Earlier this school year I was listening to John Tesh on the radio and he was talking about a recent study done on the salary differences between men and women. According to the findings, women are now making more money than men in the same age bracket. This is because women are more educated and more likely to go to school for additional degrees, therefore, able to land higher paying jobs.
After hearing this, I couldn’t help but feel a great sense of pride on behalf of my gender. For a young woman raised by more traditional Asian parents who—to an extent—still consider women to be the weaker sex and men to be the main breadwinner of the household, it was all I could do to stop myself from finding the next man walking down the street, getting out of my car and shouting, “HA! Take that!” in his face.
Now ladies, before we get ahead of ourselves and start patting ourselves on the back for a job well done, it appears that our struggles for equality are not quite over. According to a then recent article by David Leonhardt at The New York Times, it was reported that in the early 1970s, women were slightly happier than men; in this day and age that’s been switched. So, it appears that while we’ve traded our brooms and dustpans in for laptops and Blackberries, we don’t seem very happy about it.
But how can this be, you ask?
According to the article, it’s because “men have gradually cut back on activities they find unpleasant.” Women on the other hand are spending almost the same amount of time engaging in unpleasant activity as they were 40 years ago. They have much longer to-do lists and when they can’t get everything done they feel as if they’ve fallen short.
My friend and fellow aspiring journalist Erin Hicks and I were discussing this and the way she put it was that women are the ones who are stuck with the small, menial tasks that would otherwise be left forgotten. We’re the ones who have to remember things such as people’s birthdays and writing thank you cards, she said. When you put it that way, it’s no wonder we’re not as happy as men.
Funnily enough, I’ve experienced this first hand. In a previous relationship, I was always the one who remembered the important dates—holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. My ex never bothered because I’d always remind him. We’re still close and he’s lamented to me that his girlfriend after me had a worse memory than he does and so he was the one who had to remember everything. So, it appears that I’ve been afforded one “Take that!” moment.
According to Leonhardt’s article, one of the reasons women reported being happier back then might be because they had “narrower ambitions.” Women only measured themselves against other women; now we measure ourselves against men as well. We want to be taken just as seriously as men, so we strive to do everything just as well as they, if not better. This of course is reflected in the salary difference between the two sexes, but it comes with a price.
While succeeding professionally, women seem to be sacrificing happiness and good humor. We have to be overly serious to be taken seriously. I know it sounds obvious. Anybody who wants to be taken seriously has to be serious. But how serious is too serious?
In her blog on collegehumor, Erin questions whether or not women are “allowed” to be funny. In her opinion, the answer is no. Although her blog centers on dating and relationships, the same rules apply in the professional world: To be considered appealing, women have to work harder and are expected to act a certain way.
She quoted comic Paul Rodriguez saying, “‘Pretty women aren’t funny. . . . Men still put women on a pedestal where they expect them to behave, well, nicely—like a mother.’”
The obvious question here is if a woman wants to be respected and appreciated in what can still be considered a man’s world, how much of herself does she have to sacrifice before it gets to be too much?
Ideally, she shouldn’t have to sacrifice anything.
“I hope good men appreciate girls that are funny,” Erin writes.
I’m with her. The happiness scale may be unbalanced, but I don’t see that as a reason for me to not live my life the way I want. I see it more as a challenge for me to keep on trucking and continuing toward my goals and to surround myself with people—who I’m sure do exist—who appreciate and support that. For me, hope springs eternal.