Feminism: For Better or Worse?

Eighteen months ago, I met a man whom I didn’t believe existed, after I had been single for almost ten years. Following my 17-year marriage, I got back into the dating market after almost three years of emotional recovery, but I wasn’t impressed with what I found. In the next 9 years, I experienced two successful dating failures—with men who misrepresented their availability—and friend-zoned many others.

I’m an unusual woman—intellectual, principled, professional, not casually sexual, warm—and I knew the likelihood of finding a matching puzzle piece was slim. Most men worth catching were already happily married, I figured. Then I met Brad—an intellectual equal who also featured the unusual quality of being interested in understanding relationships. The intellectual stimulation and the relentless romantic pursuit were intoxicating and irresistible.

As I got to know Brad, I learned that his last 20 years had featured two long-term relationships that had ended in financial devastation for him. From his perspective, the law favors women, and women are taking advantage of every loop in the law, exploiting the proclivity of men to protect and provide for women.

I, on the other hand, had taken the financial hit myself when my husband and I divorced, and if there was a law I could have exploited, I wouldn’t have been motivated to find it. Instead, I wanted to end the relationship as amicably as possible, with no hard feelings on either side. So I was hurt that Brad would think that women these days are as dishonorable as he said the structure allows them to be.

He posited that the failure to thrive that we’re seeing in Western males these days is a direct result of the speed with which women have entered the public sphere. This ascendancy has left many men lost, he says, particularly those who find it repulsive to compete with women, and who still carry what he calls, the male “biological directive” to provide for and protect his wife and children.

If he speaks for men, even some men, the Feminist Revolution may be responsible for some unintended consequences. In 1963, Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique, describing a “problem that had no name”—namely the malaise of many educated women who were married with children and material comforts but who were unhappy.

Since then, we’ve fought our way out from under the status quo of the ages, making room for ourselves in the public arena as well as on the home front. Good for us. I’m indebted to the women who have made it possible for a girl like me, who grew up in a cult that subjugated women, to have meaningful work in the public sphere.

But I’m wondering… Have we done this in a way that has subjected our male counterparts to some of the same conditions that fueled our own revolt? Have we created another “problem that has no name”—a masculine malaise that is contributing to the increasing failure of men to thrive?

If so, I believe it would be honorable and right to address these injustices and repair them, no matter how inadvertent they’ve been, so that we can move to our next level of human evolution together as equals: men and women working side by side to make a better world.

So, men, I’d like to hear from you. What has your experience been as the Western woman has been moving steadily into the public sphere over the past 50 years? In what ways has the Feminist Revolution impacted you, for better or worse? What would you like to see done to right any injustices you’ve experienced at the hands of women? What do you hope for the future of women? And what does it mean to you to be a man these days?