Between the years 1970 and 1980, the crude divorce rate in most European countries increased by several percentage points, and in some areas, more than doubled. In a single decade, divorce rates in the United Kingdom rose from 1.0 to 2.6, and the United States boasted a whopping 4.9.
When one stops to think about what sort of factors are involved with the rapidly increasing international divorce rate, a large host of social differences can come to mind. The ’70s was the fruition of the Sexual Revolution, and a multitude of political aims shared the spotlight in the historic fight for liberty and freedom. The economic liberty of women was at its peak during this season, and in 1979, the United Kingdom elected Margaret Thatcher as the first female British Prime Minister. It was during this timespan that second-wave feminism took the stage of the Western world.
During the 1970s, second-wave feminism, characterized by its concentration on suffrage, was taken almost unanimously by society, which accepted it understanding that popular culture was sexist. This, of course, spawned a unique pop culture as a reaction, with artists such as Helen Reddy leading the social scene with hits such as “I Am Woman,” which turned the singer into a “feminist icon.”
Second-wave feminism labored to strike a message of sexual liberation and, according to Reddy herself, to “act as a counterweight to the dominant images circulating in popular culture and to raise women’s consciousness of their oppressions.”
In this era of hyper-emphasized self-realization and atomist individualism, many women began to develop a neo-Marxist concept of men and women as types of classes. Thus, men were, like within the Marxist paradigm, the oppressive class due to their positions in leadership and (supposedly) unpunished exploitative actions. Women, on the other hand, were the oppressed class, held into a sort of reliant submission to the male “class,” a theory that continues today and has evolved into the progressive concept of “the Patriarchy.”
Simultaneously with the advent of second-wave feminism and the popularization of the radical idea that women were being oppressed by their husbands, divorce rates have skyrocketed.
According to researchers Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers from the National Bureau of Economic Research:
“Given these shifts of rights and bargaining power from men to women over the past 35 years, holding all else equal, we might expect to see a concurrent shift in happiness toward women and away from men. Yet… measures of women’s subjective well-being have fallen both absolutely and relatively to that of men.”
It is, however, important to recognize that the correlation between two sets does not infer causation; however, to dismiss any connection is to neglect any possible effect one may have on the other. As the data shows, as women have benefitted from the actions of feminism, they have simultaneously become less satisfied with their way of life.
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