Because Ideas Matter...
The faculty and staff of Butler University's College of Liberal
Arts and Sciences presents
by Mary Catherine Bateson, Grove Press, 1989 (2001)
Reviewed by Terri Carney
Mary Catherine Bateson's book might be over
20 years old, but the stories and lessons contained within are more
relevant than ever, given our longer lifespans and the attendant
disjunctures and complexities that now define them. Her book
explores the friendships and connections between and among five
professional women who must negotiate career demands with gendered
expectations in homemaking, nurturing, and caregiving, and who
manage to do so in ways that enrich all spheres of their lives.
The women profiled here include a CEO, a
university president, a dancer, an electrical engineer, and a
psychiatrist, but none are merely defined by their profession:
success is defined not as a single trajectory of professional,
individual achievement, but rather as a symphony of purposeful
work, shared humanity, and healthy doses of serendipity. Bateson
notes that women are generally good at ambiguity and dividedness,
given their traditional roles and socialization, and argues that
these talents are useful in today's complex and ambiguous world.
Women face choices between empathy and achievement. Women are torn
by multiple commitments, but isn't this capacity for multi-tasking
precisely the skill we need in the 21st century? Bateson asks us to
consider the condition of dividedness as "higher wisdom." She then
connects this celebration of dividedness to the value of the
humanities, to the Liberal Arts as an antidote to the corporate
model of narrow focus. Bateson's follow up book, Composing a
Further Life, was published in 2010.
-Terri Carney is Associate Professor of Spanish at Butler