Perhaps the sight of Julia Roberts biking about Bali isn’t enough to convince you that a high-performance, career-empowered, smart, single, temporarily celibate (gasp!) woman over 30 can too find love, reclaim her libido and live happily ever after. That’s just a celluloid reenactment of one woman’s truth, after all — and, come on, who doesn’t fall in love with Julia Roberts?
Also debuting on Friday was author and professor Caryl Rivers’s fantastic, fact-fortified screed, published by Women’s eNews and entitled “Smart Women Take Heart: Your Love Life Is Fine,” rallying against the false notion of the “marriage penalty” — the myth that the Elizabeth Gilbert types are unhappy, destined for further unhappiness (which of course means never marrying), and themselves entirely to blame for their alleged unhappiness.
“What should smart ambitious women with some measure of career fulfillment do to prove they’re not miserable and sexless?” Rivers asks. “No matter how many times researchers debunk that story with real facts, it refuses to die. Feminism is always the culprit for women’s alleged unhappiness.”
What sets Rivers off is an Camille Paglia-penned op-ed piece blasting those very women for the nationwide “sexual malaise” that’s been spawned by their “priggish” ways; because “ambitious women postpone recreation,” Paglia opines, American office space is now a place where “physicality is suppressed, voices are lowered and gestures curtailed.”
And if you do become lucky enough to snare a mate and pop out a few kids? Then you’re at fault for emasculating America’s menfolk into “cogs in a domestic machine commanded by women.”
Rivers’s retort to all this is sweeping and gratifying. It’s worth a read in its entirety, but here are the highlights:
- Data collected by the United States General Social Survey since 1972 finds no statistical difference in the overall happiness of adult women compared to adult men. (Men’s happiness average clicks in a half-point higher than women’s, a statistical blip that many media outlets have overblown.)
- A certain “The smarter the woman, the less likely she’s married” chestnut is based on data collected in 1921.
- Men and women with highly rewarding jobs are more likely to report higher levels of sexual satisfaction.
- Your office is not a singles’ club… OK, that one’s mine, but seriously, Paglia — since when do we all meet our future mates at work? Since never.
“But don’t expect these facts to spoil the media’s love affair with the notion of a high-achieving woman sacrificing her sex appeal,” Rivers writes. Seriously. Gelato, anyone?