The Baby Business:
How Money, Science, and Politics Drive the Commerce of Conception
Debora L. Spar, 2006. Over the past thirty years, advances in reproductive medicine have created a market for babies, a market in which parents choose traits, clinics woo clients, and specialized providers earn millions of dollars a year. Spar delves into the issue of how we're making and obtaining babies at the turn of the twenty-first century. Opting out of the political debate, she relies upon her professional training -- she's an economist -- to examine these highly charged and terrifically complex issues
MMO review by Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser
The Politics of Blame in Twentieth Century America
Molly Ladd-Talylor and Lauri Umansky, editors, 1998. A series of
monographs reflecting on changing cultural attitudes about what
constitutes “bad” mothers and the various social ills
that have been attributed to “bad” mothering.
The Bastard on
27 Men Try Really Hard to Explain Their Feelings About Love, Loss,
Fatherhood and Freedom
Daniel Jones, Editor, 2004. A companion anthology to Cathi Hannauer's
The Bitch in the House, this collection includes a number of engaging
and revealing personal essays about what men think about when they
think about marriage, fidelity, parenting, housework and gender
How Low Wage Jobs Fail 30 Million Americans and Their Families
Beth Shulman, 2003. Most low-wage workers, Shulman writes, “lack
basic benefits such as health care, sick pay, disability pay, paid
vacation, and retirement. Their jobs leave little flexibility to
care for a sick child or deal with an emergency at school—
let alone the normal appointments and needs of everyday life.”
She adds that for many millions of U.S. workers, there are few other
viable options for gainful employment outside of poorly paid, no
benefits, dead-end jobs. Shulman identifies the problem of the working
poor and growing income inequality in the United States as both
a labor crisis and a crisis of values.
True Stories of Birth, Contraception, Infertility, Adoption, Single Parenthood and Abortion
Edited by Karen E. Bender and Nina de Gramont, 2007.
Twenty-four personal essays chart the shared moment that ties these wide-ranging tales together as that one when the pregnancy test stick might turn pink-blue-one-line-two-lines. Whatever the actual particulars, the bottom line is the same: women, as the ones who are responsible for carrying pregnancies however far, share a set of circumstances -- hugely varied due to race, class, age, the times, religion, personal history and myriad other factors -- that mark us uniquely.
MMO review by Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser
Contradictions of Motherhood
Sharon Hays, 1996. Hays, a sociologist, examines contemporary standards
of intensive parenting and how they impact the lives and attitudes
of mothers. The author’s blunt objectivity about the economic
inefficiency of contemporary child-rearing practices may be unnerving
for anyone who lives motherhood, but her articulation of cultural
expectations that influence mothers’ experience of work and
family is highly informative.
Feminism in Jeopardy – Women, Politics and the Future
Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, 2004. Rowe-Finkbeiner conducted a survey
of college-educated women between the ages of 18 and 34 to get a
reading on which social issues matter most to them and where the
ideals of feminism fit into their personal lives and political outlook.
While the individuals who responded to Rowe-Finkbeiner survey were
overwhelmingly concerned about issues that fall within the feminist
agenda, she discovered that many young women don’t want to
be “labeled” as feminists, are fed up with two-party
politics, and feel that participating in the political process through
voting or direct action is a big waste of time.
interview with Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner
Betty Friedan, 1963. Sections of Friedan’s classic work on
gender and equality remain vividly relevant to the experience of
women and mothers in a half-changed world. The remainder provides an
important historical perspective on the emergence of Second Wave
For Her Own Good:
150 Years of the Expert’s Advice to Women
Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English, 1978. An interesting overview
of the rise of the male medical professionals as the “experts”
on women’s health and childbirth and the often disastrous
Life After Birth:
What Even Your Friends Won’t Tell You About Motherhood
Kate Figes with Jean Zimmerman, 1998. This book addresses every
aspect of a woman’s life that changes with the birth of a
child (in a word: everything). Figes uses interviews with new mothers,
statistical data, extensive historical accounts, and personal experiences
to honestly describe the upheaval women experience when they become
by MaryKate Newcomb
Work: On Becoming a Mother
Rachel Cusk, 2001. An intimate and introspective work on the transition
into motherhood and the points of conflict between maternal love
and duty and the need for a clear boundary between self and other.
As a writer, Cusk samples from her favorite literature to make sense
of her experience. A Life’s Work is written in a highly intellectual
style that is still lovely and evocative without being overly sentimental.
Love Works Like
Moving from One Kind of Life to Another
by Lauren Slater, 2002. This elegant, intelligent pregnancy journal
offers a strikingly honest portrait of one woman’s ambivalence
at the approach of motherhood. Slater copes with mental illness,
mood-altering medication, and the upheaval of her marriage and identity
as she struggles to find meaning in motherhood while honoring her
personal ambitions and limitations. By the author of The Prozac
Truth, Lies and the Unexpected on the Journey to Motherhood
Naomi Wolf, 2001. Based Wolf’s frustrating experience with
prenatal care and a difficult childbirth, the author condemns the
standards of contemporary obstetrical practice and suggests reforms.
While Wolf ties the demeaning treatment women receive during pregnancy
and childbirth to the larger social and economic problems that impact
mothers, the book is best read as an account of one woman’s
journey into motherhood.
A Political Argument for an Ethic of Care
Joan C. Tronto, 1994. Tronto’s work on developing the foundation
for a national ethic of care is fairly academic, but her concepts
are illuminating for anyone who wants to gain greater understanding
about the influence of Western philosophy on cultural perceptions
of care and caregiving in our society. The author’s definition
of care and her explanation of the process of caregiving are particularly
Essential Writings on Motherhood
Moyra Davey, editor, 2001. Mother Reader is an artfully-edited anthology
of writing by mothers and non-mothers about the potential of motherhood
to transform the creative process. While the collection includes
a selection of classic works on motherhood from the 1940s on, Mother
Reader also offers pieces from off the beaten path, including work
and commentary from mothers who are visual artists.
Reviewed in MMO Short Takes
Feminism and the Legacies of the Sixties
by Lauri Umansky, 1996. A rather academic but interesting study
on attitudes about motherhood that influenced the militant and mainstream
feminist movements of the mid-20th century.
Mothers and Motherhood:
Readings in American History
Rima D. Apple and Janet Golden, editors, 1997. A collection of monographs
on the social construction of motherhood, motherhood and reproduction,
social and cultural settings and public policy.
The Mother Knot
Jane Lazarre, 1997 (first edition 1976). Lazarre explores the myth
and reality of motherhood through her own experience of becoming
a mother and recounts her struggle to create a complete personal
identity as a feminist, woman, and writer.
MMO interview with Jane Lazarre
The Myths of
How Culture Reinvents the Good Mother
Shari L. Thurer, 1994. Thurer shows how the ideology of family and
mothering has undergone dramatic shifts throughout the history of
the Western world.
MMO capsule review in Short
The Naked Truth:
A Working Woman’s Manifesto on Business and What Really Matters
Margaret Heffernan, 2004. Women still find themselves passed over
for promotions, offered lower pay, marginalized in the corporate
power structure, and struggling to find ways to balance work and
family life. Drawing on interviews with more than a hundred businesswomen,
Heffernan cites examples of women mommy-tracked without their consent,
harassed and alienated in the work place, and condemned for speaking
out about the insanity they see.
by Diane Glazman
Nickel and Dimed:
On (Not) Getting By in America
by Barbara Ehrenriech, 2001. Journalist Ehrenreich reports on her
first-hand experience of how difficult it is to make ends meet for
full-time workers in
The Paradox of Natural Mothering
Chris Bobel, 2002. Bobel reports findings from her study of the natural mothering movement and discusses tensions between feminist ideals that call for women's full equality and interpretations of feminism that recast intensive motherhood as social activism.
Child Care, Women’s Rights and the Myth of the Good Mother
Mary Frances Berry, 1993. Berry describes the historical, political
and cultural context of today's preference for mother-only child
care and charts the ideological maneuvering behind the rise and
fall of legislation to expand access to high-quality child care
and extended parental leave.
MMO capsule review in Short
How Gender Myths Are Hurting Our Relationships, Our Children and Our Jobs
Rosalind Barnett/Caryl Rivers, 2004. The authors reviewed over 1,500
studies to determine if there is reliable data to support what most
people accept as plain common sense: that men and women think differently,
speak differently, behave differently, work differently, have different
capacities for competition and caring, and want different things
from relationships and family life. They found that actual sex differences
are small and that “it’s situation, not sex” that
determines how men and women behave.
Read the MMO feature, Doing
Difference (review of Same Difference)
Some Feminist Questions
Barrie Thorne and Marilyn Yalom, editors, 1992 (revised edition).
This anthology offers and outstanding overview of feminism and the
changing meaning of family in the U.S. Contributors include Linda
Gordon, Nancy Chodorow and Susan Contratto, Sara Ruddick, Patricia
Hill Collins, and Judith Stacey. Of particular note are several
articles about fatherhood and the feminist ideal of shared parenting,
including Thomas Laquer’s “The Facts of Fatherhood”
and William J. Goode’s “Why Men Resist”. Rethinking
Family is currently out of print, but used copies are available.
From Radical Women to Grrls Gone Wild
Deborah Siegel, 2007.
Siegel's primary subject is the generation gap between second and third wave feminists, particularly as it plays out in changing interpretations of the popular slogan, "the personal is political."
by Edward J. McCaffery. Legal scholar McCaffrey identifies a gender
bias in the American tax system and details how it impacts women’s
lives at all levels of the economic scale.
The Way We Never
American Families and the Nostalgia Trap
by Stephanie Coontz, 2000 (second edition). Coontz, a work-family
researcher, dispels cultural myths about the norms of “ideal”
When Work Doesn’t
Women, Work, and Identity
by Elizabeth Perle McKenna, 1998. McKenna offers interviews and
commentary that addresses some of the personal and professional
conflicts experienced by women trying to balance a rewarding personal
or family life with a successful career.
Marriage Really Means for Women
By Susan Maushart, 2001. Maushart, the author of The Mask of
Motherhood, agues that marriage is typically very life-enhancing
for men, but is not nearly so salutary for women, and she explores
some of the history and tradition that make equality in marriage
so elusive today.
Women, Work and
Balancing and Weaving
Angela Hattery, 2001. Hattery’s study of women’s approaches
to combining work and family explores the way mothers respond to,
and resist, the dominant ideology of motherhood. Women, Work and
Family includes an excellent discussion of how the ideology of motherhood
affects the distribution of social power as well as the role it
plays in women’s personal lives, and examines the ideological
roots of the Mommy Wars.
The Working Poor:
Invisible in America
David K. Shipler, 2004. Shipler documents the exhausting struggles
of families living at the edge of our nation’s social and
economic margins. The Working Poor rigorously challenges
the simplistic logic of the “American Myth”— the
supposition that “people who work hard and make the right
decisions in life can achieve anything they want in America”
and its equally problematic counter-logic, the “Anti-American
Myth,” which holds that “society is largely responsible
for the individual’s poverty.”
The World Split
How the Modern Women’s Movement Changed America
by Ruth Rosen, 2000. Rosen documents the social currents and political
sentiments that fueled the Second Wave of the women’s movement.