This is "The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness," the subject of a provocative paper published earlier this month by economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers. The authors are perplexed about the incongruity between how much women's lives have objectively improved, and how happy they subjectively feel. :

By most objective measures the lives of women in the United States have improved dramatically over the past 35 years. Moreover, women believe that their lives are better; in recent polls asking about changes in the status of women over the past 25 or 50 years, around four in five adults state that the overall status of women in the U.S. has gotten better…. Additionally, the 1999 Virginia Slims Poll found that 72% of women believe that "women having more choices in society today gives women more opportunities to be happy" while only 39% thought that having more choices "makes life more complicated for women." Finally, women today are more likely than men to believe that their opportunities to succeed exceed those of their parents.

Yet trends in self-reported subjective well-being indicate that happiness has shifted toward men and away from women. … This finding of a decline in women's well-being relative to that of men raises questions about whether modern social constructs have made women worse off… Rather than immediately inferring that the women's movement failed to improve the lot of women, we conclude with … alternative explanations of this paradox.

The authors begrudgingly admit that feminism could have something to do with the declining rates of happiness for women: "The changes brought about through the women's movement may have decreased women's happiness." But they argue that this is only because " The increased opportunity to succeed in many dimensions may have led to an increased likelihood of believing that one's life is not measuring up…Or women may simply find the complexity and increased pressure in their modern lives to have come at the cost of happiness." They also propose that women may now feel more comfortable being honest about their true happiness and have thus deflated their previously inflated responses. Or, that the increased opportunities available to women may have increased what women require to declare themselves happy.

In the end, they just scratch their heads about the whole thing. They can't understand why feminism didn't deliver the happiness it promised. It pumped its best medicine into woman's veins, but somehow, it just exacerbated the disease.

C.S. Lewis once said, "What does not satisfy when we find it, was not the thing we were desiring." Feminism's attempt to increase the happiness of woman by having woman control and dictate the terms of her own happiness was doomed to fail.

"God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about His ways. God cannot give us a happiness and peace aprt from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing."  (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)

Women can "stretch and stretch," but their own efforts will never "tell them who they are." The real paradox about female happiness is that though she might try, woman will never be able to make herself happy. Nor will men make woman happy. Nor will children, career, prominence, possessions, lifestyle…nor anything else that woman might strive after. Apart from a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ as the rock-solid foundation of joy, woman will never find what she is looking for.  Without a vibrant personal relationship with Christ, she will forever ask herself Friedan's painful silent question - "Is this all?"

Reprinted with permission from GirlsGoneWise.com. Originally posted May 27, 2009.

© Mary A. Kassian, Girls Gone Wise. Visit Mary's Website at: GirlsGoneWise.com

Mary Kassian is author of several Lifeway Bible Studies. She and her husband Brent have mastered the art of cheering after spending countless hours watching their sons play ice hockey and volleyball. The Kassian clan and their pets, Miss Kitty and black lab, General Beau, live in Western Canada.