An Un-conventional Family
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 analyses 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 also 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 at Cornell University, and the author of The Lenses of Gender.