In 2009, economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers published an intriguing article called The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness in which they document a pervasive, downward shift in female self-reports of happiness since the early 1970s. This shift has occurred "absolutely" – meaning, women report being less happy today than they did in the early 70s. It has also occurred "relative" to men – as in, women today report being less happy than men do, whereas in the early 70s men reported being relatively unhappier than women. These are major population-based findings – results that summarize statistics from large random samples of people. Further, these findings appear to be consistent across all of the available survey data that can measure changes over time in how people report that they are doing. Which means these aren’t accidental findings. They are probably measuring something real.Share
Women really are – or at least they really feel that they are – doing worse today than they were in the early 70s.
If this is true, the "Allure" cover headline “Life is one big party, and you’re all invited” seems either insensitive or ignorant. Or else, as I suspect, the editors at "Allure" don’t want to tell the truth about reality, because the truth about reality doesn’t sell magazines. This is why they persist with the Photoshop madness and the airbrush fantasyland –because we have a stubborn attachment to mythological narratives, both sacred and profane. "Glamour" and "Allure" peddle in the profane.
But this is profoundly unhelpful to ordinary women, for at least two reasons. First, because profane mythologies – about becoming like Cara Delevingne – do little more than highlight and reinforce our fallen human nature: pride, vanity, narcissism, jealousy, sensuality – the quest for perfectibility in the material realm. Ultimately this leads to despair because we really can’t have any of it. And as we flip through the pages we risk becoming sadder than when we started. We looked for hope and inspiration but we found instead that we were becoming a statistic: far less likely than before to say that we were happy. (Read more.)