You don't have to be from Venus or Mars to notice that Sonia
Sotomayor was appreciated more for her Hispanic roots than for female gifts.
That's how President Obama introduced her. Firsts are firsts, after all, and
Sandra Day O'Connor was followed by Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and that was that
for a woman expecting recognition as a pioneer.
No one any longer regards it as worth remarking when a woman
becomes a doctor, lawyer, editor, astronaut or CEO. Women have shattered a
lot of glass ceilings, and when nobody notices the broken glass, that's a
sign of progress. If women haven't gained equality (or superiority) in
numbers sufficient to please feminist advocates, few argue that women can't
compete with men on level playing fields (with certain exceptions, such as
the NFL and the NBA). All they have to do is show up.
Even the double standard has been turned upside-down. Sotomayor
will probably have to answer questions at her confirmation hearings next
month about her membership in the Belizean Grove, an all-female club of
generals, ambassadors and Wall Street executives that describes itself as "a
constellation of influential women."
Earlier male judicial nominees were roundly excoriated by
certain Democratic senators for membership in all-male social clubs, even
rustic fishing clubs. Democratic silence about Belizean Grove so far is
Choice is the operative word for what most women do these days,
and many women still choose to stay home with young children, work part-time
or move at a more deliberate pace than men. The "househusband" remains
mostly a feminist fantasy. Most househusbands are actually men who aren't
looking for a job.
Women have higher high school and college graduation rates, and
they're healthier and live longer than men. They still carry the babies
nature hasn't changed that but men are helping out at home in ways that
would shock their grandfathers, who never changed a diaper or scrambled an
egg. Many get husbandly help with the housework even from men working longer
Despite these gains, women more often express unhappiness with
their lives, measured across lines of race, income, education, age and
marital status, according to an extensive survey reported by the National
Business Economic Research Organization, a nonprofit organization in
Cambridge, Mass. Researchers were stumped for all the reasons, constantly
refining their questions.
"Relative declines in female happiness have eroded a gender gap
in happiness in which women in the 1970s typically reported higher
subjective well-being than did men," say Betsey Stevenson and Justin
Wolfers, authors of the survey. "These declines have continued, and a new
gender gap is emerging one with higher subjective well-being for men."
Numbers never tell the whole story, and it's easy to see how
traditionalists might say the pressures of feminism increased the stress in
their lives. Feminists, on the other hand, could blame a halted
revolution a revolution that didn't change men to their prescription.
Both groups will look for ways to validate their opinions, but
so much attention is given to women who have become stars in the public
square that women get scant cultural reinforcement for quietly "doing their
thing, their way." The woman's honored place at the hearth no longer gets
much respect. The archetypal all-knowing, all-giving Jewish-Italian-Greek
mother has become a source of jeers, not joy a stereotype to be mocked,
The career woman who is a small cog in a big office, hospital or
even corporate firm gets respect for her job skills, but not always for her
womanly qualities. Chivalry is mortally wounded. Men with good manners are
more likely to be gay (or thought to be) than eligible heterosexual suitors.
The sexual revolution gives women the freedom to say yes, but not to say no.
(Ask any co-ed.)
But there may be another revolution stirring. The current
fashion craze of little girls is for "princess dresses." Little girls
yearning to be a pink sleeping beauty, a lavender Rapunzel or a pale-blue
Cinderella wouldn't dream of suiting up in pants like their mother's.
They're dreaming of a glass slipper, not the glass ceiling, weaving the
magic of pint-sized femininity.
Barbie's career clothes are stuff only for a yard sale. In the
upcoming Disney cartoon, "The Princess and the Frog," the fairy tale is told
awry. Tiana, the princess who kisses a frog, turns not into a prince but
becomes the frog. No doubt it will all work out in the end, but the prospect
of serving time as a croaking amphibian can't be a good omen for living
happily ever after. Miserable as Tiana may be, she's in touch with the