Family Patterns: Gender Relations

By Chegwidden, Paula | Journal of Comparative Family Studies, Autumn 1995 | Go to article overview

Family Patterns: Gender Relations


Chegwidden, Paula, Journal of Comparative Family Studies


FOX, Bonnie J., ed., FAMILY PATTERNS: GENDER RELATIONS, Toronto, Ontario: Oxford University Press, 1993, 370 pp., $25.00 softcover.

PAULA CHEGWIDDEN*

The author of Family Patterns notes, and I agree, that what has been missing in undergraduate sociology of the family courses until now has been a collection of readings written from a similar perspective, so that the student is exposed to a systematic approach. (p. ix) The twenty-nine articles included in this textbook all reflect a political economy or, perhaps, socialist feminist perspective. They concentrate on how gender and family relationships are shaped by the socio-economic structure.

Although the majority of material is Canadian, the book has cross-national, crosscultural and historical range. It opens with two well known articles about women in foraging societies, by Patricia Draper and Eleanor Leacock, which document the extent to which women had a very different status in society when their economic roles were vital. Chapters then move into early modern Europe and nineteenth century North America to illustrate the gradual historical transition to the economically dependent woman confined to the home. Included are two articles by Bettina Bradbury, who manages to make a close look at the 1861 to 1881 Canadian censuses read with the excitement of a novel. Fox herself concludes the historical section with "The Rise and Fall of the BreadwinnerHomemaker Family."

Part Three is "Exploring the Elements of Family", which covers gender socialization, differential occupational opportunities for women and men, sexuality, having children, parenting, and the gendered division of household work. The "Sexuality and Love: Gendered Experience" section effectively ties even these concepts into historical economic change. Articles on post-partum depression by Harriet Rosenberg and on domestic workers by Sedef Arat-Koc are well known in women's studies and among the most brilliant of feminist writing about contemporary families I have encountered.

Part Four considers issues of family violence, divorce and child custody. Although informative and clear, most of these are less clearly tied into the theoretical perspective than the other sections. The excerpt from Dobash and Dobash's Violence Against Wives does tie wife battering in with husbands' attempting to keep their wives housebound, in their 'proper' sphere. …

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