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The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women


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ISBN13: 9780805094145
ISBN10: 0805094148
Condition: Standard
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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 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.

About the Author

Elisabeth Badinter is the acclaimed author of three seminal works on feminism—The Myth of Motherhood, Wrong Turn, and Masculine Identity—which have been translated into fifteen languages. Badinter teaches philosophy at the école Polytechnique in Paris, where she lives.

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sdunavan, August 4, 2012 (view all comments by sdunavan)
I'm beginning to think that philosophers should not write books on feminism or motherhood. This short book wasn't as bad as Linda Hirshman's polemic ("Get to Work"), but it was still infuriating.

Badinter's basic premise is that "An underground war is now being fought between naturalist and culturalist proponents of motherhood" (p. 31), and that children's needs are being pitted against women's needs. By "naturalist", she means anything that people argue is "natural" - especially attachment parenting advocates. So maternal instincts, any kind of natural hormone-enhanced "bonding", natural childbirth, cloth diapers, T. Berry Brazelton, and especially breastfeeding and La Leche League come under sharp attack here.

I didn't find Badinter's arguments convincing. Ironically, at one point in her critique of evolutionary biologists, she states that "All this is simply asserted; there are no references or citations of explanations or demonstrations." On the contrary, this was the problem I had with "The Conflict's" premise - there were references and citations, but they weren't scientific, and I thought her demonstrations were weak on logic. Her whole premise centers on changing ideologies of motherhood and women - and I wasn't convinced that she wasn't putting the cart before the horse, reversing the causality of ideology and practice. Her use of government statistics, comparisons of European policies on parenting, and the little tidbits of sociology and anthropology that she does bring forth are really rather feeble when you consider her premise.

Finally, the text is awkward - maybe it read better in the original French. I found myself going over sentences repeatedly, trying to ferret the meaning out of her tangled phrases. And I was annoyed by several off-the-cuff insults, especially to authors and researchers who don't deserve to have their work grossly over-simplified or misrepresented, like Sarah Blaffer Hrdy.

At least it was short. And there were some interesting perspectives on French and Scandinavian parenting, government policies, and feminism.
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Product Details

How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women
Badinter, Elisabeth
Metropolitan Books
Sociology - Marriage & Family
Women's Studies
Parenting - Motherhood
Sociology-Children and Family
Gender Studies-Womens Studies
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
Grade Level:
8.25 x 5.5 in

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Related Subjects

Health and Self-Help » Child Care and Parenting » Mothering
History and Social Science » Feminist Studies » Family
History and Social Science » Gender Studies » Featured Titles
History and Social Science » Gender Studies » Womens Studies
History and Social Science » Sociology » Children and Family

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