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How Feminism Hurt Our Love Lives

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Feminism did not liberate femininity. Feminism liberated masculine energy in women. It was a masculinist movement. And this is a good thing.

rosie the riveter and the feminist movement

Dr. Wendy Walsh: Let me make this clear from the onset: I think feminism was (and is!) a good thing. I may not have had a career in television, nor been able to write books with such provocative ideas, had the feminist movement and the women who pioneered it not led the way for me. I am indebted to feminists.

But feminism did not liberate femininity. Feminism liberated masculine energy in women. It was a masculinist movement. And this is a good thing. Because of masculism, er, I mean feminism, we can now procure income in the male-dominated marketplace and buy ourselves any kind of life we want. Those of us who aren't completely fulfilled baking cookies can now choose to fly jets, put out fires, or handcuff bad guys. We can also look for a cure for cancer, design computer programs, and sink basketballs, if those things suit our fancy.

But, I do think feminism has screwed up our love lives. First, because women are sometimes unsure of how to turn off this new masculine energy when confronted with a romantic suitor in a candlelit restaurant. We act like he's one of the boys from work. And then get upset when he treats us like one of the boys from work -- achieving his goal (in this case, sex) and then moving to a new project. At times, there appears to be so few vulnerable feelings in today's "hook-ups" that it's like two men are dating!

Feminism also gave us an easy exit door from relationships. That's a good thing if it were a truly bad relationship, but too often our economic freedom sends us fleeing out the back door of a "good enough" relationship, instead of learning to work through conflict. Who needs conflict resolution skills when you don't need the ally?

With feminism, we threw the baby out with the bath water.

It seemed with all the effort to conform and succeed in a male world that we unknowingly threw out a crucial, feminine skill -- the ability to be the emotional conduit for a logic-locked man. For centuries, women have held the keys to the emotional locker in relationships. We come by emotions naturally, through hormones that help us bond, be empathetic, and intuitive. Our female ancestors had to decipher the meaning of an infant's cries, or decide in an instant if an intruder was friend or foe. To do this, we developed a keen ability to read faces, sense emotions, and respond accordingly. None of these talents have anything to do with logic or thoughts. They are female gut reactions to life, and I think we've begun to ignore them. We're not doing our job as women. We're not reading men, we're nagging them or bailing.

Add to that, the fact that we fear losing any ground we've gained. So, these days in love relationships, many women retreat from any behavior that could be deemed weak. They are so afraid of submission that they have forgotten how to be supportive. Indeed, many of our mothers, so inspired by the feminist ideal, deliberately forgot to teach us about love, relationships, nurturing, or -- God forbid! -- the power derived from running a household. Martha Stewart reminds us of what's missing in our lives, as we manage our hectic schedules, eating from take-out boxes, in our immaculate granite kitchens, wearing our own purchases, and juggling would-be suitors who don't happen to suit us this week. All the while sucking up deep feelings of sadness that we can't connect with men.

One of my best role models is a dear girlfriend who runs a publicly traded company. Her husband is a major entertainment studio executive. They are a true power couple. I once asked her how the power is divided at home. She begged me not to tell anyone, so I'll only tell you guys. Her answer: "At home, I am all girl. I let him be the king of our household because when he's all man, I get paid back between the sheets." Now that's a smart feminist.


next: The Ten Worst Moms in History
21 comments so far | Post a comment now
yoobecha August 6, 2009, 4:26 AM

thanks…I’m a woman and even I realize it’s out of control sometimes.

dcardona August 6, 2009, 1:56 PM

If your friend chooses to “be a girl” at home… that IS feminism. In fact, it’s what I do, although recently I’ve become a stay-at-home mom. Having the ability to work a powerful job you love and come home to whatever kind of relationship works for you is an accomplishment of feminism. It doesn’t require women to be men or to hate men, it requires that men and women are treated in social, political and economic spheres as equals. As long as no one is forcing a woman to split domestic duties along gender lines or act a certain way to “get a man” because “that’s what women do/are good for,” then she is choosing it for herself and treated as a thinking being. That’s feminism.

michelle August 6, 2009, 2:19 PM

Um, what? Could these people who are all writing the exact same article please stop trading in tired lazy stereotypes and actually (1) do their homework and (2) have an original thought? There is hard evidence that the more educated, successful and financially independent a woman is, the more likely she is to get married and for that marriage to last. Women who have too much relationship trouble have personal issues…full stop. That is not to say that there is no place for being “all girl” at home (really, that is just another name for having good relationship skills, which are after all still pretty gendered). But note that this woman’s husband probably wouldn’t have liked or married someone who was that way outside the home as well. People now prefer to date and marry people who are at roughly the same levels of education and accomplishment; otherwise they have nothing in common and nothing to talk about. So by any *objective* measure feminism has greatly improved relationships and marriage, including my own. And by the way…feminism means simply acknowledging women’s personhood. That’s it. It says nothing about being masculine or feminine.

EKSwitaj August 6, 2009, 7:58 PM

Wait a minute. Since when do we have to “turn off this new masculine energy when confronted with a romantic suitor in a candlelit restaurant”? And since when do women who aren’t masculine at all in behavior never experience having men leave them after sex?

My long-term committed partner appreciates my intelligence and logic, traits classified as “masculine”. I wouldn’t want to be with someone who didn’t.

stephanie August 7, 2009, 2:30 PM

I don’t think that it is the woman’s “job” to read a man. Men and women need to meet in the middle, communication-wise. Part of the reason why men are taciturn is because we LET them be. No more excuses.

JonathanD August 7, 2009, 3:54 PM

This entire premise is nuts. The TRUTH IS… early feminists identified what was WRONG! with male attitudes and attempted to enter the fray as WOMAN of integrity and intellectual power in order to neutralize the obvious male chauvinistic arrogances. Women had better ideas, and compared to those, GUYS! were terrible! BUT slowly… in order to make Feminism a popular POWER politic, they sacrificed all of the great moral ethics, and got down and dirty!! What this Doctor calls masculine energy, is really nothing more than ‘roboticism’! Women adapted for themselves the WORST features of maledom including! becoming slaves to the capitalist machine! They literally SOLD themselves into bondage. So now they can buy male crap?, and live male crap lives?… big whoop! To WIN, Feminism needed to liberate… the entire human race, not just win a place at the good ole’ boy’s poker table!!

JonathanD August 7, 2009, 4:04 PM

Note: Don’t marginalize my message due to my typos… I’m only a guy! lol

ann August 10, 2009, 8:06 PM

This is ridiculous…if you check your stats, feminists (both men and women) tend to have healthier relationships.

kb September 3, 2009, 9:08 AM

you do know that both men and women who describe themselves as feminist say they’re happier in their relationship, right? feminism has helped all genders have real relationships, not shams that while, yes, you might be married longer, didn’t make a lot of people happy.

DUMB GUY September 4, 2009, 7:47 AM

I’M NOT TRYING TO BE A JERK BUT YOU GIRLS STILL DON’T HAVE “EQUAL” RIGHTS JUST SPECIAL TREATMENT, WHICH SOMETIMES IS WHAT I THINK ALOT OF YOU WANT(ED).


DUMB GUY

Dr. M September 4, 2009, 4:30 PM

As a psychologist, I feel that Dr. Walsh puts our profession to shame but encouraging behavior in women that is likely to result not in healthy balanced relationships but in abusive ones. The ‘skills’ she attributes to women of “being able to read faces, sense emotions, and react accordingly” are ‘skills’ any oppressed individual ‘develops’ to adapt to whims of the oppressor. I would not expect this kind of behavior from a dog, let alone a partner, yet this is what a licensed psychologist is billing as healthy and desirable? A woman in an abusive situation who listens to this ‘advice’ from an ‘expert’ can only interpret it to mean that she must continue to do what she is already doing, only moreso. One of our mandates as psychologists is to make sure that vulnerable individuals are not harmed by our actions. Promoting such outdated, ill informed ideas in a national forum is unacceptable.

Susan October 29, 2009, 12:00 PM

I get so sick & tired of the limited thinking that blames feminism for the problems that came after the feminist movement. Ignorant people keep trying to blame women for why things are not right without realizing - deliberately? - that it tales TWO to make relationships work - & it takes ALL people to make society work - NOT JUST THE WOMEN. If any group trying to get equal rights is so catastrophic to a society, then there’s something wrong with that society - NOT with that group.

moi May 22, 2010, 7:07 PM

Personally I find it rather humorous that the only comments here are derived from feminists, and they all include one common trait - complaining.

BB May 22, 2010, 7:20 PM

It is not that Dr. Walsh is marching to a different drummer or anything—she’d be a lot less bored if that were so. No, her baton is twirling about five blocks behind the band. Everybody has a right to do anything they want with whomever they want in their bedroom. Yippee. Maybe she would have seen a bigger picture if she were bi or a lesbian (as I have been my whole life). Being a feminist and not initially drawn to that whole male/female dynamic gives one a different take on this whole thing. No? I lived the Women’s Movement. For me it’s kind of a done deal right now and the kids are taking over. What THEY are about is gender, questioning it, looking at it, wondering why it is defined the way it is—and I think you should take them very seriously, as I do. There is definitely a war out there and I for one am glad of it. Read “Sexing the Body” by Fausto-Sterling. AND I have crossed into the Twilight Zone myself—my partner became a facinating female to male trangender person, having felt male since the age of three.

a feminist May 22, 2010, 7:24 PM

this is the stupidest article i have ever read.

Jen  May 22, 2010, 10:08 PM

The only message I can see that Dr. Walsh is sending is to step back from what feminism has given us and return to the 1950’s. When the women stayed at home and acted “Girly” and treated their men like “kings.” Of course this would make your man happy. Who wouldn’t love to be waited on hand and foot. Get their clothes washed, there food prepared. If only I had a free servant like that! Those days are over. I have never called myself a feminist but if a feminist believes in equality and respect to either gender then call me whatever you like. Feminist has such a negative stereotyped name the women of that movement did not wish to take over the world they just wanted to be treated equally. Thanks to women like Walsh raising their spoiled sons to be waited on hand and foot by a women, I now have a partner who insists that cooking and cleaning are the womens responsibilities. All I can do is laugh. Why should women have to carry the burdens of men? Why can’t they be more independant and then maybe we could be less stressed and happier.women like me who just wish for a little equality and respect for a man who will wash his own clothes and take out the trash without being asked, will be looked down soon. Why? Because I choose not to be a slave I deserve to be treated good sometimes too. Waiting on your man hand and foot will get you nothing but heart problems from long term built up stress of carrying a house hold. I’m sure there is a man somewhere who can care for himself and treat a women right. And guess what the sex will be that much better because it is not your gift for being his slave it’s your gift for just being you.

yihem yalfal May 22, 2010, 10:26 PM

yessssssssssssssss. feminists want to be like men and turn us off. even in bed, during sex, she may feel inferiorated in some situation. that is too bad

Rob in CA May 24, 2010, 6:41 PM

I married a feminist…..after busting my behind for 5 years, helping the way no man does with a baby, providing maid services twice a month, cleaning her pig sty of a car every week and getting down on my hand and knees to scrub floors with a bad back althewhile doubling my salary to provide for us….
she left…saying it all added up…
she can keep her feminist views…and shove them.

Now where can I find a good woman who can appreciate sacrifice?

Golf Clubs September 14, 2010, 10:38 AM

In related news, Tiger changed his name to Cheetah.

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