The main themes of the book that Rubin try to demonstrate are the economic decline resulted y the recession and the racial tension in the American society. She also tries to connect between these two themes to create a broad theme showing how the current economical situation and race issues have affected the life of working class Americans in particular. Within the two main themes of the book, Rubin branches many other mini themes that are rived from the main themes.
One of these mini themes that Rubin discussed and also this reaction paper will be focusing on is how gender roles in the working- class families have been changing since the last two cascades since the book was written, and how the issues of identity, motivation, and vulnerabilities have been changing for men and women. One of the powerful statements that Rubin mentioned which perfectly describes the above issue is ; as stated on page 81, “But the old image of mom in the kitchen with an apron tied around her middle no longer fits either the economic or psychological lives of families today. By this statement, the readers get the sense that what Rubin is trying to say is that; the continuous economic declining changed the sceneries in the irking- class families, initially by the Mom leaving home for work as a necessity and then it became something else that created a transformation of the family life. First, Before digging more into analyzing and evaluating Robin’s point on this issue, I would like to mention that the fact that the book was published two decades ago made it an interesting reading for me as a reader living in 2013.
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The interesting part was realizing that these changes has occurred to the American working-class families 20 years ago are going into a continuous cycle that is still occurring to the working lass families nowadays, but in a larger scale. To begin with, I think Rubin presented her point in a really smart and clear way by using real life experiences. A group of the quotes that were used to represent the issue in a more realistic picture, that I should say touched me as a reader, first on page 78 by a working women’s husband: “she’s different since she went to work, more independent, you could say.
We fight a lot more now that we used to”, also on page 79 by a housewife who is involved in the working force as well “l like to work; it makes me feel good about myself”. Through the stories told, readers get the opportunity to see the relationship between working- class women having to work to support the family financially, and the ongoing changes of the gender roles in the family along with identify and self issues. The role of women in the family in the past was the counter part of the husband children, and provided the emotional support and helped the husband to fulfill his role as breadwinner.
But as Rubin elaborates, with the growth of the labor market, capitalism, and the increasing consumption of the family unit the roles of the typical ossifies changed and women were called to enter the workforce. Having to deal with the traditional stresses of the household duties and requirements and stresses of working outside the home, the working-class women were facing more pressures than before, which resulted in the transformation of the family (2) life as Rubin described it.
One of the questions that I had in mind and I was really curious to know as I was reading the book; if any of these families that Rubin interviewed twenty years ago for her first book were interviewed again, as she mentioned she interviewed again some of the families that she did twenty years ago for her book Worlds of Pain, who went through the following transition where the family roles were shifted dramatically by the changing gender roles.
A response for that would be that Rubin tried to reflect on the past of each of her stories before showing the present, and why focusing on one story of the families that she interviewed before would make a difference for me as a reader. Well, personally I think if Rubin has had focused on one of the families that she interviewed twenty ears ago who went through the issue that she mentioned and was discussed above would have made a powerful and critical analyzing to encourage her theme.
At the end, reflecting on the book with my own couture, I would say that this theme is one of the main issues that have been facing my culture in the meantime. The Palestinian culture is considered to be a really conservative culture comparing to the American one. That said, the last 10 years have been showing a huge transitions for the Palestinian working-class families as well. With the economic difficulties and the rent conflict, the family structure has overcame the culture and traditions barriers and allowed women to be a huge factor of the working force.
Finally, I think the changing gender roles and the reconsideration of self and identity for men and women is considered to be one of the main implication that identify our generation nowadays. Which have been reflected by many ideologies and active groups like “feminism” and “women uprisings”. And as Rubin analyzed, these changes started as a necessity and then ended as a need for women to prove self and identity.