Last weekend AEI’s Arthur Brooks published an interesting piece on happiness in the New York Times’ Sunday Review. I’d encourage you to read the whole thing, but this observation (taken from the comprehensive work of the University of Chicago’s General Social Survey) was particularly interesting and runs counter to perceptions fostered by pop culture:
For many years, researchers found that women were happier than men, although recent studies contend that the gap has narrowed or may even have been reversed. Political junkies might be interested to learn that conservative women are particularly blissful: about 40 percent say they are very happy. That makes them slightly happier than conservative men and significantly happier than liberal women. The unhappiest of all are liberal men; only about a fifth consider themselves very happy.
Fascinating. While I’ll let others comment on the happiness of conservatives, let’s address liberal men. Why are they so much less happy?
A core component of modern leftism is its comprehensive attack (and accompanying redefinition) of masculinity. This attack poisons how men experience their own nature, relationships, and purpose.
First, the Left attacks the very idea of what it means to be a man. Here’s a shorthand version of the Left’s view of masculinity (to borrow from a column my wife wrote): Men and women are the same, except when women are better. So when a young boys does what young boys do — play rough, show aggression, gravitate towards contact sports and more violent games and movies — they are greeted with howls of “No.” No talking. No pushing. No running. No fighting. No toy guns. No drawings of tanks and guns. No. No. No. Again and again, young boys are shoved into a quiet, more relational, submissive box. As the father of an active young teen boy, what I’ve seen from other parents — the unbelievable stifling — seems cruel.
Next, the liberal male often spends his relational life walking on eggshells, dating women and living in cultures that are constantly calling out any kind of behavior subjectively perceived as “male” or oppressive. So if a man gets angry at a woman, he’s just “mansplaining.” A man who asks for fidelity is “slut-shaming.” Assertions of will are subject to “privilege checks.” To enter the world of academia, for example, is to enter a world of social rules and customs that are impossibly complex because propriety is always dictated by the subjective feelings of the most traditionally powerless person in the room. The language of equality is a mere mask for a new hierarchy that explicitly seeks to place the male (especially the white male) at the bottom.
Finally, as a result of upbringing and relationships, liberal men often lack a distinctively masculine purpose. Ask most conservative men to define their roles — whether they’re firefighters or accountants — and they’ll often respond with words like “protector” or “provider” — even when they’re married to capable, strong women with their own careers. They’re glad for their wife’s success, but they view that success as independent of their ultimate responsibilities. Many liberal men would actively scorn such labels. Indeed, at the end of the day, many men are left with nothing distinctively male about them, aside from their biology. And they often feel a hole in their heart. Indeed, a cottage industry exists to reconnect men with manly pursuits — often centered around experiencing real adventure for the first time in their lives.
These are hardly original observations, and Christina Hoff Sommers, in her 2001 book, The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism is Harming Our Young Men, and Helen Smith, in this year’s Men on Strike: Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood, and the American Dream — and Why it Matters (among others) have made a much more comprehensive case against the Left’s treatment of young men.
In its quest to destroy the patriarchy, the Left hurts mainly its own. We conservatives, on the other hand, oblivious to the latest trends in critical gender theory and content with complementary and mutually supporting gender roles, sail blissfully on as the happiest people in the land.