"So was the feminist movement some sort of cruel hoax? Do women get less desirable as they get more successful?"
Columnist Maureen Dowd posed those questions in Sunday's New York Times Magazine in an essay adapted from her forthcoming book: "Are Men Necessary: When Sexes Collide."
Entertaining as usual, Dowd explored her premise that many women end up unmarried and childless because they're successful by reviewing women's evolution since her college days, which happen to have coincided with my own. We both came of age as women's lib was being midwifed into the culture by a generation of women who felt enslaved by homemaking and childbearing.
Now, in the span of a generation, all that business about equality apparently isn't so appealing to a younger generation of women, who are ever inventive as they seek old ways to attract new men. Dowd writes:
"Today, women have gone back to hunting their quarry, with elaborate schemes designed to allow the deluded creatures (men) to think they are the hunters."
Dowd, herself unmarried and childless, wonders whether being smart and successful explains her status. She observes that men would rather marry women who are younger and more malleable, i.e. less successful and perhaps not so very bright.
No one vets the culture with a keener eye than Dowd. Her identification of trends - especially the perverse evolution of liberated women from Birkenstock-wearing intellectuals into pole-dancing sluts - is dead on. But while she sees women clearly as they search for identity in a gender-shifting culture, she doesn't seem to know much about men.
Men haven't turned away from smart, successful women because they're smart and successful. More likely they've turned away because the feminist movement that encouraged women to be smart and successful also encouraged them to be hostile and demeaning to men.
Whatever was wrong, men did it. During the past 30 years, they've been variously characterized as male chauvinist pigs, deadbeat dads or knuckle-dragging abusers who beat their wives on Super Bowl Sunday. At the same time women wanted men to be wage earners, they also wanted them to act like girlfriends: to time their contractions, feed and diaper the baby, and go antiquing.
And then, when whatshisname inevitably lapsed into guy-ness, women wanted him to disappear. If children were involved, women got custody and men got an invoice. The eradication of men and fathers from children's lives has been feminism's most despicable accomplishment. Half of all children will sleep tonight in a home where their father does not live.
Did we really think men wouldn't mind?