Thrill-seeking zen masters/war heros/blue collar archaeologist deep sea wreck divers risk life and limb to identify sunken Nazi graveyard because of M...moreThrill-seeking zen masters/war heros/blue collar archaeologist deep sea wreck divers risk life and limb to identify sunken Nazi graveyard because of Manhood and Knowledge?? Yes. Yes please.(less)
This is an incredible book. Hands down. It should be required reading in high school. Gail Collins has both written the definitive history of feminism...moreThis is an incredible book. Hands down. It should be required reading in high school. Gail Collins has both written the definitive history of feminism in the second half of the twentieth century, and collected a remarkable oral history from those who lived it.
There are so many amazing things in this book. At first I was riveted by the description of life for a woman in the 1960s, a life my grandmothers, mother, and aunts lived but I never quite understood. It is at once so foreign (Sandra Day O'Connor was told there were no legal jobs available to her-- except secretary? Unbelievable!) and familiar (then, as now, women's bodies were public property, to be glorified and shamed by others).
Although I count myself as a well-informed feminist, there were certain things I just didn't get. Why did the ERA fail? Just how many bras were burned? (The surprising answer to that last question? None.) How did the young generation of feminists in the 1970s interact with the still-living suffragettes?
So much of modern feminism is concerned with women "having it all." I find this discussion a bit tiresome-- both men and women have to make sacrifices to balance work and life. I have found the discussion in mass media of women "having it all" to be not helpful. Why is the focus solely on women? Where are the working dads who are trying to make it work? Instead of lamenting that we can't have it all without a nanny to raise the kids when we're busy at work and good subordinates to count on when we're busy with family, why don't we take a hard look at our work culture, and, moreover, our own goals to decide what is really important to us? Isn't it, I don't know, greedy to expect that we should be able to have it all? Isn't all of life a balancing act? We only have so much time and so much energy to devote to everything, and at some point choices must be made.
So when articles like The Atlantic's recent [thingy dingy omg] come out, and all my Facebook friends light up with indignation at the Professional Woman's Lot In Life, I roll my eyes and turn to the next page.
Collins broke it down for me, though. Reading the aggregate history of women in the modern workplace made it easier to for me to accept and understand that the issue of "having it all" is still geared predominantly toward women. And more than that, I gained a real understanding of how lucky I am to stand on the shoulders of the women who came before me. AND how much work is still to be done.
That's not to say the book is mostly about "having it all." Collins goes into all aspects of life, from work, to family, to home, to school, to coming-of-age. She follows the lives of several women, some of whom became important voices in the feminist movement and some of whom have just led interesting and ordinary lives.
Plus, the book is absolutely riddled with amazing little factoids. Did you know that all divorces had to have one party at fault and one "wornged" party until fairly recently? If both parties were cheating, for instance, both parties were at fault and therefore no divorce could be granted. Oftentimes you needed a witness to the "crime" of infidelity, so a cottage industry of professional mistresses arose, simply so they could be caught in the act in super-contrived scenarios. Crazypants!
So yes. If you're a woman, read When Everything Changed. If you're a man, read When Everything Changed. If you count yourself as neither, read When Everything Changed. It's the most important book of American history I've read all year, and it's a really engaging read.
Read it if: You're at all interested in the history of gender. If you're a woman. If you're a man. If you identify as neither. Lexie's Shelves: read, non-fiction. The author is: awesome, down to earth, and funny. Things that bugged me: There was a lot about "having it all," which I still kind of have a problem with. See above.(less)