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"The average american ... marries more than once, which suggests that most of us are making more than a few poor choices"


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Initial post: May 26, 2006 10:47:07 PM PDT
Joe Omalley says:
According to page 214. This statement is highly misleading.

60% of americans will be married only once. 30% of americans will be married two or more times. The author's point may be that the average american has about 1.2 marriages but that still doesn't mean that "the average american is married more than once".

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 4, 2006 6:44:10 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 4, 2006 6:44:54 AM PDT
Point taken. Still, AFAIK, approximately 50% of American marriages fail. This does seem to imply we're not very adept at making decisions about whom to marry, or, perhaps, marriage itself is the culprit.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 4, 2006 3:22:56 PM PDT
I understand that around 50% of all American prison sentences fail also (parole, early release and the like). Pity.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 6, 2006 2:40:56 PM PDT
So, are both partners imprisoned by marriage, or only one, and which?

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 29, 2006 7:15:33 AM PDT
Lee says:
Many inventors and geniuses state that the secret of their success lies in failure. In many endeavors we do not expect or even *wish* to "get it right the first time". Trial and error lead to learning and breadth of experience.

Why do we seem so tied to the cultural expectation that marriage *should* be a one-shot success?

Viewed objectively, it seems reasonable to expect that people should learn how to be married through some degree of trial and error just as we learn most other things through trial and error.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 2, 2006 1:11:14 PM PDT
kab628 says:
What if it is not a "failure" or "poor choice" but rather the lack of being able to work through problems, heal hurts, and find compatible solutions? Instead of doing the difficult work, we bail because it's easier.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 17, 2006 8:05:40 PM PDT
meldeiry says:
There are two things at work here. First, the reason divorce is so much more prevalent than in the past is because it's only become a viable financial option in the past (pick a number 20, 30, 40, 50) years. Before that, women didn't work, so they couldn't afford to leave. It doesn't mean couples were happier back then, just that they were forced to work through it.
In terms of what percent of marriages end in divorce, I think it's true that about 50% do. However, the more interesting question is what percent of people that ever get married ever get divorced, and I think the number is probably closer to 30%. The difference is repeat offenders. People that divorce once are much more likely to divorce a second time; they see it as a viable option if things don't work. Some people don't consider divorce an option, whether for moral or religious, or whatever reasons.
I personally have never been married, so I don't have an opinion either way. I'm just a student of society.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 10, 2007 12:09:36 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 10, 2007 12:12:27 AM PDT
I think you raise a good point -- that divorce has become unencumbered. But I think the cause of an increased divorce rate is not the legal or financial simplicities. It is more the *notion* that it is ok to divorce. Without the right education in what constitutes "ok" grounds to divorce, we see people rushing into new relationships the moment their incumbent becomes just the tad bit inconvenient. This is why we see divorce rates rising in fast emerging nations such as China and India. Apart from new rigors of "modern life", which in and of themselves lead to more stress and less endurance for someone's foibles, these are also societies that have recently discovered that seeking new partners is acceptable.

I wonder if all the modernization, globalization, feminism, and such, are not misguided agendas with a very temporary goal in mind. Globalization is excellent for economics of a nation, but it takes its toll on cultural values. What has feminism really got women? New York has recently passed a law that women can be topless in the same public places where men can be topless. Is this truly the "freedom" we crave? (I'm all for equality, but I'd encourage the law the other way -- I detest men who roam around vest-less in public with their disheveled chest hair plopping around).

I am an Indian. I grew up in a society where couples lived their lives together, forever. The western notion that these couples may well have been compromising and struggling to live with each other, for fear of social ostracization, is misplaced. I did not see my aunts and uncles suffering through their marriages. The point is, they were socially primed to be more willing to accepts each other's faults, and had expectations at a different level. There was endurance. Expectations were discussed and communicated, as a team. Very little of this is witnessed in western marriages, which is the point that this excellent, and important, book makes so vividly.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 1, 2007 5:18:18 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 1, 2007 5:42:42 PM PDT
A. Jobin says:
I have also observed that in some families and cultures, people get along better because of how they set expectations of each other. It is not so much that the expectations are lower by default, but that rather there is better communication about expectations. This leads both to meeting more expectations and removing some. By better communication I mean less guilt and emotion, and more appeal to reasons and consequences. For a great book on communication, I recommend the book Reaching Out: Interpersonal Effectiveness and Self-Actualization.

However, I wouldn't be dismissive of the role of finances. In fact, the divorce rate in India has grown substantially. Surely some of this represents people escaping encumbrances, rather than just a deterioration of communication.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 1, 2007 5:45:50 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 1, 2007 5:47:28 PM PDT
A. Jobin says:
Tangent:
S. Tripathi asked "What has feminism got us?" Aside from THE VOTE, feminist movements been instrumental to getting reproductive rights, access to birth control, organizations and ideas to deter and escape violence, and more satisfying perspectives on our bodies. Failures are also notable, but I guess this is enough of a tangent. Oh, and equality is not a temporary goal, is it?

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 1, 2007 6:48:05 PM PDT
Your post is insightful A.Jobin. Yes, many divorces could well be people getting out of something gone awry, e.g., an abusive spouse. But I doubt that forms the majority. As for your second note about the accomplishments of feminism, I have seen this happen in Japan as we speak -- the same kind of a wave that started in the US in the 60s or so. Did things such as access to birth control come about as a result of feminism, or due to changing realities that would have resulted from a medical and social impetus anyway?

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 1, 2007 10:39:02 PM PDT
A. Jobin says:
There are many things about partnerships that people are bad at predicting: their partner's behavior and their likelihood of growing in the desired direction, for sure, but also one's own satisfaction with the outcome, as the book points out.

Feminist organizations support a woman's right and ability to make use of the medical advances. Just one example: Walmart's reversal of its previous refusal to dispense emergency contraception (the morning-after pill), achieved due to objections of organized feminists and advocates for the poor, chiefly Planned Parenthood.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 1, 2007 11:17:09 PM PDT
Sure, that is one example of one organization that accomplished something in one context. I am not too sure if that leads to the bigger conclusion that access to birth control pills has been hugely influenced by feminist movement. In any case, Planned Parenthood is an organization with a specific purpose, one that is more medical and socially inspired than feminist (imho). There are plenty of other feminism-inspired organizations whose accomplishments are significantly lower but they have touched many a woman's life that has ended up unhappy because of a deluded sense of 'equality' or women's rights.

Please note that I am all for gender equality, although I doubt they will ever be equal simply by nature, and thank goodness for that :) I respect freedom of choice and the equality of opportunities for whoever wants them.

I guess we're off on a really wide tangent here. I am personally interested in the theme, so feel free to continue the discussion by writing to me directly. Thanks!

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 11, 2007 8:14:29 AM PDT
Aziraphael says:
S. Tripathi -

I think you're making a lot of assumptions without much evidence here, like when you claim that you "doubt" that the majority of people are getting divorced over abusive spouses. I think you're approaching the question wrong. Having some divorces in a society is inescapable; the question here is not what causes the "majority" of divorces, but what has caused the divorce rate to rise significantly in the last several decades. The number of divorces due to factors outside of spousal abuse could have stayed flat, but if there is a dramatic increase in divorces due to spousal abuse, that could (emphasis on could) push the divorce rate up significantly.

And in regards to your comments about feminism's role, as fair as you try to be it's still a one-sided argument. If, as you imply, feminism has made it more permissive for women to get out of bad/difficult relationships, then couldn't you also argue that "masculism" (I made that up but I'm sticking to it) is responsible for driving them out in the first place?

And you really should do more research on the women's rights movement before you fall into the assumption that Planned Parenthood is "more medical and socially inspired than feminist"... the reproductive rights movement would have gone absolutely nowhere had it not been made a women's rights issue. Before then, the medical community at large (read: male doctors, administrators) abhorred abortions and contraception, though it had been around for decades was spurned by the general public as something only prostitutes used.

I can appreciate your attempts at being careful not to tread too deeply into bias, but your claims don't seem to be backed up by much other than conjecture and it makes it very difficult to agree with you.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 11, 2007 11:45:19 AM PDT
Aziraphael says:
Also, I think you should be careful to disparage American/Western feminism but defend some Indian social/gender traditions. While I agree with you on principle that it's better when people in a marriage are more "socially primed" to cope with each others faults, I can't help but notice the hypocrisy in that your example is from a nation which privately condones some of the worst subjugation of women outside of the Taliban. Granted, this does not happen everywhere, but it does happen with great frequency, and in most parts of society is tolerated. I think in all honesty, India could do with a bit of feminism.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 11, 2007 7:12:44 PM PDT
I guess we're now entering major tangent territory, but as Amazon seems to allow for discussion such as these, I'll play along. My claims are not 'conjecture' -- I just didn't see it fit to indulge in an outpouring of facts on a discussion forum that limits the number of characters one can post.

A great deal of misconception and misplaced fact pervades the arguments for "affirmative action" for women. In fact, feminists have concocted a whole fraudulent history to explain the changing economic position of women over the years.

In the feminist movement's version of history, women's changing economic position is explained by women's being repressed by men until they began to be rescued in the 1960s by the women's movement, anti-discrimination policies, and affirmative action.

Hard facts tell a very different story. History will show you women enjoying a very respectable status in society across all major civilizations of yore. But we do not need to go that far back. Even in the twentieth century, women had achieved a higher representation in higher education and in many professions in earlier 1900s than they had when the feminist movement became prominent in the 1960s.

This earlier success can hardly be attributed to Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan and the like. Nor should they be allowed to claim credit for the later resumption of that earlier trend, which had more to do with demographics than politics. The percentage of master's degrees and doctoral degrees that went to women was never as great during any year of the 1950s or 1960s as that percentage was back in 1930. The percentage of women who were listed in "Who's Who in America" was twice as high in 1902 as in 1958.

Women were also better represented in higher education and in a number of professions in the 1920s or 1930s than they were in the 1950s or 1960s, though none of this fits the fashionable fairy tales of the feminists. Women received 34 percent of the bachelor's degrees in 1920 but only 24 percent in 1950. In mathematics, women's share of doctorates declined from 15 percent to 5 percent over a span of decades, and in economics from 10 percent to 2 percent.

What was going on? After all, there was no feminist movement and no affirmative action in those earlier years.

What really happened was that, as the birth rate fell from the late nineteenth century into the 1930s, women rose in the professions and in the postgraduate education necessary for these professions. Then, as women began marrying younger and having more children during the years of the baby boom, their representation in both the professions and in the education that led to those professions fell.

There is nothing mysterious about the fact that motherhood is a time-consuming activity, leaving less time to pursue professional careers. It is just plain common sense -- which is to say, it does not provide the moral melodrama needed by movements such as radical feminism.

In later years, as women again began to have fewer children, they rose again in higher education and in the professions, though it was often some years before they regained the position they had achieved decades earlier. But now their rise was accompanied by a drumbeat of feminist propaganda, loudly claiming credit.

Yet the role of motherhood in explaining male-female differences is far more readily demonstrated. Data from more than 30 years ago show that women who remained unmarried and worked continuously from high school into their thirties earned higher incomes than men of the same description.

What about the rise of women's income relative to that of men after the 1960s? Surely that must have been due to the feminist movement or to affirmative action, no? No!

What the hard data show is that more women began working full time, both absolutely and relative to men. Obviously, full-time workers get paid more than part-time workers. Among those women who worked full-time and year around, their income as a percentage of the income of men of the same description showed no real trend throughout the 1960s and 1970s, despite all the hoopla about the feminist movement and affirmative action. The income of women who worked full-time and year around began an upward trend relative to the income of men in the 1980s -- during the Reagan administration, which is not when most feminists would claim to have had their biggest impact. How do the feminists explain away all this earlier history of women's progress? They don't. They ignore it. By the simple expedient of tracing women's progress only since the 1960s, the fraud is protected from contact with inconvenient facts.

As for my "hypocrisy in an example from a nation that privately condones some of the worst subjugation of women outside of Taliban" -- had I not known the ignorance that imbues that remark, I might have been offended. Have you been to India? Read up anything about its history and civilization? I concede that the cultural moorings may have been forever altered thanks to the Mughal invasions in the last millenium (which brought Muslim thought to India, and barring the very able and prosperous original leaders Humayun and Akbar, were basically responsible for the decimaition of the civilization; unfavorable position of women in society was merely one aspect of it) but you really ought to read a little more about a civilization much older than most before you rally allegations such as those.

I grew up in ten states of India (that's one-third of them), and everywhere I lived women were and are very strong and respectable. I have fond memories of familial roles of aunties and uncles. What you're refering to is probably the truth in rural India, and yes it is a scourge because about 75% of India is agragrian, despite what all the recent high tech hype would have you believe. You see, over seven hundred years of foreign imperial invasions from plunderers will do that to any civilization...Mohammed Gauri, the East India company, even recent Chinese incursions from the north, and such, who openly and systematically plundered the wealth and culture to their gains.

Does that mean the Indian culture or the society condones subjugation of women? Not one bit. To claim so is highly ignorant. Hinduism is among the oldest religions and you only need to read the Gita, or the Vedas, or even Chanakya's socio-political principles to get a more educated sense of what Indian espouses.

In any case, as a well-meaning Indian, I fully acknowledge the problem among our poor and our backward. But a misplaced sense of feminism is hardly the way to solve it. Social education and economic prosperity are more likely to achieve that. As the economies of China and India (Chindia?) scale up, we will see a marked return to status that women have enjoyed in our society before the Mughals and the British, with or without the rhetoric of feminism.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 11, 2007 8:24:55 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 11, 2007 8:29:31 PM PDT
Aziraphael says:
Your statistics are impressive and I appreciate the length with which you detailed them, though I think you're under the false assumption that feminism didn't begin until the 1960s. As I'm sure you're aware, the first true part of the women's rights movement began in the 19th Century and crescendoed with them achieving what they'd set out to achieve - the vote - in 1920. It's no coincidence then that your statistics show such an increase in powerful/educated/visible women in the United States since they're taken from the decades directly following the movement. Your argument regarding the increase in women's freedom due to less children also coincides with this, however I don't think there's any problem in connecting it directly to the increase in support for the women's movement either. More time on their hands, more time to go protest, right?

Do you really think that the millions of women who stood up and were inspired by the movements of the 1900s and 1960s didn't have any kind of effect on the success of women elsewhere? You are completely ignoring the echo chamber effect that social movements cause when they are reinforced by popular culture and the media in America, and how injecting new ideas that run counter to the status quo make it that much easier for outsiders to wedge themselves into places from which they were previously barred entry.

Your insight in the 1980s is interesting however again you fail to recognize indirect relationships that social movements on the scale of the women's movements cause. What's the most important period for a child in regards to learning about its place in society? Somewhere between ages 8 and 10 these things start to develop - concepts of race, gender, socio-economic status, children become aware of these things earlier but come to understand the meanings behind them at around these ages. So if you have a new movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s that teaches girls that they should pursue higher education and powerful jobs, when are you going to see the greatest result of that effect? You won't see it until 10-20 years later, when the most impressionable inheritors of that new philosophy are old enough to actually occupy those positions. There's no contradiction there at all. Why was feminism less popular in the 80s? Because it was successful in the 70s and less women felt the need to fight anymore. It's like why did the Socialist party die out after FDR was elected, even though they had managed to garner the biggest 3rd party election showing in history in the 20s? Simple: because once FDR was in office, they had won. Gloria Steinem herself actually acknowledged as much when she wrote "Backlash", about the constant cycles that social progressive movements experience and why they occur.

And yes, I have actually studied quite a bit about the current social climate and history of India, as well as have talked extensively with friends who either grew up in India or who have had extensive stays with relatives there, who vehemently confirm these problems as being widespread throughout the country. Far be it from me as an American to cast stones, as I completely acknowledge that there is a difference between what America says it believes in and how we actually act as a nation. But you can't just blame domestic violence, human trafficking of thousands of young girls into prostitution, molestation being ignored, law enforcement blaming rape victims for their rape (in Delhi no less, not exactly the countryside) among countless other things, on the "rural" areas (which you yourself explain holds 75% of the population), that somehow India is so progressive on the issue of women's status in Indian society. After all, isn't that 75% of the population a part of India too?

I should make it clear that I'm well aware of Hinduism's stunningly egalitarian approach to gender (among other things) and would never dare place the blame for this on the faith itself. But then America is supposedly a "Christian" nation, and look at how much we live up to Jesus' teachings.

I tried my best to make it clear that I wasn't attempting to make a broad generalization about the people of India here, though that must have failed. My use of the word "condone" was not meant to imply that the entire country is sexist at all, merely that too many people there still turn a blind eye to the kinds of things I listed above.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 12, 2007 1:04:07 AM PDT
You raise some good points, and it seems to me that we agree on several things, although I fear we may continue to talk past each other. I am quite aware of the the long-lasting ricochet effects of social movements. But I had a think about your contention regarding the 20-year window for social impact, and without splitting hairs about chronologies I'd say that impact does NOT limit itself to a clean, linear effect on one generation; it touches the lives of several people of all ages at the same time.

As such, I propose that the misplaced and beleaguered women-are-equal rhetoric that plagued the second wave of feminism from the 1960s onward finally gave way to a more sober, more educated, and more socially realistic group of organizations that could actually make a difference, and have. That is why you see more success in the 90s and now, from organizations such as the one that another posted mentioned in this thread above. The lack of interest or support for the verbiage of feminism as a women rights issue just plain failed to make too much of a dent to the social mores of actual women beyond a group of select emancipated women in select countries of the 'first world', although I can see that some of them may have made a good stash on royalties from critically acclaimed books. (Seen the movie "Monalisa Smile"? An admirably deadpan look at the issue).

The first wave of feminism in the nineteenth century to which you refer was just barely a "feminist" movement in my view. For one thing, by the logic of time-to-impact, the suffragettes who were active during the first world war could hardly have made a difference as quickly as the 20s -- in fact, I would argue the exactly opposite causality: that women woke up to the possibility of voting and such *because* they were becoming more economically successful and because the men realized that as far as educated votes for the big issues of the time were concerned, more indeed was merrier. The nineteenth amendment to the US constitution only goes to support my idea that many such issues come into play because the dynamics of their time demand it. The industrial revolution, the railroad craze, the construction boom both before and especially after the war had been becoming more prominent for several decades up to that point and leading to the kind of prosperity that could have used contributions from any segment of society.

So far as such specific endeavors are concerned, I respect the efforts of whatever individuals or organizations make a difference, even if these issues become important due to an evolving society (e.g., same-sex marriages were not even in discussion in the 1920s). Perhaps I speak of radical feminists, but these issues is not where most feminists end their campaign. They extend it beyond all these specific accomplishments into a deluded sense of what should consitute a modern liberated woman. A quick look at the lives of these modern liberated women will tell you why they are often unsuccessful in their relationships with men in their adult lives. Which is sad, and the original point of this discussion.

Re: India, thank you for clarifying what you meant by the"condones the subjugation of women". When 75% of a billion people are of a basically simple if not backward mindset (and I laid out some reasons that they have ended up this way over a very long time) it is hard for them not to trickle into cities. Hence my remark about "our poor and our backward". But issues such as sati, bride killings over dowry, or female foeticide, are certainly not common practices as your misconception seems to indicate. They are very widely looked down upon, and thank goodness for the emerging openness among very competitive media, more and more of these depraved realties are being brought to light and being denounced at a national scale. If the Indian with whom you speak tell you otherwise, then I suppose they need to do some reading and observing. As the economy continues its bumbling path to modernity, this process will only continue, because India's beliefs are in the right place (perhaps even a cursory glance at popular culture may shed some light as far as the place of women in society is concerned) when it comes to gender or religion or assimilation of cultural disparities. I speculate -- and I could be wrong -- that the real social changes will come from simple gestures such as education for all.

Again, let me reiterate that I am all for free choice. But genders are not equal as they should not be, need not be. If a woman wants to work, sure. She should have the same opportunities as a male counterpart. But if men notice over time that most women tend to back off at some point to go start a family, then men should reserve the right to decide how much needs to be invested in their female employees. I greatly respect the woman's choice to raise families, there's nothing nobler, but I also do not appreciate some women who want the best of both worlds -- to play the oh-so-tragic card of being underprivileged when it suits their ends, and then to expect the exact same opportunities as men. I lived in Japan and the male hierarchy there is very pronounced. In that environment, I was among the first to root for the female cause if a woman was up to it and actually desired a long-term career. But at the same time, I hesitate to think of a society where every couple works and leaves kids in the custody of maids from lower-income countries, as happens often in big cities such as New York, London, Hong Kong. That is what leads to under-loved kids who continue to bumble from partner to partner in their later lives, thus perpetuating the vicious circle of unhappiness. I believe this is what the author of this book was trying to convey. And in my view feminists have played a fairly non-trivial role in clouding the social moorings that lead to such misplaced priorities. Sounds like a wide, meandering statement, but not intended as such; merely as a thought about a specific issue: unsuccessful relationships.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 12, 2007 7:11:58 AM PDT
Aziraphael says:
I'll just respond to your points so we won't be locked in this discussion forever, "talking past each other" as you finely put it.

You're correct, the movements do have widespread effects not limited to one particular age group, however my point was that the younger you are, the more opportunity there is to both absorb the idea as truth (whereas older persons have to first unlearn previous dogmas) AND more obviously, manifest those ideas into a life. A woman who is 30 and is inspired by Feminism, but who never went to college or pursued a career, possibly is married and has a child or two, can't have an effect on those numbers you quoted. Or if they do, it's with great difficulty (as my own mother did in the 1970s). But for someone who still has the freedom to do with their life all that they choose (i.e. the children), they can more easily have an impact on things like female representation in academia and the workplace. Those shifts, as I mentioned before, would not become reality until those children grew up.

I appreciate your pragmatic approach to the history of women's fight for equality, however you the implication both in your criticism of Feminism and your aspirations for India's gender reform, is that it's best to wait for the market to create the opportunity than to speak up and fight for it. I know that's not what you're saying directly, but your preferred approach to the issue seems to be a more calm and slow one, however changing the mindsets of an entire nation of people, and ultimately an entire world which for almost two thousand years has been largely a patriarchy, can not be expected to just manifest itself over time, or because the market creates the right conditions in which it becomes okay for women to have power. Think about how many nations right now (many in Africa and the Middle East especially) could use the manpower of allowing their women to enter the workforce and academia, but do not because their customs do not allow it. And so, without adequate representation in positions of power, their women continue to be treated as second-class citizens. This isn't something to just wait to change.

To your point about the cycle of failed relationships: I am far less concerned about the plight of latchkey kids whose wealthy parents leave them with nannies as I am about all of the poor children who have virtually no one to take care of them because their father ran out and refuses to pay child support. And then their mother has to work three jobs just to survive. That is the kind of problem that truly plagues American children, and is perpetuated by the lingering problem of a male ego going unchecked. Spousal abuse and rape continue to be tremendous problems throughout the world, and there is very little that can change that except for people to stand up and demand respect, and that's what Feminism is about. It is now and has always been about women redefining themselves in the popular mindset as strong and capable human beings, and when they do that, they reduce the ability of someone else to see them as sub-human, which is the kind of dissociative approach that a person needs in order to inflict harm on another human being.

"But if men notice over time that most women tend to back off at some point to go start a family, then men should reserve the right to decide how much needs to be invested in their female employees."

I think this is an ideological point at which we clearly diverge. An employer should not be allowed to discriminate on the basis of gender purely because a woman is statistically more likely to leave the workforce to start a family than a man is. That kind of distinction can be made between any group you can find. Could an employer look at a candidate for a promotion and turn them down because they are statistically more likely to fail based on their race or sexuality or age? You can't justify discrimination simply because it seems more economical.

As to your point about the two-sided lives of women, that's a different way to look at it. From my point of view, you have a culture which has many women (not most, but many) working two jobs because once they get home from work, they are left alone to cook, clean, and take care of the children, because the husband still does not believe he should have to do these things. This is something again which will only change once enough women stand up and say that they demand equal treatment in their relationships.

I should also point out that I wasn't referring to sati or female foeticide but rather rape and spousal abuse. And while sati is not as prevalent or accepted, female foeticide has dwindled but sex-selective abortions have become the preferred method in its stead in many places. http://www.indiatogether.org/2007/mar/ksh-mother.htm

This isn't something I am laying at the foot of all of the Indian people mind you; the government has taken steps to try to curb this problem and has had some positive movement, and I agree that the bulk of change will happen as the nation becomes more modern, however without people standing up to speak out about gender discrimination, the changes will occur far too slowly than is acceptable. As with any movement, there needs to be strong-voiced people at the top pushing the group to move forward. While from time to time the ideology can overpower reason, and rhetoric will define a movement rather than substance, when the dust settles the extremists are gone but the movement still remains, powering itself under its own steam. At least until the next time anyway ;-)

Best to you.
-Gabriel

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 14, 2007 9:20:40 PM PDT
Things won't change if "women stand up and demand equal treatment". If men lack the education to understand why a woman should deserve a more respectable place in things, then women can stand up and demand all they want; it'll only lead to protracted, unpleasant tension, as has often been the case. Anything accomplished in this manner is unlikely to stand the test of time. Change is more sustainable if society is educated about the fundaments of what is decent, dignified, fair. That is what I recommend. And that is what is happening, will continue to happen to India and China. Regardless of what one isolated story we can dig up on Google.

You ignore two of my last posts where I said that feminism -- which you captured well in your expression "women choosing to stand up" -- is not going to do squat, as it hardly ever has done. It's a fine emotion and I respect it. I certainly do not advocate women taking it on the chin quietly. But in all earnestness the original feminism movements only started bearing fruit when some of the saner organizations moved away from their quixotic goals of gender equality and started espousing real causes that made a difference. Genders are not equal, period. And they shouldn't be. Both deserve to be treated with respect and fairness.

As for women in the workplace, again it seems you missed the point in my post. I never suggested discrimination based on either gender or anything else. An employee is first an employee and then a woman, a religious bog, a person of a certain race. My evaluation of an employee is based solely on how productive and loyal he/she can be (on demonstrated predilections, not probability statistics) and if one is unlikely to be either, then it behooves me to do what is best for the organization, for the team, for the larger, longer-term good. And do it as politely but swiftly as I can.

Feminists who advocate blind equality may want to spend some time understanding why there is a dearth of women in the army, in mineral factories and coal mines, in certain jobs and profiles that befit one gender more than the other. Take a roster of the best chefs in the world. Why are they mostly male, in a line of work that should effortlessly suit women because of its inherent delicacy and elegance? I'll tell you. Because whatever fanciful impressions we may have of the job, in reality one finds it is much less glamorous to lift heavy pans day in day out, six days a week. Likewise, there is a dearth of men bringing up kids or doing nails, for a very good reason. And then there are the Joan of Arcs, the Margaret Thatchers, the Ranis of Jhansi, the Condol. Rice's of the world.

I wouldn't hope to suggest ironclad professions that should be limited to one gender or the other, lest this should turn into a discussion over what constitutes 'correct' work. What I am trying to highlight is that feminism was not much of an issue when societies were simpler, when it was about farming and trading and fighting battles in distant lands, although women did find selective roles to be useful amid all those activities, but only what suited their natural biology. This continued even when the industrial revolution began to change our world forever, and heavy muscle was needed to haul machinery, build bridges, lay down rail roads, lift heavy metal.

It is in the more recent times when we moved past the industrial revolution into an information age, where "office jobs" abound. This is where women do in fact stand a chance to be equal to men in may lines of work, and guess what, they sure are. I see women all over the place. Women were getting jobs way back in the late nineteenth century. This did NOT happen because of anything feminists have or had done. This happened because businessmen and industrialists could use up every resource they could find. Natural supply and demand, the dynamics of things that bring about certain social changes that get mis-attributed by groups who vie for credit. Same goes for the right to vote. In the halo of industrial revolution and a very internationally violent nineteenth century, the right to vote was not exactly top of mind among the people who ran countries. When the idea came up, some of them may have resisted -- as is the usual response to change, regardless of gender and race. But the idea had excellent merit and was a very reasonable one, so it did not take a very long time to implement it.

Does this mean we sit and twiddle our thumbs waiting for big improvements to come about? No. We need to educate. Let's first ensure we have basic schooling for every child. Let us have intelligent debates on national television or in the mass media, now that such channels are almost ubiquitous. Of course a lot less of this happens than, say, harebrained soaps about couples and their in-laws; mostly because like it or not general people are simpler. By the looks of it, in every part of the world, this education needs to be about basic relationships and social expectations of what one should do in them. I read a book recently that had the oft-heard statement in popular literature: "True love is about having no expectations". That is the largest dose of baloney I have heard in a long time.

This discussion makes it sound like I'm trivializing the problems that ail women and men in society. All I'm doing is putting the whole farce of feminism where it belongs. But I'm one voice. There are many more hopeful ones who are given to believe otherwise, and all good to them! We all need something to believe in. Occasionally, we may run into a perspective different from ours.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 15, 2007 5:48:32 AM PDT
Aziraphael says:
I'm sure we've both exhausted our fingers here and it's time to let this discussion die a peaceful death, however I still feel compelled to ask for more explanation from you regarding the difference between the statistical likelihood of one group to make a certain decision and the "demonstrated predilection" of that group to make a certain decision. Aren't you splitting hairs? Isn't it still gender discrimination?

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 15, 2007 7:20:27 AM PDT
Hi Gabriel.

Examples of demonstrated predilection would be an employee's openly stated desire in life (for example, to leave work in five years to start a family), or a tendency to have to take a lot of time off for private matters (for example, to handle kids' school stuff three-four times a day). Things that could be more gender-specific than others such as plain performance metrics. Professional decisions based on these would not constitute gender bias in my humble opinion, so no, this is not tantamount to splitting hairs. Just a couple of examples, and please recognize that I've had the pleasure of working with many talented women.

Gender bias would be paying talented women lesser than their male counterparts or meting out different treatment simply because they're women. Perhaps litigation-heavy countries such as US may have a different perspective, but I don't have case histories off the bat.

You're probably right about the fingers bit :)

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 9, 2007 4:50:06 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 12, 2007 11:18:34 PM PDT
Here's an interesting finding that would seem to support what the author has to say: http://snipr.com/shesnothappy (NYT: women are less happy overall than men).

And here's a worldwide survey of why men get paid more than women (with reasons) - http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/biz/2007/10/123_11736.html

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 15, 2007 1:23:31 PM PST
Rich Heim says:
What bother's me about this statement is that it seems to assume that marriages which end in divorce, death, separation, whatever - were "failed marriages." This seems to be a popular stance I know... However, it would seem to me that, just becuase a relationship ends, it does not necessarily mean that the entire relationship was a failure and somehow doomed from the start. The reality seems to be that over half of marriages in this country end in divorce. But, could it be that this happens not because the entire relation was doomed from the start or even that the entire relationship was without some fantastic moments? Could this just mean that people now have a need or want to change and move on? Could it be that relationships are really not best lasting a lifetime?

thanks,
Rich

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 15, 2007 1:36:54 PM PST
Aziraphael says:
I have to say I completely agree. My parents split when I was 14 (I'm 25 now) and while it did cause our family some hardship, it was completely unavoidable. My parents started out in love and they were perfect for each other, but by the time 20-some years had passed, they'd grown substantially apart. They spent a few years trying to reconcile, but it just wasn't to be.

Pardon moi while I ruminate for a bit: Life is unpredictable. If it was predictable, it would be boring. If nobody got divorced, would that mean everybody was happy? We have to realize somehow that there is no measurement for collective happiness. This goes especially for you damned economists out there. The concept of a "misery index" should be offensive to anybody with any sense of the subjectivity of life. I know miserable millionaires and impoverished people who are happy as clams, married couples who hate each other and children who are happier with their parents divorced. We can't keep thinking that somehow social forces are changeable in any kind of complete way. Why can't we just find happiness in being good to each other and raising children to be good too? We can leave statistics to the hand-wringers and just go on without them.
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Initial post:  May 26, 2006
Latest post:  Jul 29, 2013

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Stumbling on Happiness
Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Todd Gilbert (Hardcover - 2006)
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