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


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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: 8.7 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #975,141 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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Customer Reviews

It's a pretty easy read though.
Taeya Pankow
The book is a weird mix of what seems to aspire to be scholarly and what is obviously coming from a very personal place for Badinter.
G. Powers
I did not get very far into this book before becoming extremely annoyed at Badinter's narrow view of women.
Laura Anderson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 26 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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93 of 116 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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13 of 14 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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68 of 87 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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59 of 78 people found the following review helpful By Penny Thoughtful on April 25, 2012
Format: Hardcover
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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