A new genre of memoirs reveals one reason behind the decline in women's happiness - liberal feminism is antithetical to fostering healthy relationships
I read this with tears in my eyes and an upwelling of love for you Tara. You’ve contributed so much to my life and sense of well being. Thank you for all the ways you articulate ideas that are hard to articulate and speak things that are verboten. Thank you for sharing about your own life experience. Your description of Ireland fills me with longing.
I no longer consider myself a feminist, but am not without gratitude for many of the gains of feminism. I got married in my late thirties and did have one child at 40. I’m often regretful that we didn’t have more than one, but I was so far away from family when I finally had a child that it’s been exhausting to raise a child without the support of extended family.
I will encourage my daughter to have children younger in life. I’m now in menopause as she enters her teen years and it’s hard. It’s hard to be going through what I call the adolescence of old age and find the stamina to support her as she goes through adolescence.
Biology is real. Estrogen is a hormone that functions to help us care for others. It’s a pretty good idea to have children when we have a solid bodily supply of it!
There’s so much more I could say. That I long to say. But I have a child to tend and dogs to walk (in part got the dogs to be four legged siblings for her!)
Thank you Tara for putting your creative energy into tending the culture at large. Thank you for helping us grow and develop. This is a way of being a mother and a really good one at that.
Tara, what would you say to the idea that the liberal feminism you describe caters to men more than women? Consequence-free casual sex and no obligations to the women in one’s life sounds like the ideal for men who don’t want to grow up.
The Pill and the Sexual Revolution were the worst thing to ever happen to women in the west. The consequences will last for many generations and both women (and men) will suffer for it.
A wonderful piece, and a brave one, in a way, which just a few years ago would have triggered a mob like the one Riley Gaines just met, but just along a different theme. Unfortunately for a lot of the wonderful people affected by those "new and free" values promised in the 60s and 70s, women thought they were getting freedom, we men had free cake thrown at us everywhere we went, and trust disappeared for both sexes very quickly, never to return. In the dying embers of those blazing fires now remain mostly solitude, sometimes anger, plenty of fear, and one of its by-products, porn. Not a lot of freedom there. My Mom passed away last week, and looking at pictures of her in her mid-twenties, with five kids to handle, I couldn't believe how happy, fulfilled and innocent she seemed in those pictures. She did miss out on a few things, Burning Man among them, as well as kink and twerk, but she could recite bits of Molière and Shakespeare by heart, and do French seams on a simple home sewing machine. Try that some time. Pretty orgasmic.
I, as a mature student decades ago, had a very difficult time enunciating to talented, compassionate, and intelligent young adults in my program that marriage, family, and commitment to others led to a kind of freedom unavailable to those seeking/demanding depth of relationship and trust to serve what they thought of as their own best interests without any meaningful and accompanying constraints like 'commitment'. In other words, it just seemed so incredibly foolish to me that so many people expected some magical kind of rich and emotionally satisfying payback from themselves at some future date by never having invested much in others at all!
Investing first in one's self may have gone under the title of liberal feminism but I think that's not the case at all: the values of liberal feminism are what makes mutual rights and freedoms inside a committed relationship unified and cohesive and rock solid for the greatest possible freedom for each member - from spouses to children to extended community. And the reason is because using these earned and solid relationships as a springboard allows one the various and necessary supports to go after and try to realize what previously was just individual potential... achieved now for the sake of all involved. Us rather than me. It's a huge difference and makes achievements so much more meaningful when legitimately shared.
I think being a valuable member of 'Us' is always stronger and more satisfying and affirming in so many ways than being on team 'Me'. I think the values of liberal feminism - equality and mutual respect - are key to this team. Sure, specific roles can be and are different and some roles are changed over time to serve the needs and wants of the 'Us' but the framework is what matters.
As I have since taught for decades, how we think determines what we think. That formula doesn't change when we consider our own life goals and how we think about 'Us' v 'Me'.
I love your clarity of thought Tara. I am sending this to my daughters...
I don't think this argument applies only to women, many men are unhappy with their life choices as well. Perhaps this is based on the fact so many are now being raised by single mums...I'm not sure. What I do know is that once we become a grown up, it's up to us, to go out and find our own tribe. If we subscribe to the Instagram worldview that we have to all want the same things in order to be successful, we really haven't learned anything in all the fancy classes we took at university or at college. And we have nobody to blame but ourselves if we are miserable. I mean, go out there and find your own meaning. Put the phones away, along with our lofty ideals, and actually maybe put other people's needs in front of our own to help us figure it out.
Perspective to a young person is everything, and that is being lost with this narrow minded groupthink idea that everyone should go after the same ideals of "success". The pursuit of money has replaced the pursuit of friendship, of generosity to others, of volunteerism in our communities, and this single pursuit everyone throws themselves at is just so silly. Believing the dream is only for those lazy enough who don't want to get uncomfortable with rising against the tide. And it's always been that way. Perhaps though, when people had less, they had more of a backbone than we do nowadays. Also when we have more to lose in terms of financial gain, more people are unwilling to become uncomfortable to pursue other avenues. Those that seem to have much less than we do, always are more willing to share whatever they do have. Why is that? Perhaps it's just that they are grateful to have anything and want to share in the spirit of companionship, but those of us with more, prefer to put up a big fence and keep it all to ourselves for fear of losing somethig.
I for one am a bit tired of the constant whining of middle aged women blaming feminism on why they're unhappy. Just stop it. Take responsibility for yourself and go out there and live your life on your terms. Nobody is forcing you to live a life you do not want to have, so just be grateful for the blessings you have in your life, and move on. This constant comparing notes and whining, not to mention this jealousy of other women, is really the reason why we are the weaker sex. We just cannot seem to get beyond the fact that we believe we are owed something better. I mean, really? Make it happen. If there's a change you want to make, make it. Pay it forward - always, and count your blessings along the way. There is always, always, many out there who are much worse than ourselves. Be grateful for what we have.
Thank you Tara, for a brave and honest piece. I'm now in my dotage - 82 - and can look back to the 60's and 70's with a clear memory of how we whittled away the constraints of gender to liberate one's 'person-hood' : to open relationships based on one's humanity. . .
Blindly following any path without correcting your course according to the resulting feedback (internal or external) you receive is why Artificial Intelligence sometimes result in Teslas crashing into emergency vehicles. My daughter and I often use the term "situational awareness" to refer to the benefits of simply paying attention to the inputs of both our external and internal receptors. If it feels good, do it, but pay attention to the emotional consequences, and be willing to change course. ANY philosophy carried to its extremes becomes at the vert least absurd and at worst harmful.
I read your book and have followed your journey through your substack since. It's refreshing and interesting to see your honest personal reflections as you've followed the logic and emotion train to its conclusion. After reading your book, it's fair to say that you left no stone unturned in your search for alternative meanings in life. Good job and thanks for taking us along.
Tara, thanks for another brave article. It does seem to be confounding when liberal feminists - at least the ones you mention here - raise questions about women's happiness during the "sexual revolution," but then double down on it. It is as if there has been an absolute closing of the imagination of what "happiness" actually looks like. While Perry can write about having "too much" freedom, i wonder if it as much about having a highly impoverished view of freedom. i find it continually boggling how so many women have fallen for a highly macho and libertarian form of freedom, i.e., do whatever you want, whether it is through "expressing" yourself or being "liberated" from conventions of any kind. Do these women not know how truly (hyper) masculine this is? But your writing about the Irish families you encountered suggest another view of freedom - namely, the freedom to choose the good that comes from being bonded to others in relationships of mutuality. Ethics of care theorists have been talking about this for years, and women throughout history can speak to their own experience of love and the "good" that has come from caring for others. So rather than the solution being the ability of women to be able to "fuck like men" (excuse my language), why aren't women telling men that the key to flourishing and "freedom" exists in the gift of yourself to another through mutual love and sacrificial care? What kind of revolution would that be?
Sorry for the panegyric. Thanks again, Tara, for writing these words.
A wonderful reflection on your life, Tara. Thank you, for you help me to be able to put my thoughts into coherent words. If only more women (men too) were able to assess their actions and consequences in a similar way - honestly. To stop blaming others is a start too.
Well, look at the bright side. You'll never have to hear those 4 words, soon to be declared hate speech, "mommy, I love you."
You gals fell for that crap, hook, line and sinker.
The comment I wrote a few days ago felt incomplete, on this rainy morning, sitting on the indoor bike. Truly healthy relationships are extremely rare, and also were, in our moms' generations. There is a form of deeper intimacy, that maybe I would call "spiritual-work" Intimacy that is becoming harder and harder to build, as society has progressively glued together the false idea of "freedom" with a genitalia-driven frigg-fest. The very things that a person needs to spiritually evolve -- talking openly, genuinely, with a close partner and heart-friend, discussing fears, insecurities, past mistakes, putting aside spicy power/conquest tangoes -- those things cannot exist in superficial relationship contexts where one is worried about part sizes, performance or hairdoes. Too much hiding, too much pride, too much anger and old betrayals, on both sides, to allow that vulnerability. Humanity needs to reconnect with openness, honesty, gentleness, civility, vulnerable, tender conversation. A tall order in the age of TikTok and porn, for sure.