Thursday, January 17, 2008

Unbending Gender by Joan Williams

iconiconNote: The ebook is listed on a different page than the physical book: Unbending Gendericon.

After reading Lord of Hawkfell Island, I decided my brain was going to rot if I didn't follow it up with something more intellectual. So I decided to read Unbending Gender, by Joan Williams.

The good news is I got what I wanted: something more thought-provoking and intelligent. The bad news is also that I got what I wanted, because it's taking me forever to read. According to my blog, it's been more than two weeks now, and I'm not quite halfway through the book!

Part of the reason why it's taking so long is that I'm extremely busy right now, writing my little heart out in order to pay my not-so-little bills. As a result, by the time I get into bed it's either too late to read more than a few pages, or I'm too tired to read more than a few pages.

The book itself is wonderful. I've always considered myself a feminist, but Williams puts the work/wage equality discussion in a way that outshines every other argument I've ever heard.

For instance, one of her arguments is regarding the feminist idea that women should have careers just like men. Unfortunately, this push has left many women struggling to maintain their careers, while still being responsible for managing the childcare and the housework.

Williams points out that the problem is not only that women are working this double shift, but also that society requires "ideal workers" to be able to put in 40-plus hours of week a work. Because women are still responsible for the kids and the housework, they can't put in the overtime, and therefore aren't able to enjoy the same levels of success at work as men.

Men, on the other hand, can work the overtime because their women take care of the house for them. They don't have any responsibilities to hold them back from excelling at work.

The problem, Williams argues, is society's notion of the ideal worker. Rather than trying to push women up to men's level, she instead advocates restructuring the requirements of the ideal worker. She suggests that women and men should be able to work fewer hours and still enjoy success in their careers. With the ideal worker expectations reduced for both the sexes, men would be able to participate more in family life, and women would be able to have a career without sacrificing her family in order to do so.

Personally, I think it's brilliant.

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