'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.
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So headline writers sprung to action when a Democratic consultant remarked on CNN in April that Ann Romney "never worked a day in her life" — and thus was ill-equipped to educate her husband on the economic concerns of American women.Skip to next paragraph
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When Romney countered that raising five sons was hard work indeed, the consultant, Hilary Rosen, quickly apologized and called for "peace in this phony war." But the episode dovetailed nicely with the U.S. release soon after of Badinter's book, "The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women," which argues that women are held back, imprisoned even, by the current emphasis on "natural" motherhood — including extended breast-feeding, co-sleeping, and so-called "attachment parenting."
The 68-year-old Badinter emphasizes that she's not writing about American women in her book. But it's clear to her and everyone else that the issues she addresses are more pressing in the United States than in France. "It's true that it exists more in your country," she says, speaking in French. "It's a small minority in France, but I am still hearing it here, from young women, and I wanted to write about it to stop it from getting bigger."
Badinter has caused controversy before, arguing, for example, that there is no such thing as a "maternal instinct." She has long been associated with feminist causes, but this time, she feels what's holding women back is not men, but other women, and even (unwittingly) children, with the demands of "natural" motherhood.
Especially the emphasis on breast-feeding.
"We assign this guilt to women who don't breast-feed," she says. "Think how that weighs on each mother. 'It's a duty!' 'A duty of health!' I fight against that."
Which brings us to last week's Time Magazine cover.
The article was about attachment parenting and its longtime guru, Dr. Bill Sears. But on the cover was not Sears but Los Angeles stay-at-home mom Jamie Lynne Grumet, 26, with her 3-year-old son standing on a chair, suckling at her breast. As attention-getting as the photo — well, maybe not quite — was the headline: "Are You Mom Enough?"
Some moms were certainly angry enough.
"No, I am not Mom enough," wrote family columnist Lisa Belkin at the Huffington Post. "I am not Mom enough to take the bait." (Others wondered if there would ever be a cover asking men, "Are You Dad Enough?")
Granju picked up from there. On the Huffington Post and on her own blog, Mama Pundit, she urged moms to follow Belkin's lead and "end these godforsaken, destructive, exploitative and made-up 'mommywars' once and for all by sitting down wherever we are and simply refusing to engage any further."