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'Mommy Wars' are American phenomenon, says feminist French author

'Mommy Wars' are strictly American, says feminist French author Elisabeth Badinter whose recently-released book, 'The Conflict,' argues that natural motherhood hinders women from fulfilling their full potential.

By The Associated Press / May 21, 2012

Elisabeth Badinter, the French author of recently-released 'The Conflict,' argues that 'Mommy Wars' are an American phenomenon and that mothers in France do not openly criticize others parenting choices.

Helene Bamberger/AP


New York

You could call Elisabeth Badinter a very lucky woman. It's not just that she's wealthy, successful, a respected scholar and a best-selling writer in her home country, France (yep, she gets to live in Paris, too.)

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It's also that Badinter, who specializes in provocative books about feminism and motherhood — including "The Conflict," just released in the United States — has never heard the expression "Mommy Wars."

"Ah, quelle horreur!" is her succinct response upon hearing the term (Translation: "How awful!") In France, she explains in a telephone interview, mothers don't judge each other's parenting choices quite so much — at least not publicly. The unspoken corollary: the Mommy Wars are a very American phenomenon.

And they are very much in the news these days. The confluence in less than a month of a campaign-trail scuffle involving Mitt Romney's wife, Ann; Badinter's new book; and most of all a provocative magazine cover — conveniently tied to Mother's Day — has led to a burst of online chatter and a renewal of those "Mommy Wars" headlines.

But it has also led to reflection, and calls for a cease-fire in those same wars, as well as a jettisoning of the phrase itself. Aren't we finally ready, some are asking, to give it a rest, and acknowledge what many already feel — that there are lots of ways to be a good mother?

"It's time to end the Mommy Wars," wrote Jen Singer recently on her blog, "How about we all stop arguing over which mom works harder and whether or not Ann Romney worked at all and who bakes a better cookie, Hillary Clinton or Barbara Bush?"

"So who's with me?" wrote another prominent "mommy blogger," Katie Allison Granju. "Who will join my proposed campaign of non-violent resistance against the mommy wars?"

The term "Mommy Wars" has been around for at least two decades — it appeared in a 1990 Newsweek piece on the struggle between working and stay-at-home mothers. But the term seems to have expanded to encompass any divisive parenting issue, and it's recycled every time a new motherhood controversy arises.

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