My plug for Necessary Dreams: Ambition in Women’s Changing Lives, by Anna Fels.
I realize I project a lot from my own experiences, but even recognizing this tendency, I still think Necessary Dreams deserves a place in the pantheon of important feminist literature. This book is essential for understanding the persistent wage gap between men and women, the “Mommy Wars,” and the supposed "opt-out revolution." The author, Anna Fels, is a psychiatrist who details what social creatures human beings are, and how the feedback we receive from other people affects us. Ambition in all areas of our lives correspondingly waxes and wanes in response to feedback from others. If, as women, we don’t as easily develop a relationship with a mentor in a male-dominated field, or we don’t seek recognition—thanks to our socialization as women, or we receive more profligate attention in areas not related to our careers; then we find our career or academic ambitions waning…and we make “rational choices” that turn out to be endogenous to the environment which we happened upon.
This post is in honor of Bonnie, who stopped by to visit me recently, along with her mom and brother. Bonnie is brilliant and curious, with her father’s logical, orderly mind and her mother’s generosity of spirit. She is frequently on my mind, probably because I don’t have any daughters of my own, and because she has not yet reached the age where the paradoxical expectations she has of life, and life will have of her, have caused her pain.