Bebe Moore Campbell spent years interviewing and documenting the personal struggles of two-career couples for SUCCESSFUL WOMEN, ANGRY MEN, a slight self-help book that attempts to dislodge the stalling processes that keep the marriages of ambitious couples from staying together for a smooth ride through ups and downs and children and the myriad difficulties that every family faces in go-get 'em America. Why this book is being revisited now, I'm not sure, but it offers endless stories that will make those who relate feel better. As far as naming a cure, I'm not sure that it does.
Everybody in the book is a successful woman. I guess Campbell didn't really care about dealing with women who are still struggling in today's job market --- she only interviewed women who were on the verge of making partner, publishing best-selling books, running small companies. The title obviously reflects this. However, the fact that a number of these women make more than their husbands and that the husbands can't take it, the fact that the demands of a working mother are extreme and difficult, the fact that men seem to have a need to be coddled and stop doing household chores to get back at their wives, all seems so archaic. There's something in Campbell's high-and-mighty attitude that will rub most readers the wrong way --- even though all marriages in this particularly dire corporate climate suffer some indignities due to lack of time and energy (sex lives first and foremost are the greatest victims), this book is only about people who have "made" it. Women who work regular jobs just to support their families aren't involved, and men who have grown up with a more liberated attitude about the gender roles in a family situation are not interviewed either.
I feel like this book, first published in 1986, is mulling over territory that younger readers will not relate to --- after all, we know how hard it's going to be to be a two-career couple. We have read the magazines, we have seen Dr. Phil on "Oprah," we know the statistics, and, somehow, people continue to fall in love, get married, have kids and attempt careers, with varying degrees of success. There is a lot of conversation about housework and splitting it up, getting the kids involved, etc. I grew up in the '70s, and we did that stuff then to try to allow time for my parents to pursue their careers and activities out of the home. I think this is more of a book for my mother's generation than for mine.
SUCCESSFUL WOMEN, ANGRY MEN is like a trip to some sociological museum where these issues haven't been torn apart for decades already. I am sure it was much more useful and exciting when it was first published; but in 2001, as it takes its place alongside a healthy and ever-growing array of generalized self-help tomes about love and family and commitment and ambition and money and how to keep it all together, it blends into the background, a familiar story we all know by heart.
Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on December 12, 2000
Successful Women, Angry Men