Monday, June 18

Maushart Susan: What Women Want Next

This book briefly examines what feminism has achieved for women thus far (acknowledging that there is still more to be done) and how those achievements have impacted on levels of happiness in the lives of women today.
After following along traditional philosophical lines in an attempt to define what happiness actually is and how much of this esoteric quality we can reasonably expect in our lives, the book settles in to its main premise: If women now have the self determination, equality under law and in the workplace that they fought so hard for, why are they still not happy?
The author suggests that the answer might not lie so much in the amount of work that still needs to be done if women are to achieve total equality with men but in the assumption that women ever really wanted what men had to begin with. This seeming blasphemy is the result of numerous studies into the effects of marriage, motherhood and career on the physical and mental health of women.
When picking up the option of having a career, women neglected to put down the responsibility of the home and family, leading to a generation of exhausted women trying to do and have it all. Ultimately this has lead to droves of women choosing to ‘throw it all away’ for a more ‘traditional’ lifestyle. A path that leaves many of them feeling guilty for ‘letting the sisterhood down’. After all, we are supposed to want a high powered career and marriage and motherhood, that is what our mothers fought so hard to give us.
What this book is saying is that now women have the option to choose a life path that parallels that of a man they need to make a conscious decision whether or not that’s what they want to do. Just because a woman can behave like a man when it comes to work, sex, and so on, doesn’t mean that she has to. If women are to take the next step forward they need to take responsibility for their lives, make informed choices about the path they choose to follow and acknowledge the consequences of those choices as being the result of self determination rather than symptoms of oppression.
Written in an easy to read style, much of what Maushart says in this book looks like plain common sense.
While I don’t agree with everything she suggests, she makes her point clearly and where appropriate supports herself with statistical evidence. Personal anecdotes used to exemplify her arguments are both amusing and prevent the book from turning into a boring academic work. Feminist texts do have a tendency to take themselves a little too seriously at times. This one keeps its subject accessible, addressing serious issues with a light hand yet giving them the gravity they deserve. If you need reminding about just how far feminism has brought us and how much freer we are for the work of those that have gone before then read this book.-Lynn

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