Unbending Gender: Why Family and Work Conflict and What to Do about It

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In Unbending Gender, Joan Williams takes a hard look at the state of feminism in America. Concerned by what she finds--young women who flatly refuse to identify themselves as feminists and working-class and minority women who feel the movement hasn't addressed the issues that dominate their daily lives--she outlines a new vision of feminism that calls for workplaces focused on the needs of families and, in divorce cases, recognition of the value of family work and its impact on...
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Overview


In Unbending Gender, Joan Williams takes a hard look at the state of feminism in America. Concerned by what she finds--young women who flatly refuse to identify themselves as feminists and working-class and minority women who feel the movement hasn't addressed the issues that dominate their daily lives--she outlines a new vision of feminism that calls for workplaces focused on the needs of families and, in divorce cases, recognition of the value of family work and its impact on women's earning power.
Williams notes that good jobs in America are designed for the ideal employee, who works full-time and often overtime, with no career interruptions. Even today, most American mothers do not meet this ideal: a majority do not work full-time, and only a small fraction work overtime. Williams points out that women will never achieve equality until mothers do: she argues that employers need to implement parent-supportive policies--or face liability for sex discrimination. She also maintains that ideal-worker fathers are supported by a flow of family work from mothers, yet divorce courts treat the family wage as owned solely by the ideal worker. The result is the impoverishment of women and children, who comprise the bulk of the poor in the United States.
Unbending Gender questions the idea that women simply choose between staying at home with their children or going to work. Given the limited options that contemporary American culture allows them, mothers are forced to make compromises. Joan Williams' solution is an inclusive, family-friendly feminism that supports both mothers and fathers as caregivers and as workers.
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Editorial Reviews

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"In her thoughtful and thought-provoking book, Williams shows how the cult of domesticity limits both women and men--and how we can restructure the marketplace and the law to reintegrate work and family. Her model of reconstructive feminism promises to end the divisive gender wars between different brands of feminism, between tomboys and femmes, restructuring market work and family work."--Deborah Tannen, author of You Just Don't Understand, Talking from 9 to 5, and The Argument Culture

"The only way we Americans can see ourselves plainly in the coming debates over child care and pay equity, private need and public obligation, is with a clear and unsentimental road map. Joan Williams' Unbending Gender is it."--Ray Suarez, host of NPR's "Talk of the Nation"

"At a time when we are searching for a way to restore meaning and cohesion to family life, Joan Williams has given us all--family workers, market workers, feminists, policy makers, and courts--a beacon on that way."--Zipporah Batshaw Wiseman, University of Texas Law School

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195094640
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 11/18/1999
  • Pages: 352
  • Lexile: 1420L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Joan Williams is co-director of the Project on Gender, Work and Family at the American University Law School, where she is a professor. She lives in Washington, D.C.

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Table of Contents

Preface: What This Book Is About IX
Acknowledgments XI
Introduction 1
Part I Unbending Gender in Social Life 11
Chapter 1 Is Domesticity Dead? 13
Chapter 2 From Full Commodification to Reconstructive Feminism 40
Chapter 3 Deconstructing the Ideal-Worker Norm in Market Work 64
Chapter 4 Deconstructing the Ideal-Worker Norm in Family Entitlements 114
Part II Unbending Gender Talk (Including Feminism) 143
Chapter 5 How Domesticity's Gender Wars Take on Elements of Class and Race Conflict 145
Chapter 6 Do Women Share an Ethic of Care?: Domesticity's Descriptions of Men and Women 177
Chapter 7 Do Women Need Special Treatment? Do Feminists Need Equality? 205
Chapter 8 The New Paradigm Theorized: Domesticity in Drag 243
Four Themes of Conclusion 271
Notes 277
Index 334
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