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Unbending Gender: Why Family and Work Conflict and What To Do About It

4.6 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 000-0195147146
ISBN-10: 0195147146
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this theoretically sophisticated and thoroughly accessible treatise on gender, work and domesticity, Williams offers a new vision of "family-friendly" feminism that would support women in all the various roles on the worker-caregiver continuum. With special attention to the diversity of women's experience in terms of race and social class, this book challenges common assumptions about gender roles and women's choices concerning work, family and career. Arguing that the liberal feminist ideal of full equality in the workforce and the anti-feminist call to full-time domesticity do not represent a satisfactory range of options, Williams, who is the co-director of the Gender, Work and Family Project at the American University Law School, says that the time is ripe to acknowledge the "norm of parental care," and work to develop flexible employment policies that will mitigate the stresses of the work/family dilemma. The title of the book refers to the way in which our social and domestic patterns have proven more resistant to alteration than feminists had hoped, largely due to the powerful social forces that support conventional gender roles, particularly common expectations about mothers and caregiving. Williams proposes a major shift in feminist strategy, focusing on the needs of diverse families, broad recognition of the value of domestic work and an expansion of the limited scheduling options available to women and men in the workplace. Of interest to feminists, working women and caregivers as well as policy makers, this groundbreaking study presents an important new perspective on this evolving discourse. (Nov.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review


"Finally, a logical look at the work vs. family debate....Williams blends brilliant scholarship, rigorous analysis and family values in a proposal to radically change the American workplace."--The Seattle Times


"Williams would jump-start a movement with reasoned argument. Her documentation is encyclopedic and scrupulous."--The Nation


"Like The Feminine Mystique and The Second Shift, Unbending Gender could ignite a new debate over what should happen next."--Yale Law Journal


"An ambitious work and a precious accomplishment."-- Women's Review of Books


"This book makes a notable contribution to the feminist literature for its eminently sensible, readable, and thoughtful look into the roots of women's disadvantage in market work...Highly recommended to readers who seek real explanations and solutions to labor market gender discrimination."--Choice


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (September 13, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195147146
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195147148
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 0.8 x 5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #616,918 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is a book for anyone who has struggled to mesh their work, their family, and their personal growth and development into one life that is balanced, fulfilling and just plain fun. Joan Williams says what we all feel, but fear: the way things are right now, the deck is stacked against all of us: men, women, and children. But as "Unbending Gender" so clearly illustrates, there is a solution well within our grasp. We can redefine our priorities and our idea of success. We can implement public policy that allows all of us to become vital and productive members of our communities. We can bridge the gap between a successful work life and a successful family life. All it takes is imagination...and will.
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Format: Hardcover
Joan Williams scholarly, thorough, and accessible book is a must-read for every woman lawyer (and working woman) struggling to balance work and family. Each time I've recommended it to one of the women attorneys I coach I've seen their perspective transformed. They stop blaming themselves for their difficulties juggling their many life roles - suddenly they understand that they're facing a system which makes it impossible to do everything well. Williams' treatise on the issues most central to working women is thought-provoking and a provides a useful framework for understanding why balance is so hard to achieve and how we might go about changing ourselves and our workplaces.
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Format: Hardcover
This splended book must be read by everyone trying to understand and remedy the strains on the contemporary family and to redirect the movement towards gender equality.While the majority of women with children are now employed outside the home, most "good jobs", from blue collar through corporate executive are still designed around men's bodies and "breadwinners'" ability to spend endless hours and energy on the job because they receive a constant flow of services from a partner. That partner, who may or may not be employed outside the home, does most of the family work but is "marginalized", that is, paid at a lower rate, and has lower status and power in the work world and in the family. This organization of market work and family work penalizes men, women and children. Reform requires re-organization of our work world, redefinition of our gender roles and a shift in the way society values and rewards family work, part time work and part time careers. The book is based on a wealth of new research and is a must for academics, policy makers, feminists and other activists working for a better society.
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Format: Hardcover
I was assigned by Oxford University Press to copyedit this book before publication, and I was immensely impressed by it--much more so than by similar books I've worked on. She presents detailed, well-thought-out arguments illuminating aspects of work and family that are perenially in the news but which are usually treated simplistically (often with much moralizing and editorializing). Her argument is based on the premise that structural factors--factors in the way our society organizes individuals' labor--are one of the most important influences on what we usually see as intensely personal choices about work and family. Looking at the matter from this perspective allows her to trace the effects of it through such things as corporate policy on leave and promotions, judicial decisions on child custody and child support, and individuals' experiences, and to make a number of concrete proposals for that are well supported by legal precedent and a strong sense of what is possible and practicable in today's world. There are a lot of legal citations for those especially interested in the legal history of the matter, but it is clearly written, so you need not be a lawyer to get a lot from this book. After reading this book, you won't look at the "mommy track" in the same way!
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Format: Hardcover
This is the book that I had been waiting for! As a lawyer, feminist, wife and mother I have struggled with conflicts between work and career and found myself forced to make "choices" that later seemed unjust. After examining family law and employment discrimination law in the course of rethinking how our society structures the relationship of "market work" to "family work," Williams presents her visions for a new paradigm which she calls "reconstructive feminism" or "family humanism." She offers both legal strategies and policy initiatives for restructuring how we "work" and changing the ways we talk about gender. This book has had a tremendous impact on me. As a result, I am hoping to teach a law school course around this book next spring. Professor Williams has been extremely helpful in assisting me in that endeavor. In addition, I am urging everyone I know to read this book. We need to forge the coalitions Williams proposes if we are to be ultimately successful in "unbending" gender roles in our society.
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By A Customer on October 19, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I haven't even had a family yet and this book really hit home for me. From the minute I picked it up, I couldn't put it down! As a law student with high career aspirations it is difficult to imagine how I can possibly be a great lawyer and a good mother. Williams' book describes this conflict and provides excellent examples and creative solution. She makes the bold suggestion that our society needs to change the way we work so that people can do both. I completely agree. The book is articulate and compelling. Anyone who is concerned about children's welfare, family issues, or women's equality should read it!
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