The Situationist

Brenda Cossman on the Situation of Women in the Workplace

Posted by The Situationist Staff on January 8, 2010

Brenda Cossman is a Professor of Law, at the Faculty of Law, University of Toronto. Her teaching and research is in the area of family law, feminist theory, law and film, and sexuality and the law. Her most recent book on Sexual Citizens: The Legal and Cultural Regulation of Sex and Belonging was published by Stanford University Press in 2007.

She recently published a fascinating article, titled “The ‘Opt Out Revolution’ and the Changing Narratives of Motherhood: Self Governing the Work/Family Conflict” in the 2009 volume of the Utah Law Review.  Here’s the abstract.

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“The double shift,” “the glass ceiling,” “the mommy track”: Women’s efforts to balance work and family have given rise to a host of buzz words over the last two decades. Now, it is the “Opt-Out Revolution,“-the title of Lisa Belkin’s New York Times Magazine article in 2003 that described the decision of upper middle class, professionally trained women to leave the work force and to stay home to care for their children. Her Sunday magazine cover story, headlined as “Q: Why Don’t More Women Get to the Top?” alongside the answer: “A: They Choose Not To,” tracked the decisions of eight women graduates from Princeton now living in Atlanta, and four women in San Francisco, three with MBAs, to trade in their briefcases for diaper bags. Belkin maps their decisions onto what she identifies as a larger trend amongst highly educated women to opt out of the labor market in favor of motherhood.

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You can download a pdf of the article here.

In February of 2008, at the New Frontiers In Family Law Symposium, Professor Cossman gave a fascinating talk based on that article.  You can watch the seventeen-minute talk on the following video.

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For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “The Situation of Objectification,” Hillary Clinton, the Halo Effect, and Women’s Catch-22,” Women’s Situational Bind,” The Gendered Situation of Science & Math,” and “You Shouldn’t Stereotype Stereotypes.”

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