BREAKING POINT by Martha N. Beck


Why Women Fall Apart and How They Can Re-create Their Lives
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 A sociologist's astute insights into the stresses that drive American women to crisis, with a more ingenuous analysis of how those dilemmas are resolved. Beck and her husband (with their three children) bailed out of tenure-track academic positions to write and study independently. Hundreds of interviews with women in the US and Asia, as well as her own personal ``breaking point,'' gave her the material to write this book. It is the sociologist part of her that successfully defines and describes the paradoxical pressures that place contemporary women in a double bind, a paradox left over from the 18th century: Women are encouraged to achieve today, but are still considered ``unfeminine'' when they do; women who adhere to traditional roles are condemned for not being achievers. The ``traditional'' thought of the ``Dark Ages,'' where social stratification was rigid and women were subordinate to men, clashes with the philosophy of the Enlightenment in which ``rational humans'' celebrated equal opportunity. Except that opportunity existed only for white males--women and people of color were (sotto voce) considered ``sub-human.'' Beck portrays five phases that progress from early socialization through the breaking point to a more nebulous description of re-creating the ``true self,'' that includes edgy concepts like ``satori'' and paridigm shifts. She sorts out portraits of several cohorts, from the children of the Depression to Generation X, in terms of the influence of female role mdels. Unfortunately underrated are other monumental cohort experiences, such as WW II, Woodstock, Watergate, and television. A cogent view of the forces that drive many women to radical turning points in their lives. Where to go from there is not so clear. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-8129-6375-X
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Times/Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 1997