NO MAN'S LAND by Kathleen Gerson


Men's Changing Commitments to Family and Work
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 In a vivid, precise, but limited study, Gerson (Sociology/ N.Y.U.) extends to men the problems she explored in Hard Choices (1985), a study of women's dilemmas with family and career. Here, she concludes that there are more differences among men on these issues than there are between men and women. Gerson's findings are based on interviews with 138 men between the ages of 28 and 45 living in the metropolitan New York area whose names appeared either on alumni lists of a local, unnamed university or on labor-council lists--lists that offered a sampling that was 94% non-Hispanic white: Missing, in addition to a representative proportion of African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and Hispanics, are the chronically impoverished or unemployed. The interviews traced life trajectories, including the various traumas and challenges the men had encountered. Gerson groups her subjects into three orientations: ``breadwinning'' (men who either by choice or accident are providers in the traditional sense); ``autonomous'' (men who are single, married without children, divorced, or widowed) and ``involved'' (men who, as nurturers or helpers, place an emphasis on their families). Contrary to popular belief, Gerson finds that only half of the men actually chose to be breadwinners-- a role, she points out, that arose with the Industrial Revolution. Each role here has its own strengths and problems: A breadwinner requires the support of a full-time housewife and is uncomfortable with challenges to his prerogatives; an autonomous man may be unable to form close emotional ties or hold a job, and may end up as a ``deadbeat dad''; the involved man may suffer economically for the time he devotes to his children. Gerson concludes with a philosophical essay on the male myth and the politics of gender. In spite of the limited and slanted population sampling: a persuasively argued, sympathetic contribution to the growing literature of male liberation.

Pub Date: July 28th, 1993
ISBN: 0-465-06316-0
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Basic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1993