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The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women Hardcover – April 24, 2012


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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

Review

“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.”
Slate

“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.”
Bookforum

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books (April 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780805094145
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805094145
  • ASIN: 0805094148
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #989,484 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

It's a pretty easy read though.
Taeya Pankow
Although there is much truth to what the author says, there is little presentation of the "other" side of the story.
Carrie
I had to double check the author was a women, much less her alleged stance on women and children.
M. Jordan

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Ready Mommy on December 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover
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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95 of 118 people found the following review helpful By Carol Hay on April 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover
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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70 of 89 people found the following review helpful By H. Satrom on 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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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By TC on May 20, 2013
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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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Cihan on June 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover
One might have thought, hearing all of the negative backlash to this book, that Badinter is an anti-woman, anti-family zealot. But upon reading, it's clear that many people seem to have read only what they wanted to see. I think her analysis is spot on. Formula feeding, disposable diapers, and other products that mothers use out of necessity or convenience, have undeniably given many, many women and families a significant and measurable level of benefit. We often neglect to speak of these benefits when we speak to the potential harms of these same products. Badinter also accurately speaks on how the benefits of the cornerstones of natural parenting (breastfeeding, skin-to-skin, etc.) are often overblown and hyped beyond what the body of scientific work has been able to show.

There is a rising level of pressure for a woman who chooses to have children, to adhere to an increasingly strict form of proper parenting, and of course there's always been stigma against women who for whatever reason do not or choose not to have children. Being from the USA and having never lived in France, I can't really speak to her theories on French women and French society, but I found her ideas on them interesting nonetheless.

Many people question Badinter's personal ethics, in relation to her income sources, and completely neglect the fact that she is first and foremost, an incredibly well respected scholar who has been active for decades. How ludicrous to assume that a woman who inherited so much money to begin with (she isn't hurting for cash), and who has been a scholar for decades, would sell out everything she has worked for to make some money off of baby formula. Badinter is notably not the CEO of Nestle.

My only wish was that it was a bit of a longer and meatier read.
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