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Worldly insanity and Christian wisdom for men and women


Scott Olsen | Getty Images North America | AFP

Fr Robert McTeigue, SJ - published on 01/17/18

Perhaps women (and children and men) are so unhappy because we’ve waged war against the divine wisdom embedded in our humanity?
[Part 1 of a series – Ed.]

Freud asked: What do women want? He didn’t provide a clear answer. A scan of headlines around the world, and an informal gathering of anecdotal evidence might lead one to quip: Whatever it is that women want, they don’t have it!

Britain’s National Health Service recently released a study with some noteworthy findings regarding women’s health and happiness:

  • Women grow happier after retiring and overtake men at 85.
  •  28 percent of women aged 16-24 have a probable mental health disorder.
  •  This is almost twice as many as men in the same age bracket.
  • Only 14 percent of women suffer severe mental illness issues at 85+.

If one is to believe American popular media, women will be happy if (and only if) they have more and free contraceptives and abortions, fewer or no children, more and free daycare, more and better paid work in a government-secured work environment apart from home and family, and more and easier divorce. We might respond to such common assertions by conducting a thought experiment: Think of the women you know who contracept, have had abortions, have children in daycare, and work at least 40 hours per week—how many of them would describe as “happy, flourishing, thriving”? How many women do you know who filed for divorce, reporting “marital dissatisfaction,” now describe themselves as “satisfied”?

We can also challenge the popular assumptions about women’s path to happiness empirically. A longitudinal study from Australian Edith Cowan University found that parents of large families (defined as four or more children) are the happiest, with participants reporting greater satisfaction in their lives.

Just now, I Googled the phrase, “Why are women so unhappy?,” and in 0.33 seconds found in excess of 75,000,000 sites. Obviously, we can’t read them all. Yet, we can begin to ask some probing questions. In the United States, there has been unrestricted access to abortion for over 45 years, unrestricted access to contraception for over 50 years, birthrates have been in decline for decades, more women are in the workforce and higher education than ever—all things promised by serious and earnest people as indisputable predictors of female happiness—and yet by most accounts, women are widely and profoundly unhappy. Why? Why did the promised indispensable ingredients for feminine happiness fail to produce the guaranteed results?

We’ll look at a more detailed answer to that question (and propose some remedies) later in this series. For now, let’s start with an observation from the natural order by James Kalb:

It is quite natural that the sexual and feminist revolutions have made women unhappy. Feminism separates women from the family, and so from a social institution that gives them an absolutely central place in the world they inhabit. It also weakens the family as such. Looser sex roles and sexual standards mean less mutual responsibility between the sexes and suppression of the masculine ideal, including concepts of protection and honor. The natural results are men women cannot rely on, children without fathers, and feminized poverty.Why should women want that? What they mostly want is marriage that works, support when they are bearing and raising children, and a favorable environment for those children to grow into. They have been deprived of these things, but are supposedly compensated for the loss by the right to support themselves and their children by accepting subordinate positions in commercial organizations that view them as disposable profit centers. To help them do so, [they are given] the right to abortion and free contraception, the right to have other people raise their children for them, and the welfare state to fall back on, when additional help is needed. Why is the resulting situation better and more dignified than a position as wife, mother, and homemaker?

Kalb’s analysis makes sense if, and only if, women (and men) have (complementary) natures, with the center of gravity being marriage, family and home. Complementary natures oriented toward a common good, the (better) philosophers would tell us, suggest an intelligence behind an obviously intelligent design. Perhaps women (and children and men) are so unhappy because we’ve been waging war against the divine wisdom embedded in our humanity?

In an age when academics urge men to take dangerous drugs so that they may “breastfeed,” sane people have to ask, “Can’t we stop and rethink what we’ve been doing?” 

, good science and sound philosophy would answer, “Yes!” Theologians, popes and saints would agree. Fair warning: If we really do have such a conversation, we may have to admit that our culture has been in error, sick and harmful—for everyone—for a very long time. But I can’t we how we can make progress without that conversation.

When I write next, I will discuss how the war on gender is killing men and masculinity. Until then, let’s keep each other in prayer.

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