Beach Woman 88.
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American women are more unhappy than ever before, with one report maintaining that one out of three visits by women to doctors are for depression. Other studies echo this finding and maintain that nearly one-third of all American women are on anti-depressants. Why are women so unhappy?
Feeling constantly tired as they crumble under the burden of having to work both in the office and at home as well as the lack of emotional support due to the sad state of the American marriage is part of the explanation. Women feeling that their children don't listen to them exacerbates their feelings of worthlessness and failure. But while these factors contribute to the despondency of the American woman, the greatest cause of her depression is how society is geared toward making women feel inadequate.
Just think about what it's like to be a woman in America today. Everything about you says you're not good enough. You're not pretty enough to be on the cover of Vogue or Cosmopolitan. You're not fit or thin enough, so you better go on some new diet. Your legs are not long enough to have you saunter down a fashion show runway. Your breasts are not large enough, so you must therefore consider mutilating your body to make them more appealing. Your hair is not blond enough; your eyes are not blue enough. Even your brain, according to the president of Harvard University, is not good enough to compete with a man's brain in the important disciplines of science and mathematics.
And what you certainly aren't ever as a woman is young enough. We've created an environment in which women should even be ashamed of simply living because living means aging, and aging means being rejected for being ugly, uncomely and unattractive. To be a woman in America today is to live under the constant assault of incessant inadequacy.
TO BE a woman is also to be subjected to a constant barrage of expectations that are truly outside your control. Is a woman who is born with a flat chest really to feel that she will never be good enough to truly excite her husband?
But aside from the external pressures of inadequacy, there is a consideration much closer to home that is making so many American housewives feel like they are just not good enough. In essence, it is their husbands who unwittingly make them feel like they are not special enough to retain their attention and affection.
I hear the word "inadequate" from more and more American women whose characters and self-esteem are slowly being eroded by the men in their lives. Think about it. A woman wants to get married, make her husband happy and feel desirable to the man she loves. Yet, how many happy men are there in America today? So many men define their success by only one standard - the money they've made, the position they've attained in life. But no matter how far up you've climbed the corporate ladder, there's always someone ahead of you. Men today cannot seem to find an inner identity of value that is impervious to external competition. And when they feel worthless, the ones who suffer the most are their wives. Husbands who feel broken in turn create wives who feel inadequate, and slowly but surely, the whole family ends up in pieces.
For a year, I served as a radio host on one of America's only 50,000-watt radio stations aimed at women. The station was in Salt Lake City, Utah, and it was owned by Bonneville, which is, in turn, owned by the Mormon church. I created a very strong rapport with my tens of thousands of female, Mormon listeners. More than any other subject, they wanted to talk about why they were so unhappy and depressed, which surprised me. Mormon women have the highest rate of depression of any female group in the US, and I would constantly ask them to tell me why. They said that a lot was expected of them as religious women. They were expected to have large families with many children. They were expected to be a source of comfort and support to their husbands. And, since large families usually need two incomes, they were expected to work outside the home.
The straw that broke the camel's back, however, was that amid all those pressures, they were also expected to look fantastic. Great emphasis was put on their physical appearance. Despite all their daily pressures, they felt inadequate because they didn't think they looked fabulous. If they put on a couple of pounds after having a baby, they had somehow failed. That's where the bulk of the depression began to set in.
It is time for us to emphasize to women and girls from the earliest age that they are good enough, their eyes are bright enough, their minds are sharp enough, their bodies are shapely enough and their personalities charismatic enough. We simply need to allow women to feel good enough so that the nurturers in our culture can be restored to us whole and unbroken.
The writer is the host of TLC's Shalom in the Home which airs Monday's at 9 p.m. on American cable TV. His newest book is Parenting with Fire: Lighting Up the Family with Passion and Inspiration.
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