It is widely reported that women suffer depression at twice the rate of men. Apparently, more women are clinically depressed than ever before.
On the assumption that these assessments are true, the question anyone interested in the subject -- which means anyone who cares about any woman -- is, why?
As one who regularly talks to women, and about men and women, on my radio show and who has informally counseled women of all ages, I would like to offer some explanations that may run counter to currently acceptable ones, but which should shed light on the subject.
Assuming that any new phenomenon -- in this case, much higher rates of depression among women -- suggests a new cause, the major new cause can only be the consequences of feminism.
This does not mean that feminism has achieved nothing good. Of course it has. A movement for equality between the sexes, an attempt to remove all sex-based obstacles to a woman's right to do whatever she wishes with her life, must do some good.
But how much good feminism has achieved is unrelated to the question of whether it is a, or even the, primary contributor to the rise in depression among so many women. One can view feminism as the greatest social achievement since the emancipation of slaves and still regard it as the major reason many women are depressed.
So, enumerating the reasons feminism has caused many women's depression is not necessarily an indictment of feminism. Many good social developments come with personal prices.
We begin our list with the expectations feminism raised in a generation of women.
As I wrote in my book on happiness ("Happiness Is a Serious Problem," HarperCollins), much unhappiness comes from having expectations. When our expectations are not fulfilled -- and most are not -- we can become unhappy and even bitter. And when our expectations are fulfilled, we are no happier because fulfilled expectations undermine gratitude (we are not grateful when we get what assume we will get) and gratitude is indispensable to happiness.
Feminism raised women's expectations beyond what life can deliver to the vast majority of them. It was hard enough for women in the past to realize their far fewer expectations of marrying a good man and making a happy family. But feminism told a generation of women that they can not only expect to have that but, perhaps even more important to feminism, they could also expect to have a fulfilling, financially rewarding, society-honoring career.
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