Women and Self-help Culture

Women and Self-help Culture

Author: Wendy Simonds


ISBN: 0813518342

Category: Social Science

Page: 267

View: 259

Wendy Simonds examines what the phenomenon of self-help reading reveals about gender relations in contemporary American culture. She interviews women readers and editors of self-help books, and looks at bestsellers since 1963--those offering advice about managing relationships, enhancing sexuality, developing self-esteem, becoming assertive, and improving spiritual life--including Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, Robin Norwood's Women Who Love Too Much, Robert Bly's Iron John, and Alex Comfort's The Joy of Sex. She argues that the genre's continued success is indicative of readers' search for meaning. Drawing on feminist theory and critical cultural studies, Simonds explores the appeal of self-help books, and asks what readers are making of them. She looks at how these books affect the social construction, cultural consumption, and transmission of ideas about gender and the self. She includes discussions of readers' assessments of the meaning and effectiveness of self-help reading; the interaction between religious and therapeutic ideology in the activity of reading this genre; and creators'--both authors' and editors'--views of their work. Are self-help books politically conservative or liberating, feminist or anti-feminist? Simonds finds that the genre tends to recommend individual change, not social change; yet it can also validate caring and can encourage a sense of community among women. In the end, though, these books provide "only an illusory cure for what ails us, collectively, as a culture."
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Pages: 206
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Pages: 34
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