An Unconventional Family

Sandra Lipsitz Bem

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In 1965, when psychologists Sandra and Daryl Bem met and married, they were determined to function as truly egalitarian partners and also to raise their children in accordance with gender-liberated, anti-homophobic, and sex-positive feminist ideals. During the next ten years, they exuberantly shared the details of their daily lives in both public lectures and the mass media in order to provide at least one concrete example of an alternative to the traditional heterosexual family. In the 1990s, Sandra Bem also published an award-winning book, The Lenses of Gender, which spelled out the feminist theory behind their feminist practices.
This second book by Sandra Bem, an autobiographical account of the Bems` nearly thirty-year marriage, is both a personal history of the Bems` past and a social history of a key period in feminism`s past. It is also a look into feminism`s future, because the Bems` children, Emily and Jeremy, now in their early twenties, speak at length in the book as well.

Bem analyzes what aspects of family background and psychological makeup led her and Daryl to bond so immediately and to become gender pioneers. She describes the egalitarianism and feminist child-rearing that they invented for their private needs and tells how these family agendas were transformed into public feminist discourse. Finally she reassesses this early feminist union now that the marriage has come to an end and the children are young adults, evaluating (with the help of lengthy interviews with Emily and Jeremy and a brief epilogue by Daryl) what the Bems` experiences—both positive and negative—have to say about the viability and necessity of nontraditional gender arrangements in society today.

Sandra Bem is professor of psychology and women's studies at Cornell University. In 1995 she was selected as an "Eminent Woman in Psychology" by the Divisions of General Psychology and the History of Psychology of the American Psychological Association.

“A gripping page-turner of an autobiography.”—Grant Jewell Rich, Sexualities

“A gripping page-turner of an autobiography.”—Grant Jewell Rich, Sexualities
ISBN: 9780300090925
Publication Date: August 11, 2001
240 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
The Lenses of Gender

Transforming the Debate on Sexual Inequality

Sandra Lipsitz Bem

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