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The Type E woman.

The Type E Woman.

Harriet B. Braiker, Ph.D. Dodd, Mead, $16.95. Enough is Enough. Carol Orsborn. Putnam, $15.95. Harriet Braiker and Carol Orsborn are two feminists who have worn themselves out trying to make it in a man's world the man's way. Braiker, a social and clinical psychologist, analyzes the "Type E' woman who needs to learn how to stop being Everything to Everybody. Orsborn, founder of Super-women Anonymous, tells how being everything to everybody brought her to write what she says is the smart woman's theme song of the Eighties: Enough is Enough.

Braiker has a catchy idea, suggesting that the "Type E' woman runs risks similar to those of the "Type A' man. Such a comparison is clever but unsubstantiated. The "Type A' man emerged from a formal study of healthy men who revealed behavioral traits that showed them to be prone to heart disease. The "Type E' woman emerges from the author's informal research as she draws on her own personal experiences and those of other women she has interviewed.

The Type E Woman is pop psychology, but it rings distant bells of intuitive truth. Braiker draws a disturbing portrait of a woman who imitates the "Type A' male behavior, and who makes double trouble for herself when she adds to that agenda all the traditional female attitudes about what makes a good daughter, wife, and mother.

Braiker tells how the "Type E' woman, by taking on too much, becomes vulnerable to a constellation of mental and physical problems, as well as internalized, unresolvable emotional conflicts.

In her love life she is trapped by an inability to exhibit any kind of dependency on anyone else. She treats her boyfriend, lover, or husband like her job, and is especially vulnerable to the kind of man who will tell her "how "refreshing' it is to find a woman who can really take care of herself.' She feels expressing needs that smack even remotely of dependency will result in painful rejection or reproach. But there's a Catch-22 here: the man who finds her so "refreshing' is likely to leave her eventually for a less refreshing woman who needs him more.

"Type E' women are bombarded by stress, she says, and have begun to suffer from an increasing number of ailments that busy, successful, overworked men have long endured: ulcers, drug and alcohol abuse, depression, sexual dysfunction, headaches, allergies, and recurrent viral infections.

Braiker has developed pop quizzes for the working woman who wants to learn if she qualifies as a "Type E,' such as whether she resents the demands that so many people make on her, or whether she can afford to spend 15 minutes just doing nothing. But most women can identify themselves without having to answer silly questions. Braiker prescribes exercises to teach a woman how to say "No,' in a context not usually taught by Mother. She also suggests "refoxing' exercises such as buying new clothes or getting a new hair cut, which most "Type E' women would know from reading Vogue. You almost have to be a "Type E' to want to endure her 21-day "mental workout.'

If a woman really wants to change her behavior, Carol Orsborn has tougher advice. She and her husband sold their big house with the big mortgage and stopped buying expensive clothes, cars, and food. She reduced the size of her public relations office staff and cut sharply the number of hours she spent there. She got to know her children more intimately with quantity time as well as that celebrated "quality time.'

The problem with Orsborn's book, however, is that it is laced with psychological jargon (she "journals' and "shares' with cloying regularity) and glitters with Marin County optimism. When she gives up kiwi fruit, she considers it a sacrifice. She naively envisions an evolving society for men and women which will be a "greenhouse for creativity, compassion, and the kind of vulnerability that reflects an understanding of what it means to be truly powerful.'

Yet more than 2,000 women have joined Superwomen Anonymous. Like Braiker, Orsborn has touched a nerve. These two women don't have the answer, but they surely know the problem.
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Copyright 1986, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Fields, Suzanne
Publication:Washington Monthly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Nov 1, 1986
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