While a psychiatrist's study of the "vital role of ambition in women's changing lives" hardly sounds like absorbing reading, this book by Fels, an occasional science writer for the New York Times and other popular media, is surprisingly interesting. After introductory comments about how life has changed for modern women, thanks to increased longevity, birth control and other factors, Fels raises a curious question: why do women still feel anxious or evasive about admitting to having ambitions, but men don't? The answer lies in understanding that ambition has two components: the mastery of some specific skills and the recognition of that mastery by others. While many professions have opened to women in the 20th century, allowing them to learn a variety of skills, Fels says, women have still not found a plethora of sources for recognition, or ways of being valued by others for the special skills they've acquired. Lacking "sustaining affirmation," women sometimes settle for mere attentionâ"sexual attention being the easiestâ"or "recognition by proxy," reflected glory from the accomplishments of husband or children. Men, on the other hand, Fels finds, have traditionally had a wide range of sourcesâ"colleagues, mentors, friends, family, spouseâ"for "affirming attention." As Fels examines the mixed messages women get about claiming recognition (especially the taboos on outshining one's husband or appearing less than devoted to child-rearing), women readers may see their own goal problems more clearly. This book isn't sexy, nor is it self-help, but career womenâ"or anyone raising smart daughters to do big thingsâ"will find a lot within its pages to think about and discuss.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Why is it that women who can talk about anything find it so hard to talk about ambition? In this insightful study, Fels, a psychiatrist, argues that women fear—correctly—that seeking recognition will expose them to attacks on everything from their sexuality to their sanity. Although women now have access to schools and jobs, "social resources" like affirmation, support, and simple encouragement are jealously guarded male preserves. Recognition, Fels writes, is something that makes us better at what we do, and without it ambitions die. She comes down firmly on the side of working mothers, and advises those who choose full-time motherhood to get a "pre-nate" contract. She has no patience for "difference feminists," who she thinks simply rationalize women's subordinate position. According to Fels, the barriers are practical, not innate; the problem isn't the poverty of women's "chimerical" ambitions—"half plan, half dream"—but "the miserable job that they're stuck in."
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
The book was not exactly right for my needs, but I need to re-read it.Published 7 hours ago by Janise Van Tassel
Wow- were was this book when I was a single MOM raising 3 sons??? Even now as they have grown into their own lives I found value in this book to enhance my current career.Published 23 months ago by Gloria Cartwright
I purchased "Necessary Dreams" at the same time as Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office: 101 Unconscious Mistakes Women Make That Sabotage Their Careers (A NICE GIRLS Book). Read morePublished on December 10, 2012 by Inspiring Insomnia
Fels is a very smart psychiatrist, who addresses the central problem that many intelligent women have, in getting and staying motivated to do what it takes to be successful. Read morePublished on May 27, 2011 by dragonlady
This book is particularly important for young women who are struggling with the competing demands on their time and their identity and those who struggle with ambivalence about... Read morePublished on November 2, 2010 by The Hourglass Solution
This is a great book for any woman who wants to resurrect her goals, dreams, ideals, etc. that she may have left on the side of the road in favor of some other aspect of her life... Read morePublished on February 15, 2009 by Kendra Kett
In "Necessary Dreams" by Ana Fels, Fels articulates some of the subtle issues that are always present but rarely discussed. Read morePublished on April 9, 2008 by SF Native
While reading this book I thought of every woman I know, and of the men in their lives. I wanted to send it to each of them, regardless of their stage in life or regardless of the... Read morePublished on September 27, 2007 by catherine
An excellent book, an engaging look at ambition in women's lives. Fels also provides significant insight into what motivates people in general. Highly recommended reading.Published on September 19, 2006 by K. Johnson