Since you opened the door to this line of questioning, Ann, would you please tell us what women really DO want? And I don't mean at Sam's. Has anyone ever figured this out?Today, John Tierney begins his column with the famous question. (TimesSelect link.)
Freud confessed that his "thirty years of research into the feminine soul" left him unable to answer one great question: "What does a woman want?" Modern feminists have been arguing for decades over a variation of it: What should a woman want?What women should want is very different from what we do want, but what we do want is inevitably shaped by what we've come to think we should want, which is affected by what we're hearing we should want. Try disaggregating what you do want from what you think you should want, after first disaggregating what you think you should want from what other people seem to be saying you should want. It's damned hard! And it's not necessarily the way to happiness, but then, if you do manage to do all that, your skills at assessing your own happiness will be quite different from the skills of other people reporting to sociologists about whether they are happy.
Anyway, Tierney's column is really about a sociological study about what makes women happy in a marriage. So we're already dealing with the subset of women who have decided they want to be married, which probably means a greater concentration of individuals who are looking to another person to make them happy. But perhaps not. Do people marry because they want to be happy? There are many other reasons to marry!
[A]n equal division of labor didn't make husbands more affectionate or wives more fulfilled. The wives working outside the home reported less satisfaction with their husbands and their marriages than did the stay-at-home wives. And among those with outside jobs, the happiest wives, regardless of the family's overall income, were the ones whose husbands brought in at least two-thirds of the money.Is it that women enjoy having a mate who outclasses them in earning power? Or is it just that it's better to have more money, and if I'm making X, I'd prefer to add 2X to my total than X? Where's the study of the men? Maybe the men making X also prefer a mate who brings in 2X?
Studies like this always seem hopelessly flawed to me. I never trust assertions married people make about how happy they are. When people are trying to make a marriage work, they try to keep their spirits up and believe in the enterprise. When the marriage is ending, they start realizing that they haven't been happy for a long time.
And then there's the way pundits latch onto these studies and run with them -- usually motivated by their own pre-existing policy preferences.
Of course, I don't have an answer to the question "What do women want?" other than to critique the tendency to ask the question in the first place. Frankly, I find it hard enough to discern what I want.