Suzanne Fields

You don't have to be from Venus or Mars to notice that Sonia Sotomayor was appreciated more for her Hispanic roots than for female gifts. That's how President Obama introduced her. Firsts are firsts, after all, and Sandra Day O'Connor was followed by Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and that was that for a woman expecting recognition as a pioneer.

No one any longer regards it as worth remarking when a woman becomes a doctor, lawyer, editor, astronaut or CEO. Women have shattered a lot of glass ceilings, and when nobody notices the broken glass, that's a sign of progress. If women haven't gained equality (or superiority) in numbers sufficient to please feminist advocates, few argue that women can't compete with men on level playing fields (with certain exceptions, such as the NFL and the NBA). All they have to do is show up.

Even the double standard has been turned upside-down. Sotomayor will probably have to answer questions at her confirmation hearings next month about her membership in the Belizean Grove, an all-female club of generals, ambassadors and Wall Street executives that describes itself as "a constellation of influential women."

Earlier male judicial nominees were roundly excoriated by certain Democratic senators for membership in all-male social clubs, even rustic fishing clubs. Democratic silence about Belizean Grove so far is deafening.

Choice is the operative word for what most women do these days, and many women still choose to stay home with young children, work part-time or move at a more deliberate pace than men. The "househusband" remains mostly a feminist fantasy. Most househusbands are actually men who aren't looking for a job.

Women have higher high school and college graduation rates, and they're healthier and live longer than men. They still carry the babies -- nature hasn't changed that -- but men are helping out at home in ways that would shock their grandfathers, who never changed a diaper or scrambled an egg. Many get husbandly help with the housework even from men working longer hours.

Despite these gains, women more often express unhappiness with their lives, measured across lines of race, income, education, age and marital status, according to an extensive survey reported by the National Business Economic Research Organization, a nonprofit organization in Cambridge, Mass. Researchers were stumped for all the reasons, constantly refining their questions.


Suzanne Fields

Suzanne Fields is currently working on a book that will revisit John Milton's 'Paradise Lost.'

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