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What’s Unique About
Taking On the Big Boys

Instead of focusing on the glass ceiling, Taking on the Big Boys provides blueprints to redesign the building, ground up, to benefit women and men – and even the bottom line. Ellen Bravo’s approach looks at race and class as well as gender.

We hear a lot of talk about “Mommy Wars” and “opting out” but this book shows what’s really holding women back – the Big Boys, those who control wealth and power in this country and their surrogates. Bravo details the minimizing, patronizing and demonizing tactics employed by the Big Boys to maintain the status quo – a status quo that has done more than anything to drive women out of top jobs and devalue their caregiving work.

Taking on the Big Boys doesn’t just expose the problems – it provides activist strategies for systemic change. Most Americans know the system is “broke” in many ways, but have no idea what to do about it. Using real-life examples of successful fights against the Big Boys, Bravo teaches about framing and organizing, and ways to become involved.

Bravo knows that the home front needs reform as well as the workplace, so she also provides advice on developing equality there, from changes in marriage and divorce law to sharing the chores.

Sixteen years after the best-selling Backlash, Bravo shows us that the backlash hasn’t gone away and lays out what form it takes today: blaming women’s lack of progress on their own choices and claiming to extol at-home motherhood while demonizing mothers who happen to be poor and want to be with their children.

Ellen Bravo combines scholarly research with storytelling, facts and figures with faces and personalities, outrage with humor. The result is a well-documented case for feminism that reads like a pageturner.

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What the Experts are Saying

Excerpt from Sunday, April 15, 2007, San Francisco Chronicle
Rising women float all boats

Reviewed by Ruth Rosen

"With exquisite wit and meticulous research, Bravo counters the myths we live by. One such myth is that most workers can take leave to care for new babies and elderly parents. Bravo instead examines the places at which we work and discovers that such flexibility -- even when leave is unpaid -- is mostly unavailable to American workers. After debunking each myth, Bravo offers feminist solutions for changing family and work life in the 21st century. Here she presents the reader with a broad spectrum of public-policy changes that would cost less than one year of invading and occupying Iraq.

Bravo also offers activist strategies to achieve systemic change. True, there are now bookshelves filled with endless studies and articles by experts in the field of work-family problems -- largely because so little
has changed in the past four decades. But Bravo's book is such an enjoyable and accessible read it just might galvanize general readers to put the problems faced by working women on the national public agenda.

Bravo is right that the pioneers of the modern women's movement of the late 1960s and 1970s dreamed of expanding equality and democracy. This is what she means by 'social justice feminism.' "
Click to read entire review

Taking on the Big Boys is feminism at its butt-kicking best--an exposé, a manifesto, and a spirited, delightful read. I thought I knew a lot about women's economic status before I read this book, but I had barely scratched the surface. Bravo for Bravo!”
- Barbara Ehrenreich, author of bestselling Nickel and Dimed

“I love this book!  It's a myth-buster and an eye-opener with an easy-to-read, compelling new take.  Whether you're a policy specialist or a single mom, it's a must read.  ‘Dream the world you want,’ it urges —and provides a valuable blueprint to do just that. What an important contribution to building the world we all need and deserve.”
– Linda Chavez-Thompson, executive vice-president, AFL-CIO

“Please, please, please. All working women must read this book! Not only does Ellen Bravo vividly expose workplace inequities, she lays out real life solutions – picking up just where my film, ‘9 to 5’ left off.”
– Jane Fonda

Taking on the Big Boys is an autobiographical, practical, realistic, compelling, humorous and carefully crafted discussion of contemporary workplace issues for women from the vantage point of a committed, veteran feminist activist/writer. Ellen Bravo believes still that the goals of the women's movement in the United States are reachable and she tells us---clearly and simply---what we must do. Her reflections on pay equity, sexual harassment, welfare reform, balancing work and family, and a broad range of other issues are heart-felt and compel us to action. Let's get moving!!!
- Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Founding Director of the Women's Research & Resource Center at Spelman College, co-author (with Johnnetta Betsch Cole) of Gender Talk: The Struggle for Women's Equality in African American Communities.

“Despite impressive progress, women in our society still face many challenges -- they're fortunate to have champions like Ellen Bravo. She's a powerful advocate, and she makes clear in this excellent book that more needs to be done to achieve real equality, eliminate glass ceilings, reward work fairly, and strengthen families.  Her proposals for reform will be of value to
policymakers, activists, and caring citizens alike."
- Senator Edward M. Kennedy

“Stop whatever you are doing and read this book! Taking on the Big Boys has it all – analysis of how many problems are rooted in gender inequality, fascinating first-person accounts of the struggle for equity, and a call to arms no thinking person can refuse. Ellen Bravo makes a compelling case that feminism is not only relevant but is a key to broader political and personal issues of our time.”
- Congresswoman Gwen Moore, Wisconsin

"If there is any hint of unfairness or power imbalance in your world, Ellen Bravo is your friend. Smart, kind, funny and very effective, she has at last put her lifetime of organizing skills into Taking On the Big Boys. She shows us how to fulfill hopes."
- Gloria Steinem

“Feminism is alive and well as long as working women and men read Ellen Bravo's compelling call to action.”
- Robert B. Reich, Former U.S. Secretary of Labor, Professor of Public Policy, University of California at Berkeley

“Ellen Bravo has written an elegant, inspiring book that should put Big Boys everywhere on notice. Read this book to see how other women did it, and then prepare to do it yourself.”
- Rinku Sen, Executive Director, Applied Resource Center, and editor of ColorLines

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"Finally, an answer to the Mommy Wars and opting-out myth! Taking on the Big Boys changes the conversation, showing the price we all have to pay when society fails to support parents' dual responsibilities. Happily, fixing the problem is not only the right thing to do, but good for everyone. Time to take on the Big Boys!"
- Joan Blades, co-founder of MoveOn! and co-author of The Motherhood Manifesto

“Ellen Bravo's new book kicks the myths out from under the economic altar at which the Big Boys worship. This book reclaims 'feminism' by redefining it, reinvesting it with a sense of promise for a broader constituency—the family. This smart diagnosis of the cost of the 'legacy of discrimination' becomes a prescription for action to change the prognosis for women in the 21st century."
- Barbara Lawton, Wisconsin Lieutenant-Governor

Taking on the Big Boys is more than a book about women in the workplace. It defines a lifetime of courage, dedication, and activism by its author.  Ellen Bravo's name has justly become synonymous with women's rights.  Her influence found in organizing efforts, testimony, courses in women's studies, books and essays, and especially advice and friendship have left indelible marks on the lives of countless women, and yes, men just like me. This book reminds us that there is still work to do when it comes to eliminating gender inequality and sends a powerful message to us all, no matter what our station in life, about how to get the job done.”    
- Herb Kohl, United States Senator

“In this eloquent and bold book, Ellen Bravo brings feminism back into the national spotlight. She enlarges our understanding of feminism by connecting it to the domination of our culture by the rich and powerful. She may spur us to challenge that domination.”
- Howard Zinn, author of People’s History of the United States

Taking on the Big Boys is such an easy read -- the writing is enchanting, the information helpful and the stories accessible. By the end, Ellen Bravo convinces us that change is possible -- how refreshing to end on a high note.
- Amy Richards, co-author Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism and the Future

Taking On the Big Boys is an unusually effective blend of scholarly research and personal experience, of humor and outrage. Ellen Bravo is a good storyteller who provides us with an insightful and compelling analysis. This is a book that is well-grounded in academic literature and practical experiences, and will make both students and advocates of social justice smarter and wiser.”
- Dennis Dresang, Director, LaFollette Public Policies Institute, University of Wisconsin

“Thanks to Bravo for a book filled with well-told lessons about what feminism is: ordinary women making extraordinary changes that benefit women, men and our democracy. As she says, they aren't just smashing the glass ceiling, they are redesigning the buildings. Read it and you'll want to strap on your tool belt.”
- Marie Wilson, Executive Director, The White House Project

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