Women Going Backwards: Law and Change in a Family Unfriendly Society, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Women Going Backwards

Law and Change in a Family Unfriendly Society, 1st Edition

By Sandra Berns


232 pages

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Paperback: 9781138734104
pub: 2019-09-30
Available for pre-order
Hardback: 9781138734173
pub: 2017-12-21

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This title was first published in 2002. Gender has become a culturally laden signifier. Sometimes used to differentiate the social from the biological, gender itself has become gendered. In common parlance gender issues often slide inexorably into women's issues and are in that way designated as marginal and outside the concerns and lives of ordinary men and women. In this book, signifiers such as gender, worker and family are unpacked and suggestions are made as to how common usage of these signifiers reinforce existing practices and act as barriers to change. Some of these changes are legal, others are social and others are driven by political and policy agendas. By looking at five areas: equal opportunity law, family law, industrial relations law, social welfare law and taxation law, which are all profoundly gendered, the author examines ways in which men and women see their roles and choices and how these are related to the state, as citizens. The author then examines the definition of citizenship and looks in detail at the concept of the unencumbered citizen, who is unencumbered by interpersonal obligations, responsibilities and beliefs, using comparative material from Australia, North America and the United Kingdom.


’Sandra Berns has created a sprawling and insightful work that examines the obstacles, both legal and social, to the enlargement of non-traditional� gender roles of both men and women. She explodes the myths of flexible� employment policies as mechanisms that often serve to perpetuate the long-standing gendering of the workplace, and reveals the breadwinner-caregiver� dichotomy that underlies contemporary notions of family law and social welfare. Drawing on diverse strands of employment law, family law, social welfare, and taxation schemes, and synthesizing legal and social policies across three continents, Sandra Berns compels us to re-examine society's treatment of gender, particularly the formation of social policy predicated on false notions of gender-blindness. Extensively researched and thoroughly argued, a fresh approach to examining the social reinforcement of gender assumptions.’ Dr Bridget Cullen Mandikos, Lecturer and Barrister (Qld), Griffith University, Australia ’Bern’s work is a valuable contribution not only for assessing policy in Australia, but also for considering similar issues globally.’ Griffith Law Review

Table of Contents

Contents: The persistence of inequality; The unencumbered citizen; Equal opportunity: rhetoric and reality; The fragile family; Structuring dependence: family, state and self; Workplaces and women: an uneasy relationship; The family as signifier: tax and families; Making room for families: choices and realities; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Sandra Berns, Professor of Law, Griffith University, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LAW / Gender & the Law