I read this article in the May issue of Marie Claire *one of my favorite magazines* and it got me riled up. I sat on it for weeks, hoping it would go away but it hasn’t. I’m still thinking about it and it’s still weighing on me. I usually post these pieces on Saturdays, but I felt it just couldn’t wait. So here you are!
Dear Elisabeth Badinter,
I’m deeply ashamed and aghast that you are both a woman and consider yourself a feminist. I feel your article is one of the most anti-feminist articles I have read in a long, long time. The goal of feminism is to free and liberate women to do with their lives as they please and to raise their value as to being equal in society. I feel you have done the opposite with your brand of feminism. Let me address a few of the points in your article.
In the beginning of the article, you say that “this 21st century project of naturalism” makes an animal of the female. Well, I hate to point out the obvious to you, but we are animals. Homo Sapiens and mammals to be exact and that means that there are certain biological realities that can not be denied. I’m sorry to break it to you, but both the male and female of the species is an animal. Further, there is nothing wrong with embracing our natural instincts as we so choose to do in breastfeeding and birthing. It is natural and to deny our nature is to be a slave to it.
Next you mention homemade baby food, and yes, it is indeed terrific, but I’m confused as to why you consider it to be inaccessible to fathers by stating that bought baby food is better because it is accessible to fathers? Fathers are just as capable and just as eager to cook, puree, freeze, package, and feed homemade baby food as women. Both partners have hands and feet that can cut, steam and mash, so I don’t understand who you imply that making baby food at home immediately means that it is a woman’s duty? I would consider that a sexist remark that both demeans women by placing them back into the kitchen, and degrades men by implying they are either incapable or not caring enough to make their baby’s food.
Further, it is an illogical statement to imply that the choice between biogdegradable diapers and disposable diapers is one of choosing between “the protection of the environment and the protection of the liberty and free time of women.” First off, if you look at trends, polls, and statistics, those that protect and care about the environment tend to be the same people that value equality and the liberty of choice, so it makes no sense realistically that there is an either/or choice in this respect. Further, this section of your piece implies that using biodegradable diapers (I’m assuming washable ones here) tethers women into some domesticated duty. I would whole heartedly disagree. First, see point above about men having hands and feet – it applies to diapers as well. Secondly, in my first hand experience online with bloggers and interpersonally with myself and friends, I have found that men have jumped in with both feet when it comes to changing, washing and tending to diapers. Again, this is in inherent error in your thinking that diapers and laundry is the sole responsibility of the female. In the modern age of relationships between men and women, I had hoped this patriarchical notion had been smashed, but you seem to be carrying it’s flame as brightly as ever.
It’s shocking to me how you argue that women should not want to spend time with their children, and that they are “less happy” the more time they do spend with children. Have you ever spoken to a mother? If you had you would know that most, if not all, would love to spend more time with their children, not less. And a mother wanting to spend time with her child, and actually doing so, does not in any way negate the father wanting to spend time with his child and actually doing so. You seem to forget that the best scenario for a child is two loving parents, therefore one loving parent being present does not discourage nor negate another loving parent’s presence. Finally, I wholeheartedly disagree that it is good for children to get along without their mother. True, children can not be smothered, but they need their mother, just as they need their father. Ask any child psychologist about the affects of absentee parents, neglect, or those children abandoned or orphaned and then come tell me that children don’t need their parents.
The thing that saddens and angers me most in your article, however, is your claim that after the 18 years that it takes to raise children a woman is “much too late to be able to make a living in the workplace.” This clearly says that a woman’s worth in her entire lifetime (85 years for women as you say) is only in 18 years. That I find to be the most degrading thing in the whole piece. A woman’s worth, a human’s worth, extends beyond the 18 child rearing years. For a women who says she fights for the equality and liberty of women you seem to be demoting a woman’s worth to her childbearing years, and further taking away all her choices. When discussing your piece with a colleague, she mentioned instances of women returning to school and then excelling in various fields of study, medicine for example, after 20 years of staying home with children. So I would respectfully beg to disagree with your assessment of a woman’s worth.
There are many more points I could discuss, contradict and argue with, including your issues on breastfeeding, however, I feel I have made my general point abundantly clear. I find that your entire piece bashes women, degrades their personal choices and takes away their liberty. I am not a stay at home mom, I am a freelance artist with a variable schedule. I need to work because I find fulfillment in my art and I think that makes me a better mom, but I would never deign to look down on either a full time stay at home mom, or a mom who works and uses daycare to look after her child. Women should be free to follow their hearts desire and seek fulfillment, whether that leads them on a corporate path or a domestic path or some forged middle ground. Frankly, I am disgusted at your sexist and bossy treatment of women denying them the freedom to pursue whatever it is their hearts desire. You should be fighting for a woman’s free choice to do with her life what she wills, instead you insult both her and her partners choices if they don’t align with yours. She’s “infantile” if she has children, wants to spend time with them, thinks she can have a career beyond her childbearing years, and cares about the environment. Well, call me infantile then. I proudly wear the mantle as I call for the freedom and liberty of choice for all women to do as they please, be it a corner high-rise office or a backyard low-rise bungalow.
Graduate of the University of Toronto with High Distinction.
Lissa @ The Looking GlassMay 23, 2012
amen, sister! I LOVE THIS.
Amber SMay 23, 2012
Thank you for writing this! That article got me so riled up I couldn't even finish it. I totally agree about the statement where the fathers are only able to buy store bought food. As a household where my husband does the cooking, he was pretty hurt by that.
Hoping venting helped release some of the tension!
AmandaMay 23, 2012
Excellent post!! Her arguments are not even rational – and it really bugs me that she offers NO resources for her statistics + claims.
You put this SOOO well – kudos to you.
Lena @ Mom2MemphisAndRubyMay 23, 2012
Well said, Joanna!
Your points were intelligent & heartfelt and totally, totally, on point! So proud of you for putting into words what needed to be said!
CourtneyMay 23, 2012
Couldn't have said it better myself.
AbsoluteMommyMay 23, 2012
You must send this to MC! Please tell me you have. This was just excellent!!
CatMay 23, 2012
This is such an awesome letter! My sister spent 35 years trying to find fulfillment in the workplace – she traveled all over the world, held many jobs – and only when she 'settled' for staying home and having 4 children did she find her true calling. She is happier now than I have ever known her. And yes, she cloth diapered, nursed till her kids were 2+, and homeschools them all. There is nothing infantile about my very well educated and very loving sister (and her awesome husband who does indeed help with the homemade baby food and diaper washing). Thank you for sharing and thanks for your wise words!
Ashley at flats to flip flopsMay 24, 2012
I read the same article and was like "What the?"
Good for you for writing this! Preach on, sista!
ErickaMay 24, 2012
THANK you. I also have a problem with so-called feminism that seeks to "save" women from domestic enslavement only to force them into a different role: cold, work-obsessed, me-first mothers…or even worse, "breeder" haters. As a freelance copy editor, part-time research center manager (working mostly from home), and a mother of three, I am living proof that it is perfectly possible to give our kids the best while remaining independent, intelligent, and happy. Like you say in your letter, the key is sharing historically "female" tasks with dads. Of course, every family has to find the right balance, but if both parents are involved with the child care and home, and both are afforded the chance for personal development, there is simply no need to justify neglect of our own kids. Everyone wins.
P.S. to Elisabeth Badinter: I don't know why you're so sure breastfeeding has to be an intimacy killer. My husband has no problem with reconciling the functional, nursing role of my breasts with their sexy, intimate role. Perhaps the men in your life need to watch less porn and develop healthier views of real women. 🙂
JoannaMay 24, 2012
Couldn't agree with this more. Totally going in my Friday Favorites!
Jaclyn ArmstrongMay 25, 2012
Amen! So well written!
Earth_SeaMay 25, 2012
I cannot believe that so many women are posting against her article (Mrs. Badinter). I believe that she has many points right but some people here do not understand that the privileges that WE all enjoy now are not because they were given to us. They were taken! It was because of the strong women who went outside the homes to work that we are working now. Many of this women who posted against this article I strongly recommend you to go to an undevelop/developing country and see how many women have no voice and are only meant to be in the home taking care of the children. Also, many people here should learn how to read. First of all the author is not saying that it is wrong to be a mother and assume the motherhood role, she is just saying that it should be OPTIONAL not forced upon women. She is just saying that women should not be called "bad-mothers" because they chose to work and be a mother. Secondly, it makes quite enough sense what she says about couples and a baby's effect on them. I agree, children need their mother but it should also be understood that children shouldnt be the whole life of a mother. Even in religion, Christians, you can see that it is a couple who become one, children are part of life and they should be free-independent. (You non religious people dont stress on the religious approach is just an example). It is also quite selfish for the kids also as they become more dependent and they are not able to stand upon their own feet. Also, one of the comments from one of the list here surprised me enough -she said that she was offended because she was a student who in ten years plans to be a mother. Why is she offended? Because the author supports women who work and doesnt penalize those who chose not to be mothers? You should know that being a mother is not a natural predisposition -if that were so there wouldnt be enough women in the world who chose not to have kids. Ultimately, I agree on what the author is saying that motherhood should be an option and not an obligation. Yes, that is what she is saying she is not making motherhood a burden she is just critizicing the approach that it is being given now a days (I understand that she sees that becoming natural and a good mother is being less of a woman). So please, read the article again and note what she is saying. Moreover, many women here who comment should also check on history and especially women's history in our country and compare to women in other countries (NO, dont check on Europe which is similar to us -just better) those who are developing and visit them like I have, then ask yourself if you have privileges or not! But wait, let us better wait for couple of decades after we lose them so that you can tell your future generations what was like in the past! 🙂