Confronting Difference and Finding Common Ground

7 Pages Posted: 31 Mar 2011

Date Written: March 29, 2011


In this contribution to a colloquy on Joan Williams's Reshaping the Work-Family Debate: Why Men and Class Matter, I consider and critique Williams's attempts to bridge divides between working-class and elites, as well as femmes and tomboys. I note twin difficulties with this laudable attempt. On the one hand, workplace benefits for those with traditional family obligations can impose costs on businesses and other workers, making proposals for these benefits seem unfair to many nonconformists, who feel that conformists already benefits from social and financial privilege. Moreover, the working-class "family-first" values that Williams argues can be capitalized on to press for these benefits are deeply problematic, to the extent they include, as Williams argues, values such as staying close to home rather than exploring new social networks, gendered division of labor for parents, and conflation of nonconformism with self-destructive behavior such as alcoholism. On the other hand, workplace benefits that facilitate an ungendered, equal care model for families may be unsatisfying to those traditionalists who would prefer to facilitate a male breadwinner-female care provider model, by pressing for higher wages that could support such an approach. I suggest universalizing the workplace benefits that work-life balance advocates propose, so that nonconformists and conformists alike have the opportunity to take advantage of them.

Keywords: work-family, work-life, balance, feminism, class

Suggested Citation

Ramachandran, Gowri, Confronting Difference and Finding Common Ground (March 29, 2011). Seattle University Law Review, Vol. 34, 2011, Available at SSRN:

Gowri Ramachandran (Contact Author)

Southwestern Law School ( email )

3050 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90010
United States

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