THE FEMINIZATION OF AMERICA by Elinor & Barbara Myerhoff Lenz


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The author's intent is to document the positive effect women have had on American life in several regards since liberation freed them from the strict concerns of home and hearth. And indeed, women, whom the authors assert as a sex have been acculturated in ways that can serve to humanize an increasingly alienated society, may be having precisely such a positive effect on the larger world. But the sweeping generalizations and the repeated presentation of broad cultural sterotypes here do not add up to a convincing case. An example: according to the authors, one of the reasons women have been at the forefront of the disarmament movement is that ""Most women accept without question their responsibility for protecting life. . ."" While such a generalization is not nearly as offensive as saying ""Most women only want a man to foot the bills,"" it's certainly as arguable. Another generalization, this a quote from an interview on the effect of women in the workplace, reads, ""they're (women) keeping men honest. . ."" Really? That the authors would present such a sweeping statement either in their own voice or as the opinion of another is annoying. This is not to say that women aren't humanizing the workplace, revitalizing the arts, improving health care, or replacing the old-boy hierarchies with more egalitarian networks. But to catalogue strictly positive gender-related characteristics with so little respect for individuality, and then to present their supposed effect with little or no supporting evidence is to ask the reader to take an ideological leap of faith of mammoth proportions. While the subject is worthy, the treatment is not. This book should be approached with caution. Its premise is valid, though, and if Lenz and Myerhoff had resisted the temptation to present speculation as fact, and resisted their impulse to generalize, they could have made a thought-provoking, enlightening case. Not so here.

Pub Date: Oct. 14th, 1985
Publisher: Tarcher--dist. by St. Martin's