HEADING HOME by Shani Orgad


Motherhood, Work, and the Failed Promise of Equality
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An academic analysis of the causes and results—personal and social—of highly educated women leaving the workplace to raise children.

To build her narrative, Orgad (Media and Communications/London School of Economics and Political Science; Media Representation and the Global Imagination, 2012, etc.) conducted in-depth interviews with 35 London-based women, mostly British but also a few expatriates from countries including the United States, asking them to reflect on their lives and the choices they have made. The author explores “the contradictions, ambivalences, and forms of oppression that these women experience within their privileged lives” as participants in “post-industrial liberal democracies.” Nearly all the women she interviewed “have partners in high-powered, demanding, long-hours jobs which allow the family to live on a single income.” While Orgad provides long excerpts from her interviews—including the pauses and hesitations in her subjects' speech, which she maintains express their ambivalence and confusion—and occasionally includes anecdotes about her subjects, she is less concerned with them as individuals than as representatives of a class. Striving for objectivity, she still sometimes appears condescending or even horrified at their acceptance of their lot. For example, when one interviewee tells her that she likes to go running when she's feeling restless, the author labels this “a glib technique that encourages avoidance of painful and uncomfortable feelings.” Orgad is at her best when she steps away from her subjects to reflect more broadly on the differences between what was expected of women in decades past and what is expected now and when she explores the roles of media, advertising, public policy, and workplace pressures in shaping the lives of women, particularly mothers.

While the author makes provocative points about society's entrapment of mothers, a preconceived agenda limits the value of her analysis of individuals.

Pub Date: Jan. 8th, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-231-18472-4
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Columbia Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2018


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