Has Feminism Ruined Marriage?

I had no intention ever of writing a post about feminism and marriage, but last week, while visiting my local library, I came across a book called The Proper Care & Feeding of Marriage by syndicated radio host and marriage counselor Dr. Laura Schlessinger.

I’d heard things about Dr. Laura, things that didn’t align with the liberal, somewhat feminist working mother and wife I believed I was. Yet I found myself taking the book off the shelf, flipping it open to the jacket cover description.

“Dr. Laura asserts that in order to produce and sustain a wonderfully satisfying marriage, spouses must recognize and appreciate the polarity between the masculine and feminine.”

Not what I’d expected. It sounded almost new age, like worship of a feminine and masculine divine. I turned to the introduction.

“This is not your typical marriage manual. I’m not going to present the usual psychobabble nonsense that has been dominating the marital therapy field since the sixties which condemns masculinity and disdains femininity.” (1)

Thank God for that. I hated psychobabble nonsense. I’d experienced enough of it to know that I was usually better off working out my issues on a yoga mat or in a journal.

I believe that the single most horrible problem for marriages today is a lack of understanding, not only of what is needed by a man in a woman but also what is needed by a woman in a man.” (1)

How simple; me Tarzan, you Jane. Not that such a backward concept had any place in today’s modern society.

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I kept reading.

“Chivalry is largely dead, and feminism is the murder. It soured both males and females on the joy, awe, wonder, excitement, thrill, satisfaction from, and mystery of femininity and masculinity…Spouses are more likely to suffer from behavior that resembles sibling rivalry where there is competition for resources and power.” (3)

OMG, I had to read this book. I whisked it off the shelf. At home, in my favorite chair, I read.

“Women today do not think of themselves in the context of helping “their man.” Women have been brainwashed into thinking that efforts in that direction are in the category of oppression, subservience, and catering to frail male egos…feminism demoted that singularly magical ability of women to transform deflated men into heroes and warriors into a notion of massaging the frail, pathetic ego of a weak man…” (14)

Dr. Laura’s traditional views on marriage were resonating with me, though they went against the conditioning my generation was raised on. The traitor-to-feminism feelings they invoked reminded me of the time, about two years ago, when I saw feminist Gloria Steinem speak.

At first, I was in awe to be in the presence of this women’s rights pioneer, whose efforts had made it possible for my sex to have choices. Then, about midway through her speech, I had a startling thought: What did this woman — who wasn’t a mother and hadn’t become a wife until late in life — know about the struggles moms and wives face? What qualified her to tell us how to live our lives?

She had never had to place her infant in the hands of another woman 10 hours a day in order to go to work. She had never had to wake in the night multiple times to nurse a baby, and then drag her exhausted butt to a job the next morning. What did she know about the toll this kind of lifestyle took on a marriage and a woman’s soul?

She knew nothing, at least not first-hand. Yet here she was, giving advice, saying that men needed to step it up, as if they were the sole culprits of these struggles, as if women weren’t making choices for their lives that left them feeling exhausted, guilty, and resentful.

Suddenly, I resented her, and have wrestled with conflicting feelings about feminism ever since.

Chasing career and personal goals with little regard to the impact it is having on your spouse and family is a map where all roads dead-end. Men who do this usually end up with heart attacks; women who do this end up with out-of-control families and Valium drips.” (113)

I never want America to go back to the way things used to be for women, when husbands took over their property, when they couldn’t vote, when they were forced to bear too many children, when they felt trapped in abusive marriages because they couldn’t earn a living and would lose their children if they left. Feminism freed women from all that.

I also recognize that there are couples who are making their marriages work, despite both working full-time and/or taking on non-traditional roles.

But what of the slightly over 50% of couples that aren’t making it? Divorce is taking a toll on our children, health, finances, and societal well-being. Men alone aren’t to blame. Women must acknowledge their role and responsibility in the demise.

Don’t use discussions about how bad your spouse is as entertainment with your friends. Do take every opportunity you can to build up your spouse in your mind by relating wonderful, positive stories.” (121)

I’ve been guilty of the former, of picking on my husband rather than finding things to appreciate and praise. Now I see that this says more about my state of mind than his character. Seriously, I could burn an entire meal and the man would eat it without complaining, yet God forbid he leaves his socks on the bedroom floor.

Dr. Laura claims that feminism “soured both males and females on the joy, awe, wonder, excitement, thrill, satisfaction from, and mystery of femininity and masculinity.” (3)

Is she right? Or are other factors contributing, such as the economy, fast-paced lifestyles, materialism?  Have we become a nation of whining, selfish adult brats who expect our spouses to resolve our childhood pains, meet all our needs, and mend our broken parts?

I don’t have the answers, but I suspect that helping one’s husband feel like a warrior goes much farther toward creating marital bliss than getting him to clean the toilets.

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13 thoughts on “Has Feminism Ruined Marriage?

  1. I so totally agree! It’s one of my soapbox subjects, but really! Why is it ok to treat men so badly?? Two wrongs don’t make a right. Men are treated like imbacels in the media and by women. I for one am proud to have married a man who is strong, masculine and yes, heroic. I could go on and on. Come on ladies, we have been acting like jerks. Ok, I’ll quit……..

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    • I agree, even though I’m guilty of doing it. I think it’s typical of groups that have been suppressed, when they gain some power, to belittle the group that they feel suppressed them, maybe to feel superior? It’s really not right for any one group to treat another like imbeciles.

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      • Sorry a Little late. Men have taken note of all the man-bashing and most my single male friends (aged 20s to 60s) want nothing to do with today’s women. I won’t quote them verbatim….. basically, ‘I don’t need a woman, my manager’s and society’s criticism is enough’.

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  2. Good for you for daring to take on such a complex and difficult subject! And you know, I agree with a lot of what you said. I don’t want to go back to the days when women were firmly second-class citizens either, but I think the true role of feminism should be to free women to be who they want to be, not who we tell them they should be. What about the women who don’t want to work a full-time job while raising small children? Or the women who don’t want to have children at all? Or be married? It’s all about choices, I think.
    Where it gets complicated is when we do enter into a marriage, and then, we need to recognize that it’s not all about us any more. As you pointed out, our choices impact both parties in a marriage, and the children too. And there are differences between men and women, and I don’t see anything wrong with acknowledging that and using it as a strength rather than a weakness. Competing for exactly the same role, all the time, is not healthy in a relationship, I think.
    As you can see, your post has given me plenty to think about! Thank you for that!

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    • What’s funny is that women used to have few choices, but I know so many women today who would love to stay home with their kids even for just a year or two but feel they have no choice but to work either because of finances or because their husbands don’t support them leaving their jobs. So for many women they are still trapped.

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      • Yes, they are just as restricted, only in a different way. Which is not at all the same thing as “liberated.” It takes courage to go your own way in this world, and I wish feminism had stuck to its original goal of allowing women the choices they deserved. Sadly, in many ways, it did not. I do consider myself a feminist, but I often don’t agree with others who also claim that title.

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  3. Pingback: Mommy Guilt: Does It Ever Go Away? | Midlife Awakenings

  4. I’ve had a few different convos about feminism and its effects in the past week. It’s very odd. Here’s my answer. As you probably understand, feminism was predicated on women being liberated from the patriarchal system in which they/we were a part of. I always like to go back to that because that’s really the basis. Everything else, it seems, is part of misinterpretation. So, for example, I think you can do what Dr. Laura says AND still be a feminist, as long as you still have rights in your home, in society, etc. But the reality is that we’re still fighting to be liberated in a lot of cases and it’s because we still aren’t seen as thinking people.

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    • Thank you for your comments, Kathrin. I was feeling very burned out when I wrote this post and was in a bad place in my marriage. I have so many mixed feelings about this topic, and they change based on wherever my mind is at any given time, which is a weakness of mine, not being grounded in firm beliefs. With this past presidential election, it was very clear to me what a fundamentally sexist (and patriarchal) society we still are. I was literally in tears when discussing with my boss (a very strong female whom I admire) the disgusting comments Trump was caught on tape saying about women, and how this man will be our president in spite of them! I have always thought that women are such powerful, creative, amazing beings that men are deep down frightened of our power. I mean, we can grow a life in us and give birth to it, for God’s sake! And I’ve always thought that if we had the physical strength to kick their asses, as they do to us, the world would be a very different place. You are absolutely correct in your reminder that it’s important for us to remember the basis of feminism. Thank you!

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  5. Having read your post I am inclined to think what is lost is you can not change everyone’s perception but you can work the room one person at a time. Meaning while it is true that the President elect has his views of women, it is not representive of all men and maybe not even of your own man. I married a wonderful woman she is my partner we work together it isn’t her job to clean house cook dinner etc. it is our responsibility which means it is my responsibility as well to clean house, cook and make our house a home.

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    • Thank you for taking time to read this and comment on it. I think it’s a very complex subject, and you’re correct that everyone has his and her own views and most likely no one can change them. In our house we tend to have very clear divisions of chores based on stereotypical gender roles. I do most of the grocery shopping and cooking and more of the cleaning. At the same time, I have never once mowed a lawn and seldom have to go out and shovel when it snows. We all do our own laundry, including my sons once they reach about age 10. Somehow, things just worked out this way. At the same time, my husband cleans bathrooms, cooks on occasion, and almost always does the dinner dishes. Having been with my husband for almost 27 years, our marriage has evolved, and society has changed for sure. It’s hard to keep up with the fast pace of life, and sometimes that has me wishing for the so-called good ole days, which probably weren’t as good as they’re made out to be.

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      • I think you touched on it…you found something that works for you and your family. Too often and sadly couples do not evolve. You did. That’s healthy even when dealing with an complex issues like feminism. I never bought into the thought of women doing all the house work. It a all for one mentality here too. In the long run it promotes a much healthier environment.

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