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The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women

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In the pathbreaking tradition of Backlash and The Time Bind, The Conflict, a #1 European bestseller, identifies a surprising setback to women's freedom: progressive modern motherhood Elisabeth Badinter has for decades been in the vanguard of the European fight for women's equality. Now, in an explosive new book, she points her finger at a most unlikely force undermining the In the pathbreaking tradition of Backlash and The Time Bind, The Conflict, a #1 European bestseller, identifies a surprising setback to women's freedom: progressive modern motherhood Elisabeth Badinter has for decades been in the vanguard of the European fight for women's equality. Now, in an explosive new book, she points her finger at a most unlikely force undermining the status of women: liberal motherhood, in thrall to all that is "natural." Attachment parenting, co-sleeping, baby-wearing, and especially breast-feeding—these hallmarks of contemporary motherhood have succeeded in tethering women to the home and family to an extent not seen since the 1950s. Badinter argues that the taboos now surrounding epidurals, formula, disposable diapers, cribs—and anything that distracts a mother's attention from her offspring—have turned childrearing into a singularly regressive force. In sharp, engaging prose, Badinter names a reactionary shift that is intensely felt but has not been clearly articulated until now, a shift that America has pioneered. She reserves special ire for the orthodoxy of the La Leche League—an offshoot of conservative Evangelicalism—showing how on-demand breastfeeding, with all its limitations, curtails women's choices. Moreover, the pressure to provide children with 24/7 availability and empathy has produced a generation of overwhelmed and guilt-laden mothers—one cause of the West's alarming decline in birthrate. A bestseller in Europe, The Conflict is a scathing indictment of a stealthy zealotry that cheats women of their full potential.


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In the pathbreaking tradition of Backlash and The Time Bind, The Conflict, a #1 European bestseller, identifies a surprising setback to women's freedom: progressive modern motherhood Elisabeth Badinter has for decades been in the vanguard of the European fight for women's equality. Now, in an explosive new book, she points her finger at a most unlikely force undermining the In the pathbreaking tradition of Backlash and The Time Bind, The Conflict, a #1 European bestseller, identifies a surprising setback to women's freedom: progressive modern motherhood Elisabeth Badinter has for decades been in the vanguard of the European fight for women's equality. Now, in an explosive new book, she points her finger at a most unlikely force undermining the status of women: liberal motherhood, in thrall to all that is "natural." Attachment parenting, co-sleeping, baby-wearing, and especially breast-feeding—these hallmarks of contemporary motherhood have succeeded in tethering women to the home and family to an extent not seen since the 1950s. Badinter argues that the taboos now surrounding epidurals, formula, disposable diapers, cribs—and anything that distracts a mother's attention from her offspring—have turned childrearing into a singularly regressive force. In sharp, engaging prose, Badinter names a reactionary shift that is intensely felt but has not been clearly articulated until now, a shift that America has pioneered. She reserves special ire for the orthodoxy of the La Leche League—an offshoot of conservative Evangelicalism—showing how on-demand breastfeeding, with all its limitations, curtails women's choices. Moreover, the pressure to provide children with 24/7 availability and empathy has produced a generation of overwhelmed and guilt-laden mothers—one cause of the West's alarming decline in birthrate. A bestseller in Europe, The Conflict is a scathing indictment of a stealthy zealotry that cheats women of their full potential.

30 review for The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women

  1. 4 out of 5

    Luisa Fer

    Before reading this book, I had read an interview in a Quebec newspaper where Elisabeth Badinter outlined the book's main ideas. I found her incredibly lucid and courageous. It is true that we live in a child-centric society, how we got here is to some extent explained in Le Conflit. The feminist waves had a peak and then they crashed. She argues that right now, the new generation of women are caught between the environmentalist movements, the anger at their own mothers who fought to achieve equa Before reading this book, I had read an interview in a Quebec newspaper where Elisabeth Badinter outlined the book's main ideas. I found her incredibly lucid and courageous. It is true that we live in a child-centric society, how we got here is to some extent explained in Le Conflit. The feminist waves had a peak and then they crashed. She argues that right now, the new generation of women are caught between the environmentalist movements, the anger at their own mothers who fought to achieve equality "at the expense" of not being full time with their kids and the politics of several international organizations that seem to define who is a good mother and who is a bad mother, dictaminated by whether the woman breastfeads, uses disposable diapers and spends at the very least a year at home tending to their children full time. She describes it in two chapters: L'enfant d'abord (the child first) and l'imperium du bébé (the baby's empire). She talks about all aspects of motherhood and how these provoque great conflicts in women; breastfeeding is one of them. She examines how the act of breastfeeding has become a nearly dictatorial issue by demanding women in western countries to "breastfeed upon demand and as long as the baby wants". She describes the policts behind La Leche League and lists the 10 breastfeeding commmandments including "You will not quit [breastfeeding:]" and Badinter adds a comment "Not in two days, nor in two weeks, nor in two months. If your breasts hurt, find help before your breasts begin to bleed". Maternal instinct, the desire of NOT having children, the stigma against childfree or childless couples, the neverending and always valid female aspirations, the high statistics that show that couples separate before the child turns three, the constraints set by the environmentalists, doctors and nurses that listen to international organizations but do not listen to the individual woman and her individual needs, all these are issues described and supported with an impressive bibliography by Badinter. It is no mystery as to why Elisabeth Badinter has been demonized, ridiculed and discredited. Women who abide by the rules do so in a firm belief that they are doing what is best for their babies but forgetting themselves. It must be painful to have their loving intentions questioned like this. They have read the reviews but have not read the actual book, and so they call Badinter an old feminist hag. In fact, she is not discrediting any of it, what she is doing is to raise awareness about the emprisonment of women in these, in my opinion, insane corsets that are pulled tighter and tighter. She argues that a woman does not need to feel guilty over her decisions and she should not be made to feel guilty by external "experts". I believe that what she is actually saying is: if you want to breastfeed you should, but it you don't want to then that's ok too. If you want to use disposable diapers because it makes life easier for you it's ok, if you want to use washables, fine. If you want to stay home and you are sure of that, then go ahead, but if you will be happier at work, leaving you child in childcare is also fine. What she's saying is that enough with the guilt. It is the XXI century after all, for better or for worse, but if women don't thread carefully, they will entrap themselves (or maybe they already have) in a corner where no matter what they do, it will never be good enough.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    I had heard how awful this book is, but I figured that it couldn't be so shrill and reactionary as people claimed. I wanted to read it, both as a feminist and as someone considering having kids. Holy god, this book is awful. Seriously. Before I get into how awful this book is, there's one good point that Badinter makes that I want to acknowledge. Women who don't have children are looked at as selfish or narcissistic or otherwise dysfunctional in some way for not having children. However, many if I had heard how awful this book is, but I figured that it couldn't be so shrill and reactionary as people claimed. I wanted to read it, both as a feminist and as someone considering having kids. Holy god, this book is awful. Seriously. Before I get into how awful this book is, there's one good point that Badinter makes that I want to acknowledge. Women who don't have children are looked at as selfish or narcissistic or otherwise dysfunctional in some way for not having children. However, many if not most childfree women spend a good deal of time thinking about their choice and attempting to make a responsible decision. So, what's looked at as an immoral or abnormal decision is most likely actually a quite thoughtful and considerate decision. Fair enough. That's a good point. But the rest of this book? What a bunch of shrill, 1960s-1970s reactionary feminist bullshit. Seriously. Badinter seems to think that women will achieve the feminist "goal" when they are equally engaged in making money and pursuing career status as men. Equality or justice for women is about achieving parity with men in a capitalist order. Children stand in the way of that "goal" to the extent that they remove women from the labor market. For Badinter, women who started having kids in the 1990s and later are nothing more than the ungrateful children of those 1960s and 1970s feminists like herself. People of her generation struggled for their freedom and how dare those younger women not want to succeed in the way their mothers chose for them?! How dare these younger women not value status in the work place over other forms of life?! If her implicit endorsement of capitalism and all the hierarchy that comes along with it weren't bad enough, she also seethes with disdain for nature. Her language choices drip with sarcasm and condemnation when discussing the fact that many women are divesting themselves from medical systems that treat pregnancy as a disease rather than a natural occurrence. This devaluation of nature, the implicit endorsement of the idea that we are more advanced to the extent that we remove ourselves from nature, combined with her valuation of participation in the capitalist order is just too much masculinist bullshit for me to handle. I will never understand "feminists" like this lady who insists that we're equal to men to the extent that we all become masculine and value the kinds of things that have been valued in patriarchal, capitalist societies. Turns out I think all that economic achievement, status driven, nature devaluing stuff is fucked. I don't want to be a part of that. And if that makes me a bad feminist, then so be it. I'd rather be a good person than the kind of person that Badinter would recognize as a good feminist.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Alana

    I finished reading less than a minute ago, so a very fresh reaction: everyone should read this book. The thesis is essentially that by expecting too much of mothers, motherhood becomes so heavy a burden that it is unreconcilable with women's obligations to their careers, to their partners, to themselves. I am constantly irritated by the ever-growing list of pseudo-scientific recommendations that pregnant women and mothers of young children are exhorted to abide by, and so it was incredibly refre I finished reading less than a minute ago, so a very fresh reaction: everyone should read this book. The thesis is essentially that by expecting too much of mothers, motherhood becomes so heavy a burden that it is unreconcilable with women's obligations to their careers, to their partners, to themselves. I am constantly irritated by the ever-growing list of pseudo-scientific recommendations that pregnant women and mothers of young children are exhorted to abide by, and so it was incredibly refreshing to read this book. Badinter not only articulates this, but explores the consequences - for women's happiness, for women's professional attainment, and for birthrates. One particularly inflammatory theme is the ideal of 'naturalism' as opposed to feminism. Badinter takes issue with 'maternal instinct' (and so do I), and pushes back against breastfeeding, cloth diapers, organic food - not because these things are evil, but because guilting women into doing these things has massive negative externalities. Should I have kids, their lives will be a little rougher because I read this book. And my life is going to be a lot better.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Annie ⚜️

    At least it was a quick read. This book got my hackles up so bad. I could not stop rolling my eyes and arguing with it! I hated it. So I had to give it 3 stars because it made me think, it made me feel, even if I didn't like what I was feeling. The translation from the French was not great but I got used to it. Not surprisingly, the book is wrapped up by pretty much implying the French are doing things right. I had a big issue with what the hell she was trying to get at with this book but it's so At least it was a quick read. This book got my hackles up so bad. I could not stop rolling my eyes and arguing with it! I hated it. So I had to give it 3 stars because it made me think, it made me feel, even if I didn't like what I was feeling. The translation from the French was not great but I got used to it. Not surprisingly, the book is wrapped up by pretty much implying the French are doing things right. I had a big issue with what the hell she was trying to get at with this book but it's so much to delve into now. She pretty much thinks the La Leche League is some kind of paramilitary conspiracy organization. Okay, not exactly but pretty much the devil. Whatever, I read their famous book. It had some useful information and what didn't work for me, I dropped. You know why? Because I'm a big girl. With a brain. 🙄 They didn't brainwash me into breastfeeding on demand, co-sleeping, ignoring my husband and quitting my job. FFS. One thing I do agree with is we pay an inordinate amount of attention to those who choose not to procreate and not enough to the thought devoted by those who choose to do so. I marked this one "to read" 4 years ago so who knows what I was thinking.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Gail

    In her latest feminist missive, Elisabeth Badinter seems determined to conceal a number of extremely important points with wandering discussion; layers of dry, sarcastic vitriol (particularly directed at La Leche League); sweeping generalizations; and an almost tangential conclusion. Her message: thanks to changes in feminist theory and the vaunting of all things natural, a new "high ideal of motherhood" as full-time and all-embracing (i.e., the belief "that a good mother takes constant care of In her latest feminist missive, Elisabeth Badinter seems determined to conceal a number of extremely important points with wandering discussion; layers of dry, sarcastic vitriol (particularly directed at La Leche League); sweeping generalizations; and an almost tangential conclusion. Her message: thanks to changes in feminist theory and the vaunting of all things natural, a new "high ideal of motherhood" as full-time and all-embracing (i.e., the belief "that a good mother takes constant care of her children round the clock and cannot pursue personal fulfillment at the same time") leaves women with "two options: exclusive motherhood or remaining childless," and that we will see more women choosing the latter. In several respects, I can't say that I agree. Why do I recommend the book nonetheless? First, it's mercifully short. Second, she delivers aforementioned golden nuggets like, "[i]n a civilization that puts the self first, motherhood is a challenge, even a contradiction. Desires that are considered legitimate for a childless woman no longer are once she becomes a mother." True. "The irony of this history is that it was precisely at the point that Western women finally rid themselves of patriarchy that they acquired a new master in the home." Well put. Third, I like the global perspective. Finally and most importantly, I can take strands of her thoughts and weave them into material that's more relevant for me, discarding the scraps. Badinter's bottom line observation - that mothers these days are held to a new unrealistic ideal (taking primary responsibility for domestic chores as well as their children's basic physical needs, education, stimulation, and future psychological well-being) - is astute and forceful. And she provides every one of us with an extraordinarily valuable touchstone when she writes that "a mother cannot allow herself to be consumed by her baby to the point of destroying her desires as a woman." My primary problem with Badinter's book is that she doesn't stop there or offer ideas to reform "vocational motherhood," instead suggesting the employment route (along with bottle feeding and utilizing child care) and opting out of motherhood entirely as our sole means of salvation. In so doing, she unnecessarily narrows the desires mothers relinquish down to one: professional ambition. In my opinion, the key to stay-at-home mothers escaping their "new master[s]" is not necessarily work. One can refuse to "give her child everything" by consciously and consistently making time for her social life, sexuality, vanity, and intellectual curiosity. She can be "both mother and woman" simply by changing her approach to the first role. At least that's what I've done lately, refusing to feel contrite about skipping infant enrichment opportunities, asking my two toddlers to play independently for chunks of time throughout the day, and hiring college students to babysit (or arranging child care swaps with other moms) for a few hours a week so that I can read, shower, drink, socialize, spend time with my husband, and write book reviews. How do I skirt the guilt at not being able to do it all single-handedly? In part, thanks to the support Badinter provides.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Thought provoking ideas about modern feminism, exhaustively researched and presented in 113 pages. I'd love to be able to point my friends, dates, and coworkers (I'm talking to you, Mr. "Women Get Stupid After They Have A Child") toward this book for a better understanding of the economic and social realities a woman faces as she attempts to hammer out her identity as a woman and a mother. Unfortunately, the book's lackluster translating and editing takes much of the thunder out of the rhetoric- Thought provoking ideas about modern feminism, exhaustively researched and presented in 113 pages. I'd love to be able to point my friends, dates, and coworkers (I'm talking to you, Mr. "Women Get Stupid After They Have A Child") toward this book for a better understanding of the economic and social realities a woman faces as she attempts to hammer out her identity as a woman and a mother. Unfortunately, the book's lackluster translating and editing takes much of the thunder out of the rhetoric-- frequent French idioms and too-literal translations are a distraction, and worse, Ms. Badinter's deadpan irony often reads as literal. As a result, there are important stretches of this book that might be completely misunderstood if the reader didn't already have a good idea of where Ms. Badinter was going. If you are in any way worried about the social confines of motherhood, of losing your job or identity to parenthood, of "being a slave to the child at your breast", this book will resonate. Otherwise, the rhetoric might easily miss its mark.

  7. 4 out of 5

    AngryGreyCat

    The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women by Elisabeth Badinter is a non-fiction read. While I didn’t agree with all of her conclusions from her data, the points that she raises are thought-provoking and an important consideration, not only for feminists, but for mothers and fathers. The connections to Rousseau’s naturalism as a school of thought are interesting as is the historical perspective on motherhood in France contrasted with other countries.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    A One-Minute Review Elisabeth Badinter’s The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women will delight and annoy all points of the political spectrum. This usually indicates a great book. From page one, Badinter launches a reasoned, but powerful, feminist critique at the worrying results of the cult of all-encompassing motherhood. She describes a society pushing mothers to be mothers. Mothers aren’t mothers and workers, mothers and women, or even mothers and lovers. Mothers are A One-Minute Review Elisabeth Badinter’s The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women will delight and annoy all points of the political spectrum. This usually indicates a great book. From page one, Badinter launches a reasoned, but powerful, feminist critique at the worrying results of the cult of all-encompassing motherhood. She describes a society pushing mothers to be mothers. Mothers aren’t mothers and workers, mothers and women, or even mothers and lovers. Mothers are mothers, and those who step out from this identity immediately encounter guilt-laden social judgment. At the heart of this pressure is the re-invention of “traditional” motherhood underscored by naturalism – no epidural, no formula, and definitely no daycare. "No way," says Badinter. Such motherhood excludes fathers, breaks up families, and pressures women to forego careers, social life, and equality, she argues. Badinter isn’t against women choosing 24/7 motherhood, but she is alarmed at the social pressure that presents this as the only acceptable choice. Society may judge childless women selfish, but it’s even harsher on guilt-ridden working moms. Choice emerges as Badinter’s rallying cry, and she sees its absence, particularly in North America, undermining women’s equality. Arguing for choice, freedom, and also responsibility, The Conflict grasps a social third rail – wait for the sparks to fly.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Beberouge

    I struggled with Badinter's theories in this book, at times becoming angry at her and wanting to scream that being a stay at home mother by choice is no less honorable than working up the corporate ladder. Giving all to my children does not make me less of a woman or put those woman who wish to climb the corporate ladder back many years in the fight for equality.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Donna Linklater

    While this book has some points I agree with (church of la leche league anyone??) and points out some of the restrictive aspects of "attachment parenting", it misses a few key points. First off, a lot of women will tell you that they turn to attachment parenting because it's easier and more convenient-- if you've ever had a baby who wakes several times in the night, you know that it's an enormous challenge to take them out, nurse them, wait until they're settled, and then place them back in thei While this book has some points I agree with (church of la leche league anyone??) and points out some of the restrictive aspects of "attachment parenting", it misses a few key points. First off, a lot of women will tell you that they turn to attachment parenting because it's easier and more convenient-- if you've ever had a baby who wakes several times in the night, you know that it's an enormous challenge to take them out, nurse them, wait until they're settled, and then place them back in their crib. Bedsharing eliminates these issues. Breastfeeding is much cheaper and easier than bottlefeeding. Babywearing is less cumbersome, allows the mother to go wherever she pleases, and less fussy than using a stroller. Attachment parenting is about parenting naturally and conveniently, and is mutually enjoyable for mother and baby. Which brings about a second point missed. While I agree that there are many societal pressures on mothers these days, and that they may even be increasing, I still think that many women must simply be following their heart. There's nothing wrong with wanting to make your baby the centre of your life-- for a while-- if it's your heart's desire. But I absolutely agree with her that in order to carry out the trendiest parenting styles these days, we need to create a social safety net that give women their own funds. At the moment, a parent who decides to stay home for more than a year (in Canada, and even for the duration of her parental leave since she only receives 55% of her income) is dependent on her partner for financial security. This means that the quality of life for stay-at-home mothers, who all carry out the same work, varies wildly and is dependent on father's income. There's no question that our current policies do not support full-time motherhood, and I absolutely agree with Badiner on this point. All-in-all, it's a very clinically written account from a narrow perspective with some helpful points.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lara

    I was excited when I was notified of my library hold coming up on this book. I couldn't wait to read it, because I felt it must be expressing what I live every day in terms of conflict between professional fulfillment and present parenting of my children. While I was disappointed, some of Badinter's arguments are interesting. I found the discussion surrounding the status of parents in scandinavian countries relevant. I was interested in her claim that a majority of women in sweden are employed in I was excited when I was notified of my library hold coming up on this book. I couldn't wait to read it, because I felt it must be expressing what I live every day in terms of conflict between professional fulfillment and present parenting of my children. While I was disappointed, some of Badinter's arguments are interesting. I found the discussion surrounding the status of parents in scandinavian countries relevant. I was interested in her claim that a majority of women in sweden are employed in the public sector, and discussion related to how that shapes the government's social policies related to high quality childcare and support of working parents. she argues that men do not take family leave in equal proportion to women in those countries because a majority of men are employed in the private sector, where the work policies are not as strongly supported as the public sector. Mostly, however, I found her arguments against la leche league, its influence on breastfeeding and post partum bonding to be lame. Before reading the book, I had heard that the author is related somehow to Nestle. I'm not sure if this is true, but this book reads as a propaganda piece. I also found her discussion related to the history of French mothers, and their historically high status due to the prevalence of wet nurses and governesses to be unconvincing. she seems to be saying that it is better for women to be "enslaved" by a societal notion of what a woman should be, than "enslaved" by the constraints of parenting. All in all, I am completely underwhelmed by this book!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Stacie Bryant

    This book was comforting to read. Most of the statistics cited in the book are European. It is nice to know that there are many other women in the world who are "child-free", since it feels like society labels you as they would a leper if you don't have children.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Chuchu

    As Badinter said: “To this date, no family policy is 100% effective in promoting gender equality.” It is difficult to describe my shock upon this conclusion. It shattered my last bit of fantasy. Before reading this book I still thought that no matter how far away we are, we still have a direction to work hard, and now even this direction has proved to be a mirage. I am not to belittle the achievements Scandinavians had achieved in terms of gender equality. On the contrary, I also hope that this As Badinter said: “To this date, no family policy is 100% effective in promoting gender equality.” It is difficult to describe my shock upon this conclusion. It shattered my last bit of fantasy. Before reading this book I still thought that no matter how far away we are, we still have a direction to work hard, and now even this direction has proved to be a mirage. I am not to belittle the achievements Scandinavians had achieved in terms of gender equality. On the contrary, I also hope that this achievement is solid and reliable... But now it seems that there is no "correct answer" in this world, a perfect example that can be copied. Perhaps this is the limit that human society can reach. Compared with the patriarchy, what disheartens me is the Achilles heel of women: love. Out of the need to love and be loved, they will never be able to say "no" to marriage (as a group), to draw a clear line between maternal obligations and personal needs, or to truly regard themselves as an individual person independent of children, husbands and other family members. As Badinter pointed out, "The responsibility of caring for babies and young children is more restrictive than gender discrimination in the workplace and the family. A woman can resist her boss or husband, but cannot leave her children." As long as the family system exists, women are eternal caregivers. This identity is passed from mother to daughter, and then from daughter to her daughter, and never ending. Physiologically, women are completely self-sufficient—the ability to create life is unique to them and does not need to be attached to anyone. It is the spiritual needs that made them willingly castrate this self-sufficiency by themselves. A small number of women who realise this are regarded as aliens and traitors. They are stigmatised, attacked and expelled by groups, which is the dilemma faced by anti-marriage feminists in today's society: both men and women regard them as enemies. The irony is that at the moment when a woman is soberly aware of her situation, she becomes a "third sex" in a sense-a lonely ghost who drifts away from the accepted binary sex. Women who refuse to be recruited by patriarchy are not worthy of being women. And as a member of this lonely ghost, I couldn't even condemn the group of women who expelled me. They hate me and my kind more than their oppressors. They hate us precisely because we point out that oppression is oppression. I understand them. Yet I hate this understanding because they won't give me the same empathy, or even attempt to empathise. But despite everything...I understand them and felt a chronic pain for this. Sexist men can celebrate now: for a long time, their ruling won't be threatened. They don’t need to use any arms or even say one word to win this war. The supporters of maternalism created all of this single-handedly.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jehnie

    A very French navel-gazey book but backed with a lot of statistical research. This argument highlights how women took on the mantle of "ideal motherhood" at the same moment of gender liberation in the 60s thus cutting off true equality. I will definitely be using this argument as a discussion in class this fall. The line that struck me the most was: "The irony of history is that it was precisely at the point that Western women finally rid themselves of patriarchy that they acquired a new master i A very French navel-gazey book but backed with a lot of statistical research. This argument highlights how women took on the mantle of "ideal motherhood" at the same moment of gender liberation in the 60s thus cutting off true equality. I will definitely be using this argument as a discussion in class this fall. The line that struck me the most was: "The irony of history is that it was precisely at the point that Western women finally rid themselves of patriarchy that they acquired a new master in the home. Women had achieved financial independence vas well as control over whether they had children or not: they had no reason, it seemed, to continue to confront men’s power. Yet, thirty years later, there is no denying that male domination persists. <...> Their increased responsibility for babies and young children has proved just as restrictive, if not more so, than sexism in the home or in the workplace. A woman might be able to turn her back on her boss or her husband, but she can hardly walk away from her baby. The tyranny of maternal duty is not new…” (96-97)

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sonia

    "elisabeth badinter points her finger at a most unlikely force undermining the status of women: extreme motherhood, in thrall to all that is "natural." attachment parenting, co-sleeping, baby -wearing, and on-demand breastfeeding— these hallmarks of contemporary motherhood have succeeded in tethering women to the home and family to an extent not seen since the 1950s. badinter argues that the taboos now surrounding epidurals, formula, disposable diapers, cribs —and anything that districts a mothe "elisabeth badinter points her finger at a most unlikely force undermining the status of women: extreme motherhood, in thrall to all that is "natural." attachment parenting, co-sleeping, baby -wearing, and on-demand breastfeeding— these hallmarks of contemporary motherhood have succeeded in tethering women to the home and family to an extent not seen since the 1950s. badinter argues that the taboos now surrounding epidurals, formula, disposable diapers, cribs —and anything that districts a mother's attention from her offspring— have turned child rearing into a singularly regressive force." este es el comentario en la contraportada. un comentario atractivo que me invitó a querer conocer la opinión de la autora esperando fluidez entrelazada con cuestionamientos acerca de su propia perspectiva -a fin y al cabo el comentario recuerda que badinter es feminista y filósofa... <.< ese combo me sugiere que no será sólo encontrar enlazar a su conveniencia sino hacer el ejercicio de cuestionar sus bias, percepciones, etc. desafortunadamente me encontré con pensamientos que me resultaron interesantes pero su defensa estaba más basada en si x entonces y lo cual no necesariamente es una línea de pensamiento atinada. "y" puede responder también a otros factores. señalar que la mayoría de las mujeres realmente no quieren reproducirse y ejercer una maternidad pero deciden hacerlo porque temen optar por ese "no" o "child-free" que culturalmente es rechazado por tirarlo de hedonista, egoísta, et al... defender este punto poniendo como ejemplo a Francia como el país vale-madrista en donde señala, en varios de sus ensayos, el que las mujeres prefieren sus senos "perfectos" antes de lactar y entonces expresar cómo instituciones como La Liga de la Leche van ganando "batalla" en llenar de culpabilidad a las mujeres que deciden por cesáreas, no lactar, regresar al trabajo etc para entonces justificar "hey, las mujeres están sucumbiendo al paternalismo sin que éste tenga que abrir la boca si quiera"... me resulta simplista. si francia es el ejemplo de una sociedad que "no se deja arrastrar por el sentimiento de culpa de ser mala madre" me parece que es igual de peligroso señalar como hedonista la "libertad sexual" y los "senos perfectos" y no como lo que pudieran ser: el reflejo del ejercicio sexista sobre mujeres que se han convencido de desearse como objeto aunque para ellas, y parece que para badinter también, digan que ESO es la expresión hedonista (materialista en pro del feminismo) que el naturalismo que pone en riesgo el trabajo pro equidad de género. es cierto que el sentimiento de culpa en la mujer es grande pero igual el rollo del hombre que se encuentra en querer o no ser padre... peor aún porque socialmente "el hombre tiene que hacerse responsable" de la criatura. hmm.... ¿cómo le sacas ese rollo a la sociedad que le hace sentir culpable también al hombre de "abandonar" a esa criatura y a su madre? tsk tsk. me parece muy limitado el libro y sólo acomoda a su conveniencia sin cuestionar si ese hedonismo no es un disfraz, el efecto paternalista sobre el hombre y la mujer, etc. ¿alguien conoce algún libro de la autora en donde recoja de modo más amplio estos puntos?

  16. 5 out of 5

    Miri

    Very interesting topic, makes some really good points, kind of annoyingly written (almost a little sarcastic). Also, quite short and with weirdly large text and margins. Like... There's obviously a lot of information here, and this seems to be deliberately just skimming the surface. Focuses on the naturalist movement of the last few decades (co-sleeping, attachment parenting, increased emphasis on breastfeeding, etc.) and on how government policies and cultural norms about motherhood are related Very interesting topic, makes some really good points, kind of annoyingly written (almost a little sarcastic). Also, quite short and with weirdly large text and margins. Like... There's obviously a lot of information here, and this seems to be deliberately just skimming the surface. Focuses on the naturalist movement of the last few decades (co-sleeping, attachment parenting, increased emphasis on breastfeeding, etc.) and on how government policies and cultural norms about motherhood are related to each other. On the contradictions women face: "The first... is social. While boosters of the traditional family condemn working mothers, companies resent them for their children. For many, motherhood is held as the highest form of fulfillment for women even as it is devalued socially. Full-time mothers are unpaid, suspected of doing nothing all day, and deprived of a professional identity because their work requires no qualifications... The second contradiction is conjugal. Couples tend to expect and desire children, yet, as many have noted, a child is not conducive to a couple's love life... A good number of young couples admit that they only realized the demands of the job after the fact ("no one warned me," they say). Increasingly, partners are taking a hard second look before launching on this adventure. The most painful contradiction is personal, affecting every woman who does not identify with motherhood, every woman who feels torn between love for her child and personal desires, between wanting the best for her baby and wanting the best for herself. A child conceived as a source of fulfillment can, it turns out, stand in the way of that fulfillment. And, if we pile up a mother's responsibilities to the point of overload, she will feel this contradiction all the more keenly. These contradictions are rarely given serious consideration. And by expecting ever more of mothers, the naturalist ideology not only fails to offer solutions, it makes the contradictions untenable. Wherever the prevailing ideal conflates [womanhood with motherhood], women who cannot fulfill the expectations pinned on them are increasingly likely to turn their backs on motherhood. [This is in reference to low and dropping birth rates in industrialized countries, and an increase in couples who are "child-free by choice".] In countries where being a woman and being a mother are seen as distinct identities, where the legitimacy of multiple women's roles is recognized, and where motherhood does not overwhelm all other possibilities, women do want to have children, even if it means falling short of the ideal of motherhood."

  17. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    Hm, well: not quite what I was expecting. Elisabeth Badinter has written this rather polemical work on the modern concept of Motherhood (the capital letter is deliberate, as Badinter finds the concept to be almost mythological in its power and scope) and the ways in which it confines and oppresses modern women. So, FYI: don't be thinking this is a research piece. She cites research but does not discuss it in depth; mostly this is a big strop on the sheer weirdness of the cultural shift away from Hm, well: not quite what I was expecting. Elisabeth Badinter has written this rather polemical work on the modern concept of Motherhood (the capital letter is deliberate, as Badinter finds the concept to be almost mythological in its power and scope) and the ways in which it confines and oppresses modern women. So, FYI: don't be thinking this is a research piece. She cites research but does not discuss it in depth; mostly this is a big strop on the sheer weirdness of the cultural shift away from female equality and back to the iconic Guardian Spirit of the Home. And don't get me wrong: I actually agree with some of this. I am watching women my daughter's age crucify their "friends" on Facebook for sins against Proper Mothering: They feed their child two French fries instead of whipping up organic baby food! That sling they use is completely out of date! Have they taken pictures of that baby to record every hour of its life? No? Whyever not? A Good Mother would. Badinter minces no words. She is disgusted by the current trend which makes mothers completely subservient to their infants, hyper-vigilant to their every whim and fancy; and she is even more disgusted by the impact this will inevitably have on women's ability to obtain higher status in society. A women tethered to her baby for years and years of nursing is not a woman with a high-status job; but, as she rightly points out, a woman who cuts any corners is rapidly becoming a pariah, judged mercilessly by her peers and by society as a whole as a Bad Mother. I was interested in all that. The things I did not like were: the polemical nature of the book; the fact that it is written in French and translated into English, which causes the prose to be rather clumsy; and Badinter's ultimate conclusions, which seem to include praise for French woman who are bucking the trend by smoking and drinking during pregnancy and refusing to breastfeed. Unlike women in other European countries! She seems to link this to Frenchwomen's history of turning their children over to nannies so that they could concentrate on holding literary salons and whatnot. So that was peculiar. But still: a worthwhile read, if only as a counterweight to the endless onslaught of Being The Perfect Mommy books.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    This book really thoroughly addressed the issue of how the "naturalistic" (emphasis on breastfeeding etc) form of parenting inspires guilt within young mothers, and in their efforts to live up to these pressures, are further tied to the home, which was a perspective I had not really considered before. It has a lot of relevant stats, and while Badinter is obviously attempting to paint a certain picture here, she does a good job of not being preach-y. She had a lot of interesting ties to history a This book really thoroughly addressed the issue of how the "naturalistic" (emphasis on breastfeeding etc) form of parenting inspires guilt within young mothers, and in their efforts to live up to these pressures, are further tied to the home, which was a perspective I had not really considered before. It has a lot of relevant stats, and while Badinter is obviously attempting to paint a certain picture here, she does a good job of not being preach-y. She had a lot of interesting ties to history and how this new wave of ultra involved mothers was actually a form of rebellion against their own 1970s feminism era moms. Most of her statistics and points were about America and Europe, I would have appreciated to get a bit more of a global perspective to see how far these trends stretched. The book was very statistic and graph heavy, and while, as a stat major, I felt like the numbers told a compelling story on their own, I would have appreciated some more real-life anecdotes, I can understand how some people would find the book dry. It also seemed a little repetitive at points, but the book was short enough that that didn't really bother me.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Cat

    Although this book isn't much more subtle than the title suggests, it's still worth a read for Badinter's explanation of the post-60s-feminist backlash embodied by the cult of natural motherhood as woman's highest achievement. Among some otherwise liberal and well-educated women, the anti-crib, anti-bottle, attachment parenting (read: mothering) method has become so doctrinal that it's a relief to hear Badinter stubbornly ask why, given the environmental and individual costs of children, remaini Although this book isn't much more subtle than the title suggests, it's still worth a read for Badinter's explanation of the post-60s-feminist backlash embodied by the cult of natural motherhood as woman's highest achievement. Among some otherwise liberal and well-educated women, the anti-crib, anti-bottle, attachment parenting (read: mothering) method has become so doctrinal that it's a relief to hear Badinter stubbornly ask why, given the environmental and individual costs of children, remaining child-free isn't the default. Parts I could have done without: Badinter's examination of female French exceptionalism (it has something to do with socialites of the 18th century) and her obstinate refusal to acknowledge that drinking alcohol regularly, while pregnant, might cause fetal harm. Still, very much worth the read, in my opinion. I just wish this book was the kind of best-seller that women traded each other, rather than Gilbert's paean to self-actualization in a bowl of pasta: Eat, Pray, Love.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Bookworm

    What was an intriguing idea as a read came up pretty short as a rant against women who choose "extreme motherhood" (co-sleeping, attachment parenting, etc.). We've heard of the "Mommy Wars" and I was curious what this French feminist had to say about it all. Unfortunately it's a really boring read. I don't know if it was a translation issue or the author's style, but I was really bored by it all. Badinter offers a lot of statistics and studies to back her thesis of society moving towards women wh What was an intriguing idea as a read came up pretty short as a rant against women who choose "extreme motherhood" (co-sleeping, attachment parenting, etc.). We've heard of the "Mommy Wars" and I was curious what this French feminist had to say about it all. Unfortunately it's a really boring read. I don't know if it was a translation issue or the author's style, but I was really bored by it all. Badinter offers a lot of statistics and studies to back her thesis of society moving towards women who choose not to work when they become full-time mothers and what becomes of that. She seems to have a lot of issues with those who choose to breastfeed (Amazon.com reviews note she sits on a board of a company that is involved with infant formula). I was hoping this would be thought-provoking and might leave me with some debates to think about. But this book was really more for the author to rant rather than to give answers or solutions. I also wonder whether that she is French (and I assume raised her children in France) has to do with how her work has been received in the US.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Courtney Sieloff

    Provocative book in the era of perfect parenting, I'm-not-perfect parenting, and every style in between. The irony of reading this on my kindle while nursing my infant at 4am was not lost on me. However the author did seem to miss that all of these styles are choices that individuals can chose to make. She did correctly identify that American parents are much less supported in child rearing than are French parents. I have to wonder if all of the "attachment" parenting is a protest of government Provocative book in the era of perfect parenting, I'm-not-perfect parenting, and every style in between. The irony of reading this on my kindle while nursing my infant at 4am was not lost on me. However the author did seem to miss that all of these styles are choices that individuals can chose to make. She did correctly identify that American parents are much less supported in child rearing than are French parents. I have to wonder if all of the "attachment" parenting is a protest of government policies that do inhibit women's parenting choices and perhaps these are the actions needed, in all forms to demonstrate to elected officials that they too need to think differently about how to better support parents.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    Probably not the best choice of reading material at 8.75 months pregnant, but it does gives the topic a certain urgency and extreme personal relevancy...

  23. 4 out of 5

    passeriform

    This book is like a collection of missed opportunities. It addresses hugely important questions, but in so few words (160 page in huge type) that the analysis is surface-level at best and often downright nonsensical. It's about vital and deeply personal issues but manages to be quite boring. It critiques contemporary parenting culture's use of "the natural," which really is incredibly problematic, but in ways that more like pot shots at women (the ones who parent in ways that annoy or disgust th This book is like a collection of missed opportunities. It addresses hugely important questions, but in so few words (160 page in huge type) that the analysis is surface-level at best and often downright nonsensical. It's about vital and deeply personal issues but manages to be quite boring. It critiques contemporary parenting culture's use of "the natural," which really is incredibly problematic, but in ways that more like pot shots at women (the ones who parent in ways that annoy or disgust the author) than like thoughtful or productive feminist critique. It falls into super-lazy and tiresome habits, like assuming that breastfeeding and cosleeping ruin everybody's sex life. Its structure feels utterly haphazard. It takes on the troublesome ideological backdrop of La Leche League but uses such poor logic, such little evidence, and such a tone of sarcasm and loathing that the whole thing is alienating (even to a reader who's also suspicious of LLL). And, cherries on top!, it's heteronormative + preoccupied with a version of "the mother" who is a professional woman, high-earning, with an interesting job. Also, nothing is new here; it feels like rehashed polemics from various mainstream newspapers and magazines. Sigh.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Fraser Sherman

    This is more opinion and less hard numbers than, say, Susan Faludi's Backlash, but it's interesting nonetheless. Badinter's theme is that in response to second-wave feminism, a renewed push to make motherhood the be-all and end-all of women's lives has hamstrung efforts at equality, particularly when tied to an insistence that everything be natural (no hired caregivers! Breastfeed only!). Interesting.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ciara

    although this book earned but one star from me, i didn't hate it or anything. i honestly couldn't muster up too much of a reaction to it. maybe that is due in part to the fact that the writing was really dry & toneless, but this was originally written in french & translated for english-reading audiences. maybe it was a bit more engaging in the original. i think the more likely reason i didn't really have feelings about this book is because i didn't really intend to read it. you'd think i'd snap s although this book earned but one star from me, i didn't hate it or anything. i honestly couldn't muster up too much of a reaction to it. maybe that is due in part to the fact that the writing was really dry & toneless, but this was originally written in french & translated for english-reading audiences. maybe it was a bit more engaging in the original. i think the more likely reason i didn't really have feelings about this book is because i didn't really intend to read it. you'd think i'd snap something like this up--a controversial book about parenting that ourports to make a feminist critique of attachment parenting in particular? sounds like catnip for ciara xyerra. but i realized from the first review i read that this was really nothing but a polemic, & as such, any critiques it offers would have to be taken with a grain of salt because the book was intentionally written to be controversial. intentional controversy is usually pretty boring, & this book was no exception. i only read it because it happened to be on the shelves at the library (i didn't have to put a hold on it) & it's like 160 pages of large type on small pages. almost like reading a brochure! the strangest thing about the outrage this book stirred up is the fact that badinter never really manages to make any major critiques of attachment parenting. she cites study after study indicating the various ways that attachment parenting practices benefit both parent & child, with nothing but some subtextual raised eyebrows, as if she is elbowing the reader in the ribs & saying, "can you believe people buy this shit?" well, in the absence of any evidence debunking the studies she cites, yes, i can believe people buy that shit. her arguments against breastfeeding basically boil down to, "many women think it's yucky." well...i guess they're entitled to their opinions, but that doesn't really serve as a meaningful counter-argument to all the evidence about the immune system-boosting effects of breastfeeding for baby, the hormone-boosted bonding that transpires between mother & baby during breastfeeding, or the relative economy of breastfeeding compared to buying & preparing formula. & while there are plenty of women who do indeed find breastfeeding icky, wouldn't it be more interesting & in fact more feminist to examine WHY that might be, rather than just stating it as a fact that must be honored with equal weight alongside all other opinions? if some women think breastfeeding is gross because they are more comfortable viewing their breasts as sexual organs designed for pleasure rather than functional organs designed to feed babies, i think that's an interesting line of feminist inquiry, but badinter just says, "a woman shouldn't be compelled to breastfeed if she thinks it's gross." *sigh* badinter also goes on & on & ON about how destructive children are to the average heterosexual couple unit, because the physical & emotional demands of pregnancy, childbearing, & mothering sometimes conspire to make women less interested in sexually satisfying their mates. this is what passes as trenchant feminist analysis these days? down with babies! a woman's #1 priority should be making sure she has enough sex with her partner that he doesn't feel the need to get it on the side! as if men require a certain amount of weekly sex or else they explode. i often feel alienated from books that address the oh-so-popular "work-life balance" because, you know, i don't work. not because i've chosen not to, but because i have disabilities & can't work at most traditional jobs. i mean, it's fine; i know my experience is really unusual & i don't think everyone else should bend over backwards to fit me into their analyses. it's just interesting for me to read these kinds of books as someone who is a woman, & due to become a mother in january 2013, but will probably be perpetually sidelined from worrying about the "work" part of the work-life balance. it's like being an anthropologist of the life i could have had.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    I have to say, I liked this book more than I expected. It was a lot more academic than I thought it would be, but honestly that tipped it over more to four stars than if it had been more of a "rant." There are points when I can picture Badinter saying things with a big glass of red wine and a cigarette dangling from her finger, and it sort of makes me giggle. Overall, though, I thought that there wasn't a whole lot of opinion - just a lot of questioning and data (oooh, SO much data), and I apprec I have to say, I liked this book more than I expected. It was a lot more academic than I thought it would be, but honestly that tipped it over more to four stars than if it had been more of a "rant." There are points when I can picture Badinter saying things with a big glass of red wine and a cigarette dangling from her finger, and it sort of makes me giggle. Overall, though, I thought that there wasn't a whole lot of opinion - just a lot of questioning and data (oooh, SO much data), and I appreciated that. I've recently been throwing up my hands at this "new" idea of motherhood and what it means for women, and I am so utterly relieved that someone else noticed it too. There's this weird paradox to me when it comes to motherhood: One, that it's being taken WAY too seriously; and the other, that it isn't being taken seriously enough. For instance, we focus insanely on breast feeding, and guilt trip moms til the cows come home about, "Just try it. Just TRY it. You really should just TRY it." The tipping point for me was the mandatory lecturing on breast feeding to new mothers in NYC. I truly do not understand how few are up in arms about that, and yet the same people freak out when they're asked why they need birth control. Ladies, BOTH of those situations are condescending and assume that you, as a woman, do not know what is best for yourself and/or your child. Frankly, I was curious as to when this became such a huge issue. Badinter navigates that well, with plenty of history as well as statistical analysis. Her ideas of how the advent of naturalism influenced motherhood is extremely interesting; I'm not totally buying it, but it was definitely a fresh perspective and I like that someone would "go there." In addition, while I feel that this ONE part of motherhood is being shoved down women's throats as the only thing to do (if you love your kid enough), women and men who think long and hard about having children and ultimately decide not to are lambasted. I was so happy to read her thoughts on that; that really, it's the people who ultimately decide NOT to have children that, I think, are the MOST realistic about children, and take it the MOST seriously. As in, "This is a serious, serious commitment, and I know that I do not want to do it." Meanwhile, so many people have children because they think it's what they're supposed to do, and end up miserable. The book was also formatted extremely well, in terms of wrapping it all up nicely with an EXTREMELY interesting question: Why are French mothers among the most fertile in western nations, and yet have LESS of the benefits other countries give families? Why are they NOT buying into the Mommy as Saint idea? Looking at the information Badinter provides, it seems to be that the more sacrosanct you make mommy-hood - even when making it sacrosanct means giving tons of benefits - the less women want to do it. Overall, I honestly can't say that I agree or disagree with a lot of what Badinter discusses; but it was one of those books that was 90% informative with about 10% conclusions/opinions, and I found myself saying, "Huh!" a lot, which basically means it's worth reading in my book. No pun intended. Okay, pun intended.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    I expected more from this book. I found the text sorely lacking in several areas. There are interesting arguments to be made about the so-called mommy wars, but ultimately, I think this one falls short for several reasons: - There is no index. This makes writing a review, even a quick one for Goodreads, extraordinarily frustrating unless one reads with a notebook or has the time and inclination to browse through the text to double-check all references. I have neither the time nor the inclination I expected more from this book. I found the text sorely lacking in several areas. There are interesting arguments to be made about the so-called mommy wars, but ultimately, I think this one falls short for several reasons: - There is no index. This makes writing a review, even a quick one for Goodreads, extraordinarily frustrating unless one reads with a notebook or has the time and inclination to browse through the text to double-check all references. I have neither the time nor the inclination for the latter, but I did jot notes as I read. Still, there's no excuse for the lack of an index in a book like this. However, the notes section is quite complete, and I'm glad that Badinter still uses endnotes. - It is unfailingly heteronormative. I can't speak to whether this is due to Elisabeth Badinter's own perspectives on what consitutes a modern family, but given that her criteria for "motherhood" seems limited to those mothers who give birth (thereby excluding the stay-at-home parents who are, for whatever reason, not the birthmother), I was disappointed that in no way did she address families with lesbian parents. The changes wrought by a child in the parental couple's life, for example, are always discussed within a male-female dichotomy. Whenever she mentions "parents," she always denotes a male-female couple. There are other kinds of families who are involved in the "mommy wars" - deal. - I appreciate that Badinter dislikes the concept of a stay-at-home mother. However, she makes her opinion readily apparent every time she addresses the so-called plight of former professional women who subjugate their personal career ambitions to the interests of their children. When she acknowledges that women may choose to stay at home (or breastfeed, etc) and thereby find personal fulfillment, the condescension virtually drips off the page. If you're a feminist, you fight always for the right of women to self-determination for the course of their lives - even if they choose something with which you disagree. - Finally: drinking alcohol and smoking during pregnancy is a bad idea. I don't care what Badinter says on that score. As long as the umbilical cord connects you and your baby, whatever enters your bloodstream enters the bloodstream of that pre-formed person. I found it amusing that she quoted -and agreed with! - anecdotes about women actually resenting not being able to drink or smoke. See pages 63-65 for the treatment of smoking; 65-67 for the discussion of alcohol. It doesn't really matter if the pregnant woman's life becomes more ascetic. If you choose to keep the kid, you have an obligation not to deliberately harm it. It's 36 weeks. You'll survive without, as Badinter puts it, "even a small glass of champagne at a birthday party." I dislike books of theory that play fast and loose with the facts so as to better conform to some preconceived argument. Please note that this applies only to the 2011 Henry Holt English edition. If I have the time, I might track down a French copy.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bridgid

    A daring critique on an imperative modern topic, the contradiction between our 'me' centered society, and how quickly that can flip when women become mothers, and the expectation seems to be that one must devote everything selflessly to your child, as if there is a debt that can never be paid. "Motherhood is still the great unknown. For some, it brings incomparable happiness and enriches their identity. Others manage as best they can to reconcile contradictory demands. Yet others cannot cope and A daring critique on an imperative modern topic, the contradiction between our 'me' centered society, and how quickly that can flip when women become mothers, and the expectation seems to be that one must devote everything selflessly to your child, as if there is a debt that can never be paid. "Motherhood is still the great unknown. For some, it brings incomparable happiness and enriches their identity. Others manage as best they can to reconcile contradictory demands. Yet others cannot cope and find the experience a failure yet they will never admit it. It our society, to admit that you are not cut out to be a mother, that it gives you little satisfaction, would brand you as a reckless mother." Emile Durkheim, sociologist, "The Division of Labor", marriage is a cost to women. P67 Quoting Eliette Abecassis: “…I belonged to someone other than myself.” This may actually be a good thing to think on before taking on the responsibility of having a child – it is a serious commitment to another, and there is a certain amount of sacrifice. Rather than willy-nilly reproducing, realizing the significance seems moral. Yet this ‘belonging’ is temporary, in terms of the bodily occupation of the child in the mother. There needs to be healthy separation. p69 “….a good mother naturally puts her child’s needs before everything else.” Not yet being a mother, I still cannot imagine having the energy to care for another human being without taking very good care of myself. “….mothers are reminded that their breast belong first and foremost to their babies and were created for feeding.” The author is being sarcastic here. Indeed, once again we see the old fashioned yoke being put on women. Our parts are OURS first, even for pleasure, and then perhaps shared with our children. P93 “UK statistician Geoff Der published a study…he confirmed that the key factor contributing to the child’s IQ was the mother’s IQ, and that breastfeeding had no influence….Linda Blum, an American sociologist, is one of the few who dared to suggest that the advantages of breast feeding in developed countries had been exaggerated…” p106 "...the patience of the father is not the answer to a mother’s immersion in her child: a mother cannot allow herself to be consumed by her baby to the point of destroying her desires as a woman. The devotees of extreme mothering have nothing to say on this score. Only the mother exits because only the child matters. The couple’s stability and the importance of the sexuality that cements it go unmentioned.” The chapter on French mothers: “The woman before the mother….being a mother was a duty necessarily performed to pass on a husband’s name and inheritance but was insufficient to define her.” Of course this is largely related to priviledge, but perhaps there is something to be said for old fashioned values where the father worked and provided while the mother stayed home and cared for the children. Would such an arrangement allow for more self development of a woman, beyond mere care taker?

  29. 4 out of 5

    Gwen

    1.5 stars This was...not quite what I was expecting. I was expecting an analysis (with an emphasis on France) of how having and raising children in the 2010s is problematic for women, perhaps a combination of Homeward Bound: Why Women are Embracing the New Domesticity and Why Have Children?: The Ethical Debate. I was not expecting so little analysis that relied heavily on a few sources without contextualizing or explaining why these sources matter (for example, Edwige Antier and Pascale Donati), 1.5 stars This was...not quite what I was expecting. I was expecting an analysis (with an emphasis on France) of how having and raising children in the 2010s is problematic for women, perhaps a combination of Homeward Bound: Why Women are Embracing the New Domesticity and Why Have Children?: The Ethical Debate. I was not expecting so little analysis that relied heavily on a few sources without contextualizing or explaining why these sources matter (for example, Edwige Antier and Pascale Donati), hyperbolic language, and so many (SO MANY) vague sweeping statements and generalizations. This could have been an excellent book, but unfortunately, it read more like a draft of an undergraduate thesis (which is probably being too harsh on undergrads…). On the plus side, it was a short book (169 pages in rather large font), and Badinter introduced me to Rosemary Gillespie and her work, which seems to be prominent in childfree sociology studies. Moments that were not meant to be hilarious but were (apologies to my fellow Metro riders for chortling during our morning commute…): * "...it was precisely at the point that Western women finally rid themselves of patriarchy that they acquired a new master in the home." (96) * "Today, unlike at the turn of the previous century, there is no political agenda attached to childbirth; the decision not to have children (or the lack of a decision leading to the same result) is strictly a private matter. Most of the time, it is the outcome of an intimate dialogue between a woman and herself and has nothing to do with an ideological stance." (131) * Oh, you don't say….? "The numbers [childfree numbers around Europe, the United States, and Asia; 20% of American women were childfree as of 2006, which I assume has only gone up since then] almost seem to point to some unspoken resistance to motherhood. Evidently, as soon as women are able to control reproduction, pursue studies, enter the job market, and aspire to financial independence, motherhood stops being a natural, self-evident fact, becoming a question instead. Although choosing not to have children is still a decision taken by a minority, the trend constitutes a genuine revolution, suggesting the need to redefine women's identity." (132-133) h/t: New Domesticity

  30. 4 out of 5

    Anne Holcomb

    This slim book by a French feminist author examines the origin and the effects of changing social norms and government policies surrounding parenting, and how they affect the well-being of mothers. The trend of "attachment" or "natural" parenting recently shone in the spotlight due to the Mother's Day Time Magazine cover featuring a toddler boy breastfeeding accompanied by the headline "Are You Mom Enough?" Badinter's book traces the origin of this trend to the 1960s - it was sparked by a reacti This slim book by a French feminist author examines the origin and the effects of changing social norms and government policies surrounding parenting, and how they affect the well-being of mothers. The trend of "attachment" or "natural" parenting recently shone in the spotlight due to the Mother's Day Time Magazine cover featuring a toddler boy breastfeeding accompanied by the headline "Are You Mom Enough?" Badinter's book traces the origin of this trend to the 1960s - it was sparked by a reaction to scientific/positivist approaches toward childbirth and childrearing from feminists and eco-conscious activists, and to the founding of the La Leche League, which actually has its roots in ultra-conservative Catholic ideology - a fascinating fact I didn't know before. However, as Badinter shows, the same natural parenting championed by feminists has now morphed into a cultural monster that causes us to put the child above all else, even above the health and well-being of the mother. Practicing natural or attachment parenting means that the mother is sequestered in the home for longer and longer periods of time. While the author does a great job of tracing some of the origins of this trend, this book is by no means an exhaustive look at this phenomenon. Additionally, it is not of much use to researchers studying parenthood trends in the United States, as most of the statistics on parenthood in the book discuss European countries. However, this is fascinating as well, because Badinter uses the statistics to show that countries which still hold a more conservative view of the mother - such as Germany or Japan - also have the lowest birth rates, because women are choosing to not have children rather than accept such a restricted lifestyle. Countries with more liberal policies toward work leave for parents, like the Scandinavian countries, are experiencing higher birth rates. Those who are interested in finding out how parenting is done in other countries, especially France, will find this book useful and enlightening. Badinter discusses the French parenting style at length, and it is unique among all the countries she covers. Feminist researchers will also want to pick up this quick read because it shows how "difference" feminism and conservative religious ideologies actually combined to create this culture of serving the child above all else.

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