THE THIRD SEX: The New Professional Woman by Patricia A. McBroom

THE THIRD SEX: The New Professional Woman

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Did you know that women are forced to lay aside their essential vulnerability and silly feminine frills in order to play hardball with the guys? Or did you know that men are warrior-types who ""see military training as a necessary evil""? No? Well, maybe it's because the author draws these--and other--vast and portentous generalizations from a teeny-tiny database: interviews with just 44 ""financial women"" in San Francisco and New York. (Her source for men's warlike propensities is ""Marvin"" of Citibank.) Seriously, now. The author is an anthropologist who should have acknowledged the limitations of evidence drawn from a small sub-group. Her interviewees, all women in banking or finance, are a small part of Yuppie subculture, which itself is primarily a phenomenon of the huge coastal cities like San Francisco and New York. Yet McBroom sees this extremely narrow sampling as Everyperson, projecting vaporous utterances such as those above, and more. Did you know, for example, that ""childbearing reconnects women with the feminine part of themselves""? She discusses the ethos of the corporate blue-suit-with-bowed-blouse as though no one else had ever noticed it: she has what amounts to a genius for resurrecting the passÉ. And she ignores the full import of the few interesting data she does uncover--i.e., that fully half her subjects have had affairs with co-workers despite their vigorous protests that such conduct remains taboo. McBroom, however, is more intent on tracking down answers to such Zen questions as: ""How do you feel about the word 'feminine'?"" The book does offer an astonishing--if unsupported-- conclusion: women are going sterile because they can't handle the pressures in the workplace. ""Women as a gender are so different from men that the effort of adapting to unadulterated masculine roles is leading to widespread loss of reproduction."" Sounds a lot like the 19th-century argument that women were too fragile to vote, to go to college, to ride bicycles, doesn't it? In fact, don't bother looking for a ""New Professional Woman"" in McBroom's book: her simpering, self-absorbed baby-factory is a creature right out of a Victorian patriarch's daydream.

Pub Date: April 23rd, 1986
Publisher: Morrow