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Has Independence Ruined Women's Happiness in Relationships?

06/05/2016 17:04 | Updated 06 May 2016

Today I read in an article that independent women, according to one author, are unhappy. Andrea Tantaros asserts that feminism has made women more and more independent, but less and less happy as they struggle to do it all alone. Moreover, she explains that as women have increasingly assumed the roles of men they have lost sight of the "primal dynamic between the sexes". Stop listening to feminists, Tantaros encourages, and finally find happiness.

So is this true? Would independent women, feminists and women who are trying to do it all on their own be happier if they just gave up the struggle and allowed men to help? Firstly, I think Tantaros takes a very complex issue and twists it to fit her conservative, agenda. She takes half-truths and mixes them together to preach a message that aligns with her political stance. This is not only unfair, but dangerous for women's future. So let's break down what she is saying and unpack her half-truths, making more sense of them and providing both men and women with actual value.

Are women increasingly more independent and less happy? That certainly can be the case, however, this has less to do with women and more to do with independence. Any one person who has the burden of responsibility of doing everything on his or her own is going to feel overwhelmed, stressed and unhappy. However, women's desire for independence didn't grow from some cruel need to crush men's egos and make men irrelevant in society, but it arose from many centuries of unfair treatment and having their wellbeing being placed in the hands of men.

Whether it was women's physical safety, mental/emotional health, financial stability or even their reputation and significance in society, women had to depend on men for their value and worth. If the men in their lives (i.e. fathers, brothers, husbands) were less than ideal, these women had very few options available to them and were generally helpless to fix their situation. If by now you are rolling your eyes and thinking yea but that was a very long time ago, let me remind you that until the 1970s women in America could be fired from their jobs if they got pregnant, could not report sexual harassment if they were mistreated at work, could be legally raped by their husbands and yet, in most states, could not legally get an abortion if they so chose. Often banks even refused to give women credit cards unless their husband cosigned on their behalf; it was only the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974 that finally made it illegal to refuse a credit card to someone based on gender.

Take away someone's right to have a say about her own body, her right to live free of abuse, her right to financial security and you have a person who's entire wellbeing is essentially dependent on another. This is why and where feminism and the struggle for women's equality began - never mind the often cruel treatment women have endured for centuries before, ranging from forced marriages, beatings to rape (common in some countries still today). So when someone like Andrea Tantaros says that feminism has ruined women's lives, she is ignoring centuries of abuse, mistreatment, lack of freedom and subhuman treatment of women throughout the world. The very fact that she gets to so openly state her opinions is thanks to the underappreciated, enduring work of the women she condemns.

So women have become increasingly independent, not as a means to emasculate and punish men, but out of necessity to escape oppression and gain dignity and freedom. However, as Tantaros points out, yes it is harder, it is much more difficult to carry the burden of doing everything on your own. Partnerships function a lot better for both individuals when partners can rely on each other for help and reach out to one another for support. However, undermining women's progress throughout the centuries, minimizing their struggles and making feminism into little more than the need for rigid independence and belittlement of men's significance in society, isn't fair and misrepresents the entire philosophy of feminism and equal rights.

Yes, unrelenting determination to be self-reliant and not recognize your partner's support and help in a partnership (by either a man or a woman) will damage that relationship. That doesn't have anything to do with your sex or your beliefs about men and women's rights. You don't have to return to traditional gender roles in order to have an interdependent marriage, where both individuals feel connected and happily do for one another. When two people love and support one another, being open to giving and receiving, regardless of gender, that is a beautiful partnership.

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