In Pursuit of Equity by Alice Kessler-Harris: Book Review

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Equity: Women, Men and the Quest for Economic Citizenship explores the social developments that took place to guarantee that women were able to work as men. In most circumstances, the former laws that regulated jobs favoured men (Kessler-Harris, Alice. p.5). Men were seen as the family's breadwinners and had the right to provide unemployment benefits to allow them to look after their families. While women were able to have the right to have careers, it remained a huge challenge to balance work and family matters. Alice Kessler-Harris has spent a greater part of her career documenting how the beliefs of Americans on gender have impacted the Institutions of America. She researched the benefits of women on institutional performance. In her latest workpiece, In Pursuit of Equity: Women, Men and the Quest for Economic Citizenship in 20th Century America, she analyzed the relationship between welfare and gender in the modern America. She researched on gender labor and citizenship to give powerful narratives concerning the relationships. Alice integrated considerably a wide range of theoretical and historical data that relate to gender, employment, and citizenship.

Kessler-Harris covered the historical and theoretical aspects of the welfare of the modern America broadly. She did not only consider the social programs that affect women but also the income tax laws that were relatively higher in women in the United States. Her narratives remind us of the modifications of the welfare of the United States (Kessler-Harris, Alice. p.10). She reminds us of the laws that limit the women working hours, the fair labor standards act, the creation, and modifications of the rules that define income tax on marriage. She also advocated for the laws that help the women to get social security. Alice suggests that the laws act as the vehicles through which the government ensured that it provided equal entitlements and safety to both men and women in the United States.

Alice shows how the policy debates influence the American beliefs and practices concerning labor. She looked into the policy debates and the judicial reasoning of a wide range of players in the labor markets including bureaucrats, labor leaders, and feminist groups. In the process, she also used a significant number of court documents to help out in proving her point. She asserted "Policies that appear neutral on their face emerge from deeply embedded belief systems that accentuate particular politics" (p. 14). She explains how the policymakers are much influenced by the already existing belief systems that women cannot perform certain tasks as men do. She joins in supporting women just as the previous feminists have done.

The book's importance is demonstrated in her ability to bring out the fact that the gendered belief remained unchanged despite several policies that had been put in place to ensure that there was gender equality among the members of the United States. She locates the imaginations of equality between the sexes that would be put into place in the late 19th and early 20th century. The previous laws viewed men as the breadwinners of their families. Women, on the other hand, were considered as mothers and wives who had limited economic rights.

Work agreements in the early twentieth century defined work to protect men and exclude women. An agreement was signed at the beginning of the twentieth century to ensure the individuals who are not employed to help them support their families (Kessler-Harris, Alice. P. 20). The individuals who were expected to support their families were men. Alice argued that this law defined where the American placed women in the labor market. "Gender," she shows, "was a major constituent in that definition" (p. 94). Supporting the male breadwinners had also acted as the major reason for the crafting of the old age social security.

The introduction of the income tax techniques in the United States was somehow fair for most individuals in the United States. However, women still suffered from the gender imagined law since the tax was applied to a particular household. The income of both partners was added and taxed together. In her, last chapters, Kessler draws the reader’s attention on the work discriminate that existed between the 1960s and 1970s (Kessler-Harris, Alice. p.12). There was a great debate between feminists and the policymakers concerning the difference in the treatment of feminists at work. The feminists argued that treating women differently is a form of discrimination that should be stopped. Some women did not see that as discrimination but should help save women from overwork and longer hours of work.

The movements by feminists helped women closer to the economic citizenship as Alice puts it. The legal backup on the protection of women on labor terms helped in the gaining of respect for females, and it is women democracy was fully achieved (Kessler-Harris, Alice. p.12). “The achievement of an independent and relatively autonomous status that mark[ed] self-respect and provide[d] access to the full play of power and influence that define[d] participation in a democratic society (pp. 12-13). The laws significantly impacted the lives of the minority and poor women. After the creation of the policies, women could now get pay to take care of their family bills. Despite the fact that most men were employed not all were able to provide for all the needs of the family. Women could occasionally come in to support them. Allowing women to work posed a significant problem for them when it comes to balancing the duties at work and home. However, the policies allowed women to have power in public. Today, women are given the authority to vie for political seats.

Work Cited

Kessler-Harris, Alice. In pursuit of equity: Women, men, and the quest for economic citizenship in 20th century America. Oxford University Press, USA, 2003.

October 25, 2022
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Finance Women's Rights

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