After the release of her bestselling title, Schoolgirls: Young Women, Self-Esteem, and the Confidence Gap
, Peggy Orenstein toured the country talking to groups of parents, teachers, and girls. It was after one of these teen town hall meetings that she decided to write about the crucible of postfeminist socialization at which today's women--not girls--find themselves: the reconciliation of motherhood and personal aspirations. It's a subject she's intimately familiar with. Orenstein began researching Flux
when she was in her mid-30s and agonizing over whether to have a child: "I wanted the richness of motherhood in my life but worried over its costs. I could almost hear the traditionalist in me clucking, 'You can't have it all,' and it infuriated me. Why couldn't I? Why couldn't any of us?"
To help her answer these questions, she interviewed about 250 women between 1996 and 1999, and their varied responses serve as a kind of public consciousness-raising tool. She also interviewed their friends, lovers, and partners to get to the root of the expectations, joys, and frustrations of these women living in a "half-changed world." Though most of the women she interviewed come from similar backgrounds (college educated, white, middle class, and heterosexual), their combined experiences provide readers with plenty of different viewpoints to consider. A portrait of a generational Everywoman emerges from these snapshots in a way that furthers the stated purpose of the book: to inspire readers in "the search for a more satisfied life." -- J.R.
From Publishers Weekly
Drawing on interviews she conducted with more than 200 women, Orenstein (SchoolGirls: Young Women, Self-Esteem, and the Confidence Gap) presents an intimate and politically astute vision of how women in their 20s, 30s and 40s negotiate life in a world only half-changed by feminism. Divided into three partsD"The Promise," about women in their 20s exploring relationships and beginning working life; "The Crunch," about women in their 30s confronting issues of children and family; and "The Reconsideration," about women in their 40s reassessing what they want for themselvesDthe book is peppered with absorbing in-depth portraits that show how individual women manage their relationships and careers, singledom and marriage. Many of the older women Orenstein interviewed hold jobs that were unthinkable 30 years agoD(e.g., corporate vice-presidents and financial officers). What hasn't changed enough, however, are their working environments and the men in their lives. Though the women want successful careers, they still pressure themselves to be perfectly attentive wives and mothers who shoulder the bulk of the housekeeping and child rearing. Yet these women's focus on trying to Have It All paradoxically reinforces the dichotomy between family and career; for true equality, men need to balance home and work just as much as women do. Unlike many self-help books, Orenstein's balances coping strategies with sharp political points: for true equality in relationships and fairness to women, "more men have to take full responsibility at home," and "women also have to let them"; more important, the workplace must adjust to the needs of all employees who are parents. Orenstein believes women will profit by sharing their experiences across generations; this rigorous and appealing book should jumpstart the conversation. (June) FYI: Orenstein has a two-year jump on Susan Faludi, who will cover the same territory in a book recently sold to Metropolitan Books for publication in 2002 (Hot Deals, April 24).
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