LIVING CONTRADICTIONS: The Women of the Sixties Come of Age by Joanne Michaels

LIVING CONTRADICTIONS: The Women of the Sixties Come of Age

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There's nothing really new in this impressionistic portrait of the (mostly middle-class) women of the baby boom as they enter their thirties. On the strength of nearly 200 questionnaires, 35 follow-up interviews, and her own experience, Michaels (b. 1950) postulates that this generation acquired traditional sex-role expectations in childhood and rejected them as they grew up in the turbulent 1960s--setting the stage for the ""living contradictions"" of the title. Those who chose careers and worked hard in their twenties are feeling lonely, and want to find a man and settle down: ""Careers have enhanced their sense of self but haven't liberated them from the human need for intimacy."" Those who live with men consider cohabitation a step before marriage, not a replacement for it; and the statistics bear them out: in 1978 there were only 1.1 million cohabiting couples compared to 48 million married pairs. Parenthood has plagued this generation more than any other question; jobs and partners can always be changed--children are forever. Neither the full-time housewife nor the ""superwoman"" who does it all was found in great numbers--the women at home were mostly planning to return to work, and the superwoman is little more than a myth. Michaels' generalizations are accurate (if hackneyed) as long as she sticks to white, middle-class women, but she betrays a certain naivetÉ when race, class, or sexual preference changes. (She never considered, for example, what effect race might have on the interviewee's responses until, to her surprise, one of her respondents turned out to be black.) While the contradictions facing these women are undeniable (""the drive to achieve and the need for intimacy. . .; the passion for freedom and the need for security; the desire for individuality and the need for closeness""), their inability to choose gets a little boring. The book reads like a stock article from a woman's magazine--which pretty much defines its audience too.

Pub Date: April 30th, 1982
Publisher: Simon & Schuster