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Armen Kryukov
Armen Kryukov

Double Bind: Women on Ambition - How to Break the Paradox and Achieve Your Goals

Double Bind: Women on Ambition - A Book Review

Have you ever felt that you are trapped in a dilemma where you have to choose between being successful or being liked? Have you ever faced criticism or backlash for pursuing your goals or expressing your opinions? Have you ever wondered why women are often held to different standards and expectations than men when it comes to ambition?

[PDF] Double Bind: Women on Ambition


If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you might be interested in reading Double Bind: Women on Ambition, a collection of essays edited by Robin Romm. In this book, Romm brings together 24 writers, artists, activists, and leaders who share their personal stories and perspectives on what it means to be a woman with ambition in a society that often discourages or punishes it.

In this article, I will review the book and discuss its main points, strengths, weaknesses, and implications. I will also answer some frequently asked questions about the book and its topic. By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of the double bind that women face when they aspire to achieve something in their personal or professional lives.

What is the double bind?

The definition and origin of the term

The term "double bind" was coined by anthropologist Gregory Bateson in the 1950s to describe a situation where a person receives contradictory messages from another person or group, such that no matter what they do, they will be wrong or criticized. For example, a mother might tell her child "I love you" while rejecting their hug, or a boss might praise their employee's work while giving them a low raise.

In the context of gender and ambition, the double bind refers to the paradox that women face when they try to balance their personal and professional aspirations with the social norms and expectations that are imposed on them. As Romm writes in her introduction, "Women who display ambition are seen as selfish, aggressive, unfeminine, or worse. Women who don't display ambition are seen as lazy, dependent, unfulfilled, or worse."

The examples and effects of the double bind on women

The essays in the book provide various examples of how the double bind manifests itself in different domains and stages of life. For instance, some of the authors share how they were discouraged or ridiculed by their families, teachers, peers, or partners for pursuing their education, career, art, or activism. Others describe how they faced discrimination, harassment, or violence for being outspoken, assertive, or successful in their fields. Still others reveal how they struggled with self-doubt, guilt, shame, or burnout for trying to juggle multiple roles and responsibilities.

The effects of the double bind on women are not only psychological but also material. As several authors point out, women still face significant barriers and inequalities in terms of access to resources, opportunities, recognition, and rewards for their work. For example, women earn less than men for doing the same work; women are underrepresented in leadership positions; women receive less funding and support for their research or creative projects; and women are more likely to face domestic or sexual violence.

What is the book about?

The author and her background

Robin Romm is an American writer, editor, and professor of creative writing and literature. She is the author of two books: The Mother Garden, a collection of short stories, and The Mercy Papers, a memoir about her mother's death from cancer. She is also a contributor to various publications, such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and Tin House.

Romm was inspired to edit Double Bind: Women on Ambition after she experienced a backlash for writing an essay about her decision to have a child while pursuing her academic career. She realized that many women face similar challenges and dilemmas when they try to fulfill their ambitions, and she wanted to create a space for them to share their stories and insights.

The main themes and arguments of the book

The book is divided into four sections: "Early Ambitions", "Ambition Interrupted", "Public Ambitions", and "Personal Ambitions". Each section contains six essays that explore different aspects and dimensions of the double bind that women encounter in their lives.

The main themes and arguments that emerge from the book are:

  • Ambition is not a fixed or innate trait, but a complex and dynamic process that is shaped by various factors, such as personality, culture, history, context, and circumstance.

  • Ambition is not a singular or linear goal, but a multifaceted and nonlinear journey that involves various choices, trade-offs, risks, and rewards.

  • Ambition is not a selfish or masculine quality, but a human and universal desire that can be expressed in different ways, such as creativity, curiosity, passion, service, or excellence.

  • Ambition is not a problem or a threat, but a potential and a resource that can benefit not only individuals but also society as a whole.

The structure and style of the book

The book is structured as an anthology of personal essays that are written in the first-person point of view. The essays vary in length, tone, and genre, ranging from memoirs to manifestos, from anecdotes to analyses, from humor to horror. The essays are arranged in a loose chronological order, following the stages of life from childhood to adulthood.

The style of the book is conversational and engaging, as the authors invite the readers to join them in their reflections and revelations. The authors use various rhetorical devices, such as questions, metaphors, analogies, examples, statistics, quotes, and references, to illustrate their points and connect with the readers. The authors also use various literary devices, such as imagery, dialogue, description, narration, and characterization, to bring their stories to life and evoke emotions in the readers.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of the book?

The strengths of the book

One of the main strengths of the book is its diversity and inclusivity. The book features authors from different backgrounds, identities, experiences, and perspectives. The book covers topics that are relevant and relatable to women from different walks of life. The book also acknowledges and addresses the intersections and complexities of gender with other factors, such as race, class, sexuality, disability, age, religion, and culture.

Another strength of the book is its honesty and authenticity. The book does not shy away from showing the challenges and struggles that women face when they pursue their ambitions. The book does not sugarcoat or romanticize the realities and consequences of the double bind. The book does not offer easy or definitive answers or solutions to the problems that women encounter. Instead, the book presents the truth as it is lived and felt by the authors.

A third strength of the book is its inspiration and empowerment. The book does not only focus on the negative aspects of ambition but also on the positive ones. The book does not only expose the obstacles and barriers that women face but also celebrate their achievements and contributions. The book does not only critique the status quo but also envision alternatives and possibilities. The book does not only challenge the readers to think but also encourage them to act.

The weaknesses of the book

What are the main takeaways and implications of the book?

The insights and lessons from the book

The book offers several insights and lessons that can help women navigate the double bind and achieve their ambitions. Some of these are:

  • Recognize and embrace your ambition as a valid and valuable part of your identity and personality.

  • Define and pursue your ambition according to your own terms and values, not according to others' expectations or judgments.

  • Seek and create supportive and collaborative networks and communities that can help you achieve your ambition and overcome challenges.

  • Resist and challenge the stereotypes and biases that limit your ambition and potential.

  • Balance and integrate your ambition with other aspects of your life, such as family, friends, health, and happiness.

The challenges and opportunities for women in ambition

The book also highlights the challenges and opportunities that women face in their ambition in the current social and historical context. Some of these are:

  • The rise of feminism and social movements that have opened up more spaces and possibilities for women to pursue their ambitions.

  • The emergence of new technologies and media that have enabled more access and visibility for women's work and voices.

  • The persistence of sexism and patriarchy that have created more backlash and hostility against women who display ambition.

  • The complexity and diversity of women's experiences and identities that have raised more questions and debates about what ambition means for different women.

  • The urgency and responsibility of addressing the global issues and crises that require more women's leadership and participation.

The recommendations and suggestions from the book

The book also offers some recommendations and suggestions that can help women achieve their ambitions and change the culture of the double bind. Some of these are:

  • Read more books by women authors, especially those who write about their ambitions and experiences.

  • Write more books or essays or articles or blogs or tweets or posts about your own ambitions and experiences.

  • Share more stories and conversations with other women who have similar or different ambitions and experiences.

  • Listen more to other women's stories and perspectives, especially those who are marginalized or oppressed.

  • Support more women's work and projects, especially those who are innovative or creative or impactful.


Double Bind: Women on Ambition is a book that explores the paradox that women face when they try to achieve something in their personal or professional lives. The book is a collection of essays by 24 writers who share their personal stories and perspectives on what it means to be a woman with ambition in a society that often discourages or punishes it. The book covers various topics, such as education, career, art, activism, family, love, health, happiness, etc. The book also discusses various themes, such as the definition, expression, process, goal, benefit, cost, challenge, opportunity, etc. of ambition. The book also provides various insights, lessons, recommendations, etc. that can help women navigate the double bind and achieve their ambitions.

The book is a valuable resource for anyone who is interested in learning more about the double bind that women face when they aspire to achieve something in their lives. The book is also a powerful tool for anyone who wants to challenge the double bind and change the culture that creates it. The book is not only informative but also inspiring, empowering, engaging, entertaining, etc. The book is not only a book but also a conversation starter, a catalyst for action, a manifesto for change.


What is the format of the book?

The book is available in both print and digital formats. The print version has 320 pages. The digital version has a PDF file that can be downloaded or viewed online.

Who is the target audience of the book?

The book is intended for anyone who is interested in the topic of gender and ambition. The book is especially relevant for women who have experienced or are experiencing the double bind in their lives. The book is also useful for men who want to understand or support women's ambitions.

Where can I buy or borrow the book?

You can buy or borrow the book from various sources, such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, Bookshop, etc. You can also check your local library or bookstore for availability.

How can I contact the author or the contributors of the book?

You can contact the author or the contributors of the book through their websites, social media accounts, email addresses, etc. You can also leave a comment or a review on the book's page or on other platforms, such as Goodreads, etc.

How can I join the conversation or the movement about the book or the topic?

You can join the conversation or the movement about the book or the topic by using the hashtag #DoubleBind on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. You can also follow or join the groups or organizations that are related to the book or the topic, such as Lean In, She Should Run, Women's Media Center, etc. 71b2f0854b


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