Beyond the Double Bind: Women and Leadership / Edition 1

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"I can remember," says lawyer Flo Kennedy, "going to court in pants and the judge remarking that I wasn't properly dressed, that the next time I came to court I should be dressed like a lawyer." It was a moment painfully familiar to countless women: a demand that she conform to a stereotype of feminine dress and behavior—which would also mark her as an intruder, rising above her assigned station (as the saying goes, she dared to "wear the pants" in the courtroom). Kennedy took one look at the judge's robe—essentially "a long black dress gathered at the yoke"—and said, "Judge, if you won't talk about what I'm wearing, I won't talk about what you're wearing."

In Beyond the Double Bind, Kathleen Hall Jamieson takes her cue from Kennedy's comeback to argue that the catch-22 that often blocks women from success can be overcome. Sparking her narrative with potent accounts of the many ways women have beaten the double bind that would seem to damn them no matter what they choose to do, Jamieson provides a rousing and emphatic denouncement of victim feminism and the acceptance of inevitable failure. As she explores society's interlaced traps and restrictions, she draws on hundreds of interviews with women from all walks of life to show the ways they cut through them. Kennedy, for example, faced the bind that insists that women cannot be both feminine and competent—and then demands that they be feminine first; she undermined that trap with wry wit. Ruth Bader Ginsberg attacked the same quandary head-on: when she heard that her law-school nickname was "bitch," she replied, "Better bitch than mouse." Jamieson explores the full range of such double binds (the uterus-brain bind, for example—"you can't conceive children and ideas at the same time"; or the assertion, "You are too special to be equal"), offering a roadmap for moving past these barricades to advancement. Unlike other breakthrough feminist writers, she finds grounds for optimism in areas ranging from slow improvements in women's earnings to newly effective legal remedies, from growing social awareness to the determination and skill of individual women who are fighting the double bind.

Jamieson is a widely sought-after authority on politics and communications; this book marks a dramatic new departure for her, one certain to win widespread attention. With intensive research and incisive analysis, she provides a landmark account of the binds that ensnare women's lives—and the ways they can overcome them.

A breakthrough account of how women can overcome the social binds that block their success. As Kathleen Hall Jamieson explores society's interlaced traps and restrictions, she draws on hundreds of interviews with women from all walks of life to show the ways they can cut through the restrictions.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Like an infra-red light that makes it possible to see clearly in the dark, Kathleen Hall Jamieson's analysis shows up the tripwires in the paths of women leaders for what they are, double binds that can and must be challenged."—Right Honourable Kim Campbell, former Prime Minister of Canada

"An important and illuminating book. Kathleen Hall Jamieson tells us that women have made progress, albeit in a damned-if-they-do/damned-if-they-don't tangle of old fashioned double binds and new fangled twists in the tale of sexism. She draws on a rich historical data base and a vast storehouse of compelling contemporary anecdotes to offer an optimistic but realistic analysis of women's advancement and leadership in new areas of endeavor. Her account exposes the roots from which double binds grew to restrict women, pinpoints the progress to date in loosening those restraints, and forecasts both continued breakthroughs and inevitable struggles ahead on the road to equality."—Ruth B. Mandel, Director, Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers University

"If you are a woman alive today, you will recognize yourself on every page of Kathleen Hall Jamieson's brilliant new book about the progress of women as leaders. There are catch-22s for women—or double binds, as she calls them—where whatever we do, we lose. But Jamieson shows how we have surmounted these binds in the past and in the process moved forward. And she's confident we will continue to. What I most like about this book is that it's free of ideology. Jamieson is clear-eyed, unemotional, keenly analytical and above all...she's hopeful!"—Lesley Stahl, CBS News, "60 Minutes"

"Kathleen Hall Jamieson provides a fresh framework for understanding the repeated frustrations that have slowed women's social progress. Her liberating conclusion: women can break every bind if they just avoid treating themselves as victims."—Harriett Woods, President, National Women's Political Caucus

"[Ms. Jamieson] makes you want to get in there, on either side of a big, interesting war with lots at stake—a war intelligent people should find worth fighting."—The New York Times Book Review

"Along the way [Jamieson] does a fascinating, minute-by-minute analysis of how Hillary Rodham Clinton came to be viewed as an antihousewife Antichrist during the 1992 campaign."—The New York Times

"[Jamieson] is particularly fair in her discussion of the way in which some feminists have tried to dissuade women...from voicing views that disagree with the reigning orthodoxy within the movement."—Washington Post Book World

"Jamieson draws a lucid, often entertaining, and at times shocking portrait of contemporary attitudes toward women leaders."—Kirkus Reviews

"[Jamieson] proves herself adept at disentangling and questioning the mixed messages women receive about who they are and who they should be."—Publishers Weekly

"[Jamieson] has written another thoroughly researched, well-crafted book...This substantive work makes a significant contribution to feminist literature."—Library Journal

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Opening with the famous scenario in which women accused of witchcraft in the Middle Ages were submerged in water and could prove their innocence only by drowning, Jamieson, dean of the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School of Communications, notes that modern women continue to be plagued by such double binds. Centuries of cultural conditioning, she asserts, have constructed for women a gendered identity that effectively silences the majority, erasing their contributions to history, while those who attempt to transgress the prescribed ``norms'' of womanhood are discredited, perceived as threatening or ignored. But Jamieson (Dirty Politics) here argues that women can challenge and overcome such no-win situations, and that the history of women's engagement with sexual politics is largely a history of replacing double binds with more accommodating notions of femininity. Jamieson's account of American women's legal battles to end discrimination points to a pattern of slow positive change, and she proves herself adept at disentangling and questioning the mixed messages women receive about who they are and who they should be. Illustrations. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Jamieson, dean of the Annenberg School of Communications, University of Pennsylvania, and author of several works (e.g., Dirty Politics: Deception, Distraction & Democracy, Oxford Univ. Pr., 1992), has written another thoroughly researched, well-crafted book. She identifies five double binds, or Catch-22s, for women; explains their origins; and examines their influence on women's lives and careers. For example, the femininity/competence bind posits, "Women who are considered feminine will be judged incompetent, and women who are competent, unfeminine." Jamieson takes the reader "beyond the double bind" by providing concrete examples of how notable women have overcome these barriers to success. She adroitly makes her points using humor as a tool. Focusing more attention on breaking the binds, rather than on the binds themselves, would have strengthened the book. Still, this substantive work makes a significant contribution to feminist literature. Essential for academic and large public libraries.-Nancy Myers, Univ. of South Dakota Lib., Vermillion
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195089400
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 4/28/1995
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 296
  • Product dimensions: 6.37 (w) x 9.62 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Kathleen Hall Jamieson is Dean of the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of Dirty Politics, Packaging the Presidency (winner of the Winans-Wichelns Book Award), and Eloquence in an Electronic Age which won the Speech Communication Association's Golden Anniversary Award.

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Table of Contents

1 The Binds That Tie 3
2 Hillary Clinton as Rorschach Test 22
3 Double Bind Number One: Womb/Brain 53
4 Double Bind Number Two: Silence/Shame 77
5 Double Bind Number Three: Sameness/Difference 99
6 Double Bind Number Four: Femininity/Competence 120
7 Double Bind Number Five: Aging/Invisibility 146
8 Newsbinds 164
9 The Stories We Tell 184
Notes 215
Bibliography 251
Index 275
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