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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 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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From Publishers Weekly:
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.
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.
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