An Unconventional Family

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9780300074246: An Unconventional Family
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In 1965, when psychologists Sandra and Daryl Bem met and married, they were determined to function as truly egalitarian partners and also to raise their children in accordance with gender-liberated, anti-homophobic, and sex-positive feminist ideals. During the next ten years, they exuberantly shared the details of their daily lives in both public lectures and the mass media in order to provide at least one concrete example of an alternative to the traditional heterosexual family. In the 1990s, Sandra Bern also published an award-winning book, The Lenses of Gender, which spelled out the feminist theory behind their feminist practices.This second book by Sandra Bern, an autobiographical account of the Bems' nearly thirty-year marriage, is both a personal history, of the Bems' past and a social history of a key period in feminism's past. It is also a look into feminism's future, because the Bems' children, Emily and Jeremy, now in their early twenties, speak at length in the book as well.Bem analyzes what aspects of family background and psychological makeup led her and Daryl to bond so immediately and to become gender pioneers. She describes the egalitarianism and feminist child-rearing that they invented for their private needs and tells how these family agendas were transformed into public feminist discourse. Finally she reassesses this early feminist union now that the marriage has come to an end and the children are young adults, evaluating (with the help of lengthy interviews with Emily and Jeremy and a brief epilogue by Daryl) what the Bems' experiences -- both positive and negative -- have to say about the viability and necessity of nontraditional gender arrangements insociety today.

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From Publishers Weekly:

Sandra Bem's name is familiar to two decades of behavioral scientists and their students through the Bem Sex Role Inventory, a research and teaching device that measures androgyny. Her earlier Lenses of Gender set out a feminist theory of gender, and the present book describes a practical and personal family experiment deriving from the theory. The trajectory of Sandra and Daryl Bem's engagement, marriage and family-rearing parallels the development of feminist theory closely. This is, in her words, "an autobiographical account of an attempt by a woman and a man to function as truly egalitarian partners and parents and also to raise children in accordance with gender-liberated, antihomophobic, and sex-positive feminist ideals." Luckily, both the author and her (now ex-) husband Daryl wrote and lectured frequently on their undertaking, so a detailed, forthright chronicle was available, and Bem supplements it with a short essay giving Daryl's viewpoint and edited interviews with her now grown children. The difference in this family's history is that a plan was devised for marriage and children, and behavior was deliberately channeled to fit the framework. A consistent certainty of being right pervades the narrative. Events are analyzed according to whether they fit or did not fit the model, presenting a certain joylessness about living that one hopes didn't reflect the family's day-to-day experience. Bem provides positive spins and rational explanations for lapses in feminist practice. The book is well written and thoughtful, and achieves its purpose, but also shows that utopian experiments are truly hard work and allow little time for just being.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal:

In this fascinating autobiography, Bem?Cornell psychology professor, lecturer, and author (The Lenses of Gender, Yale Univ., 1993)?provides details of the life experiences that led her and husband Daryl Bem (also a psychologist, lecturer, and author) to become pioneers in gender studies. She describes her early gender nonconformity and its role in her choice of a marriage partner, which resulted in a truly egalitarian union and the development of somewhat controversial feminist child-rearing practices. This work encompasses both the positive and negative experiences of their almost 30-year nontraditional marriage and provides valuable insight into sex stereotyping. In the final two chapters, Bem reassesses egalitarian partnering and feminist child-rearing using in-depth and poignant interviews with Emily and Jeremy, her grown children. The epilog and essay-commentary by Daryl Bem add a compelling finale to this well-written book. Recommended for psychology and women's studies collections in academic and public libraries.?Elizabeth Goeters, Georgia Perimeter Coll., Dunwoody
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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