What is authority and how does it work? This is the question posed by the author at the beginning of the book. How does one gain authority and how does one retain this power? By using, among other things, what she calls the “power to define,” the author answers herself, for definitions are not passive but imply action. Definitions in combination become rules, and rules become the maps which make our lives orderly. There are spaces between the maps which must be charted by each person individually, however, and too much individual charting over time may modify the maps themselves. Authority is basically antagonistic to change; consequently, it labels any behavior which attempts to redefine or change the status quo as “improper behavior.”
The women’s movement and its rebellion against male-dominated society is the major theme of this book, although racism, violence, and television’s vast wasteland come in for their share of discussion. The book’s title, IMPROPER BEHAVIOR, is really a misnomer. The idea of authority and its power to define is simply the theoretical carrot offered the reader in order to persuade him to listen to the author’s strongly enunciated opinions. Though occasionally thought-provoking, her opinions about gender issues, television, and political activism are overstated and overgeneralized. The book’s conclusions, when finally put forth, are self-righteous and non-persuasive. Readers who share Janeway’s views will welcome the book with open arms. Readers antagonistic to her views will reject it strongly. The thoughtful, objective reader will find the book’s title misleading and its contents too disorganized and emotional for serious consideration.