Hard Choices: How Women Decide about Work, Career, and Motherhood

Hard Choices: How Women Decide about Work, Career, and Motherhood

Hard Choices: How Women Decide about Work, Career, and Motherhood

Hard Choices: How Women Decide about Work, Career, and Motherhood

Synopsis

How do women choose between work and family commitments? And what are the causes, limits, and consequences of the "subtle revolution" in women's choices over the 1960s and 1970s? To answer these questions, Kathleen Gerson analyzes the experiences of a carefully selected group of middle-class and working-class women who were young adults in the 1970s. Their informative life histories reveal the emerging social forces in American society that have led today's women to face several difficult choices.

Excerpt

Two concerns motivated me to write this book. The first was personal. The issues explored here are among the most important in my own development. As the research took shape, however, I realized that many, perhaps most, women in my generation share the same concerns. Although their responses vary, they face similar dilemmas, risks, and choices. Thus, a sustained analysis of these “personal” decisions seemed useful practically and politically, as well as intellectually, to a broad group of people.

Second, the book emerged from a growing dissatisfaction with prevailing theories of gender. Despite enormous intellectual advances in recent decades, neither established theories nor emerging feminist alternatives convincingly explained the changes currently taking place in women’s social position and personal experiences. Whether these theories stressed hormones, psychological predispositions, capitalist economic arrangements, or male oppression, they tended to focus almost exclusively on forces beyond women’s ultimate control. Although all these factors surely constrain women’s lives to varying degrees, they alone do not provide a satisfying account of women’s place. A full analysis of the active role women play as partially “knowledgeable agents” (as Anthony Giddens proposes) in the construction of their lives is also needed. This book proceeds from the belief that, in the context of structural constraint, women actively build their lives out . . .

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