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The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women [Kindle Edition]

Elisabeth Badinter
2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $8.89
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Sold by: Macmillan


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Book Description

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.

Editorial Reviews

From Bookforum

Badinter seems to prefer alarmist rhetoric to broader observations on current culture—even as she delivers sharp insights about the regressive turn of modern attitudes about motherhood. —Heather Havrilesky


“Impressively researched, elegantly argued and forcefully written… Badinter’s warnings about the dangers of excessive child­centeredness are in many ways well founded.”
The New York Times Book Review

The Conflict was first published in France, but its message is most pressing in the Anglophone world, where a vast industry peddling organic baby foods and anxiety is sucking the joy out of motherhood. Ms. Badinter’s polemic is sardonic, urgent and gripping.… This is a cry for freedom.”
The Wall Street Journal

“Badinter’s arguments are provocative and rigorous…Badinter’s impressive imperative to own one’s own life, to take rigorous and energetic responsibility, to cast off the silly or cowardly or frivolously domestic ways, seems very appealing, and refreshing and brisk.”

“Badinter highlights some alarming trends that are rarely questioned, thanks to current attitudes about the supremacy of the maternal role… She delivers sharp insights about the regressive turn of modern attitudes about motherhood.”

Product Details

  • File Size: 508 KB
  • Print Length: 222 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0805094148
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books; Reprint edition (April 24, 2012)
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00540PC9A
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #173,888 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
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.
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93 of 116 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth taking seriously. April 27, 2012
Don't be put off by the reviewers who are protesting too much and insisting that feminism isn't supposed to be anything other than vacuously affirming every choice an individual woman wants to make. Feminism's task is (among other things) to examine and criticize the larger systemic forces that both structure and result from women's choices. In laying out the recent historical progression that has resulted in the current trend of revering an essentialist and ultimately retrograde conception of womanhood, Badinter does a marvelous job of this. There is, to be sure, a pretty serious race/class-based criticism to be made about Badinter's style of feminist argument, but she's pretty good about at least admitting that she's restricting the scope of her argument to a relatively privileged class of women. (And, um, those reviewers who are claiming that she's related to someone who has financial interests in a PR firm that has Nestle as a client, and insinuating that this is the true motivation behind her argument, are engaging in a ridiculous and irrelevant ad hominem attack.)
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition
Some reviewers are sensitive to this book, experiencing it as anti mom. I actually found this book to be very supportive of motherhood, just not the all encompassing, devoted at the expense of all else, brand of motherhood that is presented in our current culture. Badinter calls for a rational motherhood, an accessible one that, it turns out most moms actually practice once they become tired and aware that they've been sold a bill of goods about perfection in mothering. There is a thorough discussion of public policy and cultural notions of motherhood and their impact on birth rates cross culturally. Badinters The Conflict, does for motherhood what Naomi Wolfs The Beauty Myth did for female body image, which is to say, it asks you to take a step back and examine the cultural message and its impact on women and society.
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68 of 87 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Voice of Reason April 28, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A well-argued and well-researched argument against the excesses of "naturalism." Many voices in American society (including pediatricians, policymakers, and the media) advocate for breastfeeding, making home-made organic baby food, and using cloth diapers, but few have considered the burden these increasingly demanding practices have placed on mothers, especially women who would like to continue their professional lives. Badinter is a voice of reason against the radicalism of La Leche League and others who advocate for practices that have put a huge additional work load on mothers today. Mothers in France (and other European countries) have access to affordable and high-quality childcare, and they do not face ostracism if they choose not to breastfeed. Badinter, who IS a mother, offers a viewpoint that is rarely considered in the US. US society has become so child-centered that few people stop to consider how US parenting practices impact women and couples. This is good food for thought for American parents. Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman and Perfect Madness by Judith Warner would complement this book nicely.
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59 of 78 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking April 25, 2012
This thought-provoking work explains a lot of things about how in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and Europe, women are under more pressure than ever to be perfect mothers AND productive workers. The author is not particularly judgmental, preferring to let the facts speak for themselves. The statistics are dry at times, but necessary to prove the point that this isn't just her opinion, she's really studied her stuff. And it's a French book, so it's NOT U.S. centered, although most of the issues that American women experience are also being experienced by women elsewhere, but it's interesting to have that wider perspective.

This is a feminist book, but it's not of the rabid, aggressive sort. It's more of an inside look into women's lives and what they believe and value. It doesn't really cover EVERYONE; for example, in the section on breastfeeding, it talks about women who love it, women who try it but quit because they don't like it, and women who don't try. It doesn't talk about women like me who didn't like it but kept doing it anyway. But still, it really does cover a lot of different points of view, and it's a thought-provoking read in any case. I recommend this for all women, as well as fathers and policymakers.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Moders motherhhd a step backward
Interesting explanation of the efforts by certein "naturoriented' attachment parenting groups to undermine the feminist achievements and make women slaves of their children
Published 2 months ago by Maria
5.0 out of 5 stars A thought-provoking read
It's truly a shame that so many reviewers seem to be conspiracy theorists. Badinter has written quite well on the impact of the anti-science, "natural" motherhood movement... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Katherine Palmquist
1.0 out of 5 stars Junk
Old outdated feminism. Lacks an understanding that some women want children.
If you are a radical leftist you may like this book
Published 8 months ago by damaris g. fisher
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Insightful
Brings up some interesting points, that many may not have thought of. There are some very good statistics and logical arguments.
Published 16 months ago by Mona
5.0 out of 5 stars Every mother's must read
This is a very important book for every women who wants to be a mother. Clear and succinct writing also helps.
Published 17 months ago by Stuart Kleinman
1.0 out of 5 stars Really?
Ms. Badinter has grotesque conflicts of interests - why would ANYONE take her advice seriously?

Besides, at the end of the day, parenting is NOT based on parental... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Miss Tawnie
1.0 out of 5 stars Narrow-minded
I did not get very far into this book before becoming extremely annoyed at Badinter's narrow view of women. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Laura Anderson
3.0 out of 5 stars A decent book
I like the idea of this book more than I actually like the book. I feel like the author is repeating her point over and over and it gets old. It's a pretty easy read though.
Published 20 months ago by Taeya Pankow
1.0 out of 5 stars She sounds angry often, and a little sexist herself
The opening chapter seemed very angry at women. I had to double check the author was a women, much less her alleged stance on women and children. Read more
Published 22 months ago by M. Jordan
5.0 out of 5 stars Read it.
There are 10 negative reviews of this book. Not one negative review had anything negative to say about the book, in fact one scathing reviewer was bold enough to review and at the... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Tanya
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