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Broken Patterns: Professional Women and the Quest for a New Feminine Identity Paperback – February 18, 2014
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About the Author
Anita M. Harris is an award-winning journalist who covered the women's movement as a reporter for Newsday and the MacNeil/Lehrer Report (now the Newshour) of national public television. She has taught writing at Harvard, Yale and Tufts Universities, at Simmons College, and in the MBA program at Babson College. She is now president of the Harris Communications Group, a marketing and PR firm located in Cambridge, MA.
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Harris's book offers a lively and creative critique of the more common and narrow view that women mostly struggle with themselves to define their "feminine" identity leading to divisive factions among women as they compete for higher pay and status, or retreat defensively into traditional roles of wife and motherhood. Instead, we learn that how we perceive our own mothers and grandmothers in their unique historical context informs the next generation's determination to do things differently when new career opportunities arise, and at the same time helps vindicate one's fore-bearers who had no opportunity. She demonstrates how necessary it is to use a social psychological framework when understanding women's identity struggles shaped uniquely by macro economic forces as well as individual ones.
I would definitely recommend this book for anyone interested in women's studies, either in sociology, psychology, or history. Harris writes with articulate realism that focuses on the essential and felt meaning of her subjects' lives. Her qualitative methodology may inspire others to research more deeply how women think about their choices of work, career, and family.
Strikingly, we discover in her book that each succeeding generation that breaks away to define itself, looks to grandparents for inspiration. Surprisingly so many women who came of age in the the 70s had stay at home mom's and grandmothers who were hard charging careerists. Harris makes the point by weaving together personal stories, history, psychology and even technology to present in-depth portraits of generations.
It's an impeccably researched, scholarly work written in a breezy personal style.
As a woman, we need to face lots of challenges from the society, fight for the inferiority from the heart, after the modern feminist movement they have more opportunities than previous generations, the issue is about how to broken the traditional feminine values. The author find that the more a daughter identified with a mother she saw as a downtrodden, the more the daughter wanted to be different from her mother. The author visit everyone in person, she tried to know deeper about them by appearance, clothing, home decoration and conservation. We can get reflection, career advise, life plan in every chapter. The book encourages every women to chase dreams and teach them how to balance life and work.
The author is not coming from a place of having an axe to grind or an agenda to push. Her research is driven by an honest inquiry into how professional women who entered predominantly male fields of work in the 1970's and 1980's were doing in balancing the demands of their lives, and how they viewed their lives in comparison with the lives of their mothers and grandmothers.
It is clear in reading the 40 in depth interviews that make up the core of this book that Ms. Harris brought to the task a great sensitivity and intellectual curiosity. As a result, many of the women she interviewed found themselves expressing deep thoughts and emotions that they had not previously been aware of harboring. A pattern emerges that generations of women who were primarily "Stay at home wives and mothers" would often be followed by a generation of women that sent many of its members to the work force. The author sees this pattern as neither linear nor cyclical, but rather "spiral."
Many of the women she interviewed expressed strong love and respect for the lives that their mothers had led, yet also expressed equally strong desires not to emulate or repeat the pattern of their mothers' lives.
This well-conceived study and well-written book sheds light on a topic that continues to evolve as society changes and opportunities and choices for women increase and proliferate. Old patterns are being broken and replaced by new patterns informed by individual choices and cultural consent.