of (6,000) New Zealanders and found that a man’s score on a test of ‘benevolent sexism’ – a view of women as ‘deserving of men’s adoration and protection’ – was directly correlated with his overall life satisfaction. Their results also indicated that women are happier in relationships with sexist men.”
The same New Zealand study, entitled, “Why are Benevolent Sexists Happier?” stated that, “Research indicates that the endorsement of sexist ideology is linked to higher subjective wellbeing for both men and women.”
This suggests that well-being, in addition to sexual satisfaction, is increased when gender roles fall into more traditional practices. Both studies recorded higher scores of satisfaction for both women and men when conventional roles were practiced. In turn, the studies recorded lower scores for both sexes when duties were focused on equality, rather than customary gender practices – proving that traditional roles result in the greatest happiness.
If feminism is meant to support women, then it seems that it should be more focused on what makes women happiest and less focused on empirically unsupported principles about male-female sameness. Many feminists see masculinity and femininity as inherently oppressive. However, if the research shows that playing those roles makes both men and women happier, then who exactly is being oppressed?
The views expressed in this column are the opinion of the author and do no necessarily reflect the official opinion of The Collegian.
Andy Rogers is a senior in philosophy. Please send all comments to [email protected]