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Tuesday, April 03, 2007Had an email this morning from Brenda, one of my readers, asking if I'd caught the segment on the Today Show that featured "Feminine Mistake" author Leslie Bennetts. I didn't, but based on what she told me about it, I figured I might go do a little digging.
The Today Show web site features an excerpt from Bennetts book and while I couldn't find too much wrong with the excerpt. Well, at least other than a sneaking suspicion that much of Bennetts vitriol comes from having a lack of positive male role models. After all, who could put forth the trust in men that is required if a woman chooses to give up her own career to become a stay at home mom if all the men they've known treated women poorly?
Of this morning's segment, Brenda writes:
It was a woman who wrote the book “The Feminine Mistake” and basically her whole case was that it is so sad how women quit their jobs to stay home with their kids because of all of the financial security they are losing and how “there are plenty of good day cares” and there’s basically no justifiable reason for a woman to stay home and take care of her kids.
It's a line I've heard many times before.
Women "owe" it to other women to go to work every day to make sure those doors of opportunity not only stay open, but grow wider.
In other words, your responsibility isn't to your own family, it's to society.
The problem here is that feminism is about expanding choice, not limiting it.
Bennetts seems to be saying "stop listing to those men as they try to tell you what to do! Listen to ME instead!"
How have we improved our position if we're still being told what to do instead of making the decision for ourselves?
I found an interview with Bennetts over at iVillage.
Some of the snippets intrigue me...
Many of the women who had chosen to give up their careers felt it turned out to be a big mistake that had very unfortunate consequences for themselves and their children, and some of them were clearly motivated by a desire to help other women by warning them about the pitfalls of depending on a man to support you. I think a lot of the working women were grateful for the opportunity to talk candidly about how much they enjoy their work and the benefits it confers.
But there's no talk of the women who work and wish they didn't. Or the moms who stay home and are thankful they do. These women exist. I know many of them. In fact, many of them read this blog. (Many readers also work and enjoy it or stay home and dislike it, but the point is, there are people on both sides.)
She goes on to say...
Our culture is not informing women adequately about the dangers of depending on a man to support them, and I think the media have misled women into thinking that the stay-at-home life is a better and less stressful choice. The facts would indicate otherwise -- working women tend to be not only happier but even healthier than full-time homemakers, as I have documented in the book.
Funny...but that goes counter to many of the women I know. Now anyone who has read my writings about childbirth know that I'm not big on anecdotal info over actual studies, but since she doesn't cite the study that proves WOH moms are happier and healthier than SAHMs, my anecdotes count.
And really, should we simply be comparing the groups of who works and who doesn't, or should we also be considering whether the women WANT to work and whether they WANT to stay home. Because wouldn't a woman who wants to work and does obviously be happier than a woman that doesn't want to stay home, but does anyway? Wouldn't a woman that doesn't want to work but has to NOT be as happy as a woman who wants to stay home and does?
Now let's be clear...I have no issues with her writing about how she thinks more women should work. I think more women should stay home. The difference is the sarcastic and caustic attitude with which she promotes her ideas.
I think that having one parent at home while the kids are young is the best case scenario. But guess what? It's not always possible. Sometimes both parents need to work outside the home. Sometimes the parents WANT to work outside the home and obviously, a parent that's home grudgingly isn't going to be the best parent they can be.
Bennetts on the other hand allows for alternative beliefs with these lines...
many stay-at-home mothers are very angry that anyone would dare to report that they are taking a big risk in being financially dependent on their husbands. Unfortunately the risks are undeniable; the facts don't go away just because you refuse to look at them. Over the long haul, most of these stay-at-home moms are going to find themselves on the wrong side of the odds.
So I guess what I would say to them is, Feel free to disagree with me, and do whatever you want to do, and I wish you good luck, because you're going to need it.
Nice. Way to be supportive of women's choice.
I guess I just have a hard time understanding how self-proclaimed feminists can attack women for making choices. Unless of course Bennetts feels that women are so incapable of making their own decision and so reliant on doing only what they're told to do that she has to make sure she's doing the telling instead of "The Man." I'm not very keen on taking lifestyle advice from someone that thinks I'm so suggestible that I'll just do whatever I'm told.
So what do you think? Does Bennetts help push forward women's causes or does she limit them?
ETA: Here's a link to the video of the interview. (Thanks Penny!)
Ok, so having seen it, here are my comments...
Watch Bennetts' face VERY closely when Ann makes her comment about women feeling like they are doing what's best for their children when they make the choice to stay home. If she pursed those lips any further, they could put a Coach label on them...
Next, I find it astonishing that she'll completely gloss over all of the risk factors of leaving your children with strangers (NOTE: I am NOT slamming moms that put their kids in day care) and blames the concern on the media and then says that the REAL risk is in staying home and risking your child's future.
She also says that if you can't provide food and shelter for your child at a moment notice (and by that she means if you can't go get a high-wage job tomorrow) then you are letting them down.
Also, am I the only one that watched that and thought that Ann Curry though this woman was full of it?
Labels: Life as a Mom