BEYOND THE DOUBLE BIND by Kathleen Hall Jamieson

BEYOND THE DOUBLE BIND

Women and Leadership
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 An accessible though mostly familiar analysis of the Catch-22s in women's professional lives. Childless women are frequently regarded as cold, calculating careerists, yet mothers are often dismissed as unambitious, says Jamieson (dean of the Annenberg School of Communications/Univ. of Pennsylvania; Dirty Politics, 1992, etc.). She elaborates on several such paradoxes: In addition to motherhood and childlessness, women are punished for silence and speech, futility and fertility, masculinity and femininity. Jamieson draws a lucid, often entertaining, and at times shocking portrait of contemporary attitudes toward women leaders, which includes a careful chronology of Hillary Rodham Clinton's infamous ``cookies and tea'' debacle. Though she herself devotes a good deal of space to the obstacles women face, Jamieson strenuously attacks what she calls ``victim feminism'' and its supposed dichotomies. She is particularly hard on Susan Faludi's 1991 bestseller, Backlash, for emphasizing Reagan/Bush-era assaults on women's progress over that decade's feminist gains. The author persuasively argues that women are actively and inventively subverting double binds, not least by calling attention to them: Representative Pat Schroeder, when asked how she could be both a member of Congress and a mother, replied, ``Because I have a uterus and a brain, and I intend to use them both.'' Unfortunately, Jamieson's attack on Faludi is based on exactly the kind of either/or thinking she is trying to counter. Women have obviously experienced both progress and backlash; Faludi never said the two were mutually exclusive. Feminists have applied the concept of the double bind to women's lives before, so Jamieson is not breaking new ground here. Nor is she original in attacking ``victim feminism,'' a reductive and overused phrase used against anyone thought to exaggerate women's oppression. Some worn and frayed paradigms, but also some clear-headed, steely optimism about feminist resistance.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-19-508940-5
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1995




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