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Babies are the best ally of male domination

by marco Tue Feb 16th, 2010 at 09:13:42 AM EST

and the belief that all mothers must breast-feed reduces women to the status of an animal species.*

Or so says philosopher and author Élisabeth Badinter in an interview in Libération last week. Sort of.

The French Wikipedia entry on her cites her profession as "femme de lettres et philosophe féministe".  But what is more relevant to me is that she has three children.  I am curious if they took her prisoner, too, when they were babies, or if being an old school "humaniste rationaliste", she was able to dodge that fate.

*A swedish kind of death in his comment below is correct: In hastily writing up this introduction, I was not fair to Badinter, so I added the phrase the belief that all mothers must breast-feed in the first sentence above.


Elisabeth Badinter: «Le modèle de la mère parfaite, un retour en arrière» - Libération (10/02/2010)Elisabeth Badinter: "The model of the perfect mother is a step backwards" - Libération (2010 February 10)
«La femme réduite au chimpanzé»
Dans son livre à paraître vendredi, Elisabeth Badinter dénonce une offensive réactionnaire faisant de la maternité le Saint-Graal de la femme.
"Woman reduced to a chimpanzee"
In a book to be released Friday, Elisabeth Badinter condemns a reactionary offensive that makes motherhood the Holy Grail of being a woman.
Elle parle de «guerre idéologique souterraine», de «retour en force du naturalisme», de «culpabilisation des mères». Pour avoir observé les femmes autour d'elle, scruté les pratiques de la prosélyte Leche League (1) engagée dans une «bataille du lait», épluché les recommandations de certains pédiatres et des théoriciens de «l'instinct maternel», décortiqué le féminisme, Elisabeth Badinter décrit l'émergence d'un nouveau modèle, qui fait de la maternité le coeur de l'identité féminine. Dans son dernier opus intitulé le Conflit, la Femme et la Mère qui paraîtra vendredi chez Flammarion et fait déjà polémique, la philosophe analyse cette menace. Le livre est dédié à «Robert».She talks of an "underground ideological war", of the "strong resurgence of naturalism", of "guilting mothers". Having observed women around her, investigated the practices of Leche League (1) converts engaged in a "milk conflict", dissected the recommendations of certain pediatricians and "maternal instinct" theorists, and peeled feminism open, Elisabeth Badinter describes the emergence of a new model which makes motherhood the core of a new feminine identity. The philosopher analyzes this threat in her latest work titled Le Conflit, la femme et la mère (Conflict, Woman and Mother) which will be released Friday by Flammarion and has already generated controversy. The book is dedicated to "Robert".
Qu'est-ce que la «bonne mère» aujourd'hui ?
C'est une mère qui revient aux fondamentaux. Elle allaite pendant six mois, ne met pas son bébé à la crèche ou pas trop tôt, parce qu'un bébé a besoin d'être avec sa mère et non dans un nid à microbes, elle se méfie de ce qui est artificiel et a des préoccupations écolo. Le petit pot est devenu un signe d'égoïsme, on revient à la purée écrasée par maman. Une bonne mère est constamment à l'écoute doit veiller au bien-être physique et psychologique de l'enfant ; c'est un full time job. J'oublie de dire que comme elle allaite à la demande, il est recommandé de mettre le bébé dans le lit conjugal. Cela nie l'intimité des adultes et exclut le père.
What is a "good mother" today?
She's one who goes back to the fundamentals. She breast-feeds for six months; she doesn't put her baby in a day-care center because a baby needs to be with her mother and not in a nest of germs; she doesn't trust anything artificial and worries about the environment. For her, jarred baby food is a sign of selfishness: we're back to Mommy's mashed purée. A good mother is always there to listen, must watch over the child's physical and psychological well-being; it's a full-time job. I forgot to add, since she breast-feeds on demand, she's supposed to let the baby sleep in the conjugal bed, which quashes intimacy for the parents and freezes out the father.
Il y a aussi un regret à voir la femme quitter son foyer, sa place naturelle est à la maison. On comprend qu'elle doit aller travailler, mais il faut qu'elle se débrouille pour être là quand les enfants arrivent de l'école. La «bonne maternité» impose des nouveaux devoirs qui pèsent sur celles qui ne les suivent pas. C'est une représentation à rebours du modèle qu'on a poursuivi jusqu'à présent, qui rend impossible l'égalité des sexes et malvenue la liberté des femmes. C'est un retour en arrière. Les femmes vont-elles se laisser convaincre de réendosser ce modèle-là ?It has also become objectionable for the woman leaves the home, which is her natural place. We understand if she has to go work, but she has to arrange things so that she is there when the children come back from school. "Good mothering" imposes new obligations on those women that burden those who do not follow them. It's a rearward movement from the model that we've been pursuing up till now, and it makes equality between the sexes and freedom for women impossible. It's a step backwards. Are women going to let themselves be convinced to undertake that ideal again?
Quelle «révolution silencieuse» s'est passée sous nos yeux ces trente dernières années?
La crise économique a rendu le travail plus dur, plus précaire, plus stressant. Les femmes sont les premières touchées : elles ont fait des études, cherchent du travail, sont sous-payées et jetables comme des Kleenex. C'est l'origine du bouleversement. Dans les années 90, la droite a proposé une allocation maternelle qui a renvoyé les femmes à la maison avec comme seul potage un demi-Smic. En même temps, on a assisté à la remise en cause du consumérisme. L'idée s'est imposée qu'on faisait fausse route dans la course aux ambitions inutiles et qu'une autre vie, plus conforme à la nature, était possible. Beaucoup de femmes ont été sensibles à ce discours. Et se sont dit : «Et si je prenais comme objectif de m'occuper de mon petit enfant, bref, d'être la mère idéale ?» Cela s'accompagne d'une critique générale du progrès scientifique, de la science «vendue à l'industrie». On s'est également précipité pour instaurer un principe de précaution. Tout cela a engendré de nouveaux comportements, de nouvelles peurs, propices à un retour aux fondamentaux.
What is the "silent revolution" that has been happening under our eyes these past thirty years?
The economic crisis has made work harder, more unreliable, and more stressful. Women are the first ones affected: they get an education, look for work, are underpaid and get thrown away like Kleenex. That's the starting point of the upheaval. In the 90's, the right proposed maternal benefits that brought women back home with the equivalent of half the minimum wage as their sole compensation. At the same time, consumerism is looked upon more critically. The notion has taken hold that we've been on a blind path in race towards pointless ambitions, and that another life, more compatible with nature, is possible. Many women have been receptive to this view. And so they asked themselves, "What if I made it my [primary] goal to take care of my little child, in short, to be the perfect mother?" Along with this goes an overall criticism of scientific progress, of science "sold to industry". Everyone is suddenly so cautious about everything. All this has created new behaviors, new fears, that lead to a return to fundamentals.
Selon vous, ce contexte a favorisé l'idéologie de la nécessité de l'allaitement maternel.
On est passé de : «Vous avez le droit» d'allaiter, à «Vous devez». Les pressions d'ordre moral ont remplacé un choix légitime, sous la houlette de la Leche League. Je pense que la philosophie naturaliste au nom de laquelle on impose cela est dangereuse. Car elle ne laisse plus de place à l'ambivalence maternelle. Elle impose une conception unifiée des femmes. Nous pouvons toutes, nous devons toutes faire la même chose. C'est une réduction de la femme au statut d'une espèce animale, comme si nous étions toutes des femelles chimpanzés. Puisque c'est la nature qui l'impose : nous avons les mêmes réactions, les mêmes devoirs. La liberté de dire non est évacuée. Pour la Leche League il n'y a pas de prétexte recevable pour refuser d'allaiter, il faut persister. Il n'y a jamais aucun motif de dire non.
According to you, this mood has encouraged the belief that mothers must breast-feed their children.
We've gone from, "You have the right to breast-feed," to, "You have to do it." A mother's legitimate choice has been supplanted by moralistic pressures led promoted by La Leche League. I think the naturalist philosophy in whose name this has been imposed is dangerous. For it leaves no room for diversity in mothering. It forces a monolithic conceptualization of women. We all can do the same thing, we all must do the same thing. It reduces women to the status of an animal species, as if we were all female chimpanzees. Since that is nature's order: we have the same reflexes, the same duties. The freedom to say no is gone. For La Leche League, there is no acceptable excuse for refusing to breast-feed, you just have to go through with it. There are never grounds to say no.
Vous écrivez : «dans une civilisation où le moi d'abord est érigé en principe, la maternité est un défi, voire une contradiction»...
C'est une situation schizophrénique. Ces trente dernières années, on a assisté à une montée de l'individualisme, de l'hédonisme, du moi d'abord. Cela rentre en contradiction avec l'impératif de plus en plus lourd qui est de faire passer l'enfant d'abord : depuis que les femmes bénéficient de la contraception, on doit tout à l'enfant qui n'a pas demandé à naître, comme allaiter à la demande. Sous-entendu celles qui ne le font pas sont coupables, égoïstes. De la montée de l'individualisme et de l'accroissement des devoirs maternels naît ce conflit interne à chaque femme et qui a aussi des conséquences sociales fantastiques. Car les sociétés oublient que les femmes possèdent une petite bombe atomique : celle de ne pas faire d'enfant. En Allemagne, Italie, Espagne, quand la société fait peser sur les épaules de la femme tout le poids de la maternité sans l'aider, les femmes font moins d'enfants ou pas du tout.
You write: "in a civilization where Me first is established as a principle, motherhood is a challenge, a contradiction even"...
It's a schizophrenic situation. These last thirty years, we have seen an increase in individualism, of hedonism, of Me first. This runs into conflict with an ever heavier demand to put the child first: eversince contraception has been available to women, we have to give everything to the child who never asked to be born, such as breast-feeding on demand. It goes without saying that those who don't are guilty, selfish. Between the rise in individualism and the increase in maternal duties, an internal conflict has emerged in each woman, with enormous social consequences. For society forgets that women possess a little atomic bomb: that of not having children. In Germany, Italy, Spain, when society forces a woman to bear the entire burden of being a mother without helping her, women have fewer children or none at all.
Selon vous, une «offensive naturaliste» est menée par une «sainte alliance des réactionnaires». Laquelle ?
Il y a une coagulation de l'écologie, de la Leche League, du féminisme naturaliste et du discours des spécialistes du comportement qui s'appuient les uns sur les autres. Le plus intéressant est de voir comment les militantes de la Leche League et les féministes différentialistes se sont retrouvées pour revaloriser la maternité, et en faire le coeur de l'identité féminine. Ces féministes veulent construire une société plus apaisée grâce aux vertus maternelles, dont les valeurs sont opposées au machisme. Les militantes de la Leche League pensent que la femme est naturellement mère, c'est donc un retour à une tradition millénaire. Mais les deux mouvements ont fait un bout de chemin ensemble et se sont emparés des théories du «lien» qui donnent aux hormones du maternage un rôle déterminant. Pour eux, l'amour maternel est la conséquence de nos hormones.
According to you, a "naturalist offensive" is being led by a "holy alliance of the reactionaries". Namely?
Environmentalism, La Leche League, naturalist feminism and behavior specialists have started to hang together and support one another. The most interesting to watch is how Leche League activists and essentialist feminists have embraced each other to reaffirm the value of motherhood, and to make it the core of feminine identity. These feminists want to build a gentler society through maternal virtues, with values they oppose to machoism. Leche League activists think that a woman is naturally a mother, thus going back to an age-old tradition. But the two movements have come some way together and have seized on "attachment" theories that give mothering hormones a decisive role. For them, motherly love is the result of our hormones.
Quels sont les signes de la maternité écolo ?
Le meilleur exemple est celui des couches jetables. C'est tout à fait révélateur d'un état d'esprit que je redoute. Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet a proposé une taxe sur les couches jetables, sans se soucier du travail que cela impose aux mères. Et contrairement à ce que pense Cécile Duflot, ce ne sont pas les hommes qui vont se précipiter en rentrant du travail pour aller mettre les couches à la machine. De même, il y a une méfiance vis-à-vis de la péridurale comme si en ôtant la souffrance, elle ôtait la valeur authentique et originelle de la naissance. La pilule est mal vue, car elle contrecarre un processus naturel. De même, il faut donner à l'enfant les fruits de la nature, lui épargner l'artificiel, le chimique, comme le lait artificiel.
What does environmentalist mothering look like?
The best example is disposable diapers. This illustrates exactly the sort of mindset that scares me. Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet[, French Minister of State for Forward Planning, Assessment of Public Policies and Development of the Digital Economy,] has proposed a tax on disposable diapers, without worrying about the extra work that this will impose on mothers. And contrary to what [French Green Party leader] Cécile Duflot thinks, it won't be men who will hurry home from work to put all the diapers in the washing machine. Likewise, epidural anesthesia has come under suspicion, as if taking away the pain also takes away the act of childbirth's primal and authentic value. Likewise, we have to offer children the fruits of nature, sparing them from all that is artificial or chemical, such as artificial milk.
Pour vous le bébé est devenu «le meilleur allié de la domination masculine».
Le pauvre bébé, malgré lui, tient sa mère prisonnière : la mère est au service des besoins de son enfant, elle doit se plier à ses horaires, il trône parfois dans le lit conjugal. C'est la mère la plus impliquée, cela donne au père l'autorisation morale de ne pas s'en mêler. Les hommes n'ont même pas eu à lever le petit doigt. Le bébé est devenu le maître et il justifie l'inégalité du partage parental. L'exclusion des pères est ainsi légitimée, alors que de plus en plus de jeunes pères éprouvent du plaisir à s'occuper de leur bébé.
According to you, babies have become "the best ally of male domination".
Small as they are, babies hold their mothers prisoners: a mother is at the beck and call of her child, she has to accomodate herself to the child's schedule, who sometimes gets to be prince/ss in the conjugal bed. Since the mother is the most implicated in the care of the child, the father is morally excused from not getting involved. Men don't have to lift a finger. The baby has become the master and justifies the unequal sharing of parental responsibilities. The exclusion of the father is thus legitimized, even though more and more young fathers experience pleasure in taking care of their babies.
Je crois que le thermomètre de la domination masculine demeure l'écart de salaire homme-femme. Or il y a une hypocrisie à gémir sur les écarts salariaux et en même temps à détourner les yeux de l'inégalité majeure : celle de la non-répartition des tâches familiales et domestiques, qui continue à occasionner une concurrence déloyale entre homme et femme. Les hommes sont pardonnés par avance de continuer à ne rien faire à la maison.I believe the measure of male domination remains the gap between men's and women's incomes. But it's hypocritical to whine about the income gap while simultaneously turning a blind eye to the larger inequality: not splitting family and household chores, which continues to be an area of unfair competition between man and woman. Men are excused in advance from doing nothing at home.
Comment résoudre ce conflit?
La majorité des Françaises concilie la maternité et la vie professionnelle, elles sont nombreuses à travailler à temps plein quand elles ont un enfant. Elles résistent au modèle de mère parfaite, mais pour combien de temps ? D'autant qu'on assiste à un règlement de comptes entre générations. Certaines filles disent à leurs mères : «Je ne serai pas comme toi à courir entre le travail et les enfants, toujours pressée, et stressée, heurtée au plafond de verre». J'ai l'impression qu'aujourd'hui, on est peut-être à un tournant.
How can this conflict be resolved?
The majority of French women are able to combine being a mother with a professional life; there are many of them who work full-time when they have a child. They still resist the model of the perfect mother -- but for how long? Especially as witness a reckoning between generations. Some girls tell their mothers: "I won't be like you running around between work and children, always hurried, and stressed, blocked by a glass ceiling." I have the impression that today we are at a turning point.
(1) La Leche League (ligue du lait en français) est une association fondée il y a plus de cinquante ans par des mères de famille de la banlieue de Chicago (Etats-Unis) désireuses de faire partager leur expérience positive de l'allaitement. Présente en France depuis 1979 , elle informe et soutient les allaitantes.(1) La Leche League (The Milk League, in English) is an organization founded fifty years ago by mothers of families in the suburbs of Chicago (United States) who wanted to share their positive breast-feeding experiences. Active in France since 1979, the orgnanization offers information and support to nursing mothers.

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On Safari, your text unreadably extends under/over the list to the right and beyond. Suggest you check the html...

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Tue Feb 16th, 2010 at 09:37:38 AM EST
Not anymore. Either he fixed it, or your comment fixed it automatically.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Tue Feb 16th, 2010 at 09:47:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
gk: Either he fixed it, or your comment fixed it automatically.

someone, can we get that in the next version of TribExt?  ;-)

The march of civilizations is a series of defenses that man has put up against the dread of pure existence.

by marco on Tue Feb 16th, 2010 at 10:57:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Magic works better, especially since someone has no time off fighting antimatter beneath the Swiss-French border.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Feb 17th, 2010 at 09:02:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ah, thank god.  i was worried she had come into contact with some antimatter herself.

The march of civilizations is a series of defenses that man has put up against the dread of pure existence.
by marco on Wed Feb 17th, 2010 at 09:28:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not quite... I am still lurking here from time to time, trying to keep up with my reading on Euro crises and oppressive babies!
by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Thu Feb 18th, 2010 at 10:26:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for pointing it out.  Using a table seems to have done the trick.

The march of civilizations is a series of defenses that man has put up against the dread of pure existence.
by marco on Tue Feb 16th, 2010 at 10:54:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
European Tribune - Babies are the best ally of male domination
Or so says philosopher and author Élisabeth Badinter in an interview in Libération last week. Sort of.

Yeah, sort of :)

Though while your introduction might not have been exactly accurate, it did get me reading the piece. So thank you.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Feb 16th, 2010 at 09:55:56 AM EST
A swedish kind of death:Yeah, sort of :)
Though while your introduction might not have been exactly accurate

You're right, thanks.  Fixed it to be sufficiently accurate, I hope.

The march of civilizations is a series of defenses that man has put up against the dread of pure existence.

by marco on Tue Feb 16th, 2010 at 10:59:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was expecting to read her mention the trend of not having children vaccinated for fear of alleged harmful side-effects.  It would seem in line with her comments.

... she [the "good mother"] doesn't trust anything artificial.

... we have to offer children the fruits of nature, sparing them from all that is artificial or chemical, such as artificial milk.

Along with this goes an overall criticism of scientific progress, of science "sold to industry".



The march of civilizations is a series of defenses that man has put up against the dread of pure existence.
by marco on Tue Feb 16th, 2010 at 11:28:40 AM EST
My head hurts now.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Feb 16th, 2010 at 11:40:21 AM EST
i hear that!

i think this woman is confused...

i see her point, but there is a counterargument i think is valid, as a man.

for a start i agree with how men get away with doing less housework, and this is not ok. women always helped men harvest, men should know how to take care of themselves without women.

only then can we afford to go backwards, as she puts it.

knowing how vitally important it is for a baby's immune system to breast feed, society should save itself a whole bunch of trouble and expense down the road, by paying women triple minimum wage to stay home and breastfeed, the best investment in future generations' intelligence, couple with good nutrition counselling for the pregnant women.

not all men would handle staying at home being primary housekeeper/childminder, and i think many women are not cut out for the cut-throat world of men, a world delusionally over-valued right now, while the much more important world of creating future humans the best we can is pretty much left fallow, except for efforst by institutions like la leche league.

money can't buy intelligence later , neither can later education have anything like as strong an effect on a child's future as being breastfed, in a calm, nurturing environment.

right now the prized virtue is cunning, not wisdom, which makes the most cunning of all structure society in a way that women are undervalued, unless they excel in a crossed over reality, that of men.

it's very sad to see.

so i think it's great that women take a step back, and concentrate on doing what they do best, ie raising children, a far too important job to be as outsourced as it presently is.

what stops this from being just a regression from a career woman's pov, is the awareness that men actually need to understand and flow with the feminine psyche much more than women need to learn to be carly fiorina/hillary types.

we've got more than enough men doing that already...

we should lower the birth rate, and concentrate on raising kids better, with the help of both parents.

i don't agree with her pov at all, except for the bit i mentioned before about men needing to see house duties more equally, especially since thanks to machines, mens' work is a lot less arduous these days, while as we men know who learn to keep house, it's darn hard work, even with modern apps.

the whole part of feminism devoted to making men out of women is a massive fail, so some new visions of how women better interface with the world, so skewed in the male ego's favour right now.

very generous maternity leave for both sexes, more parenting attention to (and examples of) egalitarianism, equal pay for the labour market are all essential. it's not backward if we take care of those aspects, for which women are equally responsible for raising a different kind of man.

which they are, thank the fsm. this woman wants to strip more femininity from women, condemn children to under par childhoods, and all because she thinks that's what will help the womens' movement.

the only ways it will, are to put more women into positions of power, which is certainly a good thing per se, but as berlusconi is showing, doesn't really guarantee real change, and while having more women as 'deciders' is a good thing, it needs to be done in balance with respect for traditional womens' (prefeminist) values, which feminism has often thrown under the bus, in the hurry to become 'more equal'.

it's 'both-and', not 'either-or', methinks.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Feb 16th, 2010 at 02:53:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
melo: it's 'both-and', not 'either-or', methinks.

i agree.  reading this single interview, i was put off by Badinter's very dualistic, very black-and-white language, pitting breast-feeding mothers against non-breast-feeders, men against women, children against mothers and fathers.  Badinter is obviously not a stupid woman, so this sort of self-indulgent rhetoric is unbecoming and intellectually dishonest.  all the more so since

1.  she in fact does raise some valid and important issues that are worth discussing

and

2.  when you read and listen to her beyond this interview, she reveals herself not to be so binary and simplistic, but more complex and nuanced in her opinions.

so it's a pity that she she comes across as idée fixée as the ideological opponents she caricatures in this piece.

The march of civilizations is a series of defenses that man has put up against the dread of pure existence.

by marco on Wed Feb 17th, 2010 at 02:12:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
She does, but I'm not sure what those points are.

Is she saying that women have no maternal instincts, and that if they do have feelings, those feelings are irrational, created entirely by social pressure, and incorrect?

As opposed to - say - pressure to be 'scientific', 'productive' and 'consumerist', which is inherently good, right, noble, and so on, and therefore isn't pressure at all, but is actually a form of enlightened self-determination?

She really does seem to be arguing that women have no more responsibility for the welfare of their children than they decide they want to have - which seems like an entirely extreme position.

Never mind the irony of someone with a huge holding in an ad factory arguing against social pressure.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Feb 17th, 2010 at 01:25:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy: Never mind the irony of someone with a huge holding in an ad factory arguing against social pressure.

Yes, and Daniel Schneidermann's comment on that score is right on the mark.

ThatBritGuy: She does, but I'm not sure what those points are.

From the book review I quoted below:

"Le conflit : la femme et la mère" d'Elisabeth Badinter - En aparté"Conflict : Woman and Mother" d'Elisabeth Badinter - En aparté
Ce contre quoi elle s'insurge :
- la tyrannie de la maternité pour se définir comme femme,
- la tyrannie de la mère parfaite : "la barque de la maternité est aujourd'hui chargée de trop d'attentes, de contraintes, d'obligations. Il y a péril tant pour la femme et le couple que pour le lien social".
- l'idéologie de la Leche League ("les oukases des ayatollah de l'aillaitement")
- l'idéologie du naturalisme, qui a resurgi avec la crise économique. Cette approche qui fait de la biologie et de la nature le socle de toutes les vertus et qui condamne plus ou moins la pilule contraceptive, les petits pots tout préparés, la péridurale, les couches jetables, etc. "La nature devient un argument décisif pour imposer ou dispenser des conseils. Elle est devenue une référence éthique difficilement critiquable, auprès de laquelle le reste fait grise mine. A elle seule, elle incarne le Bon, le Beau et le Vrai chers à Platon. La philosophie naturaliste détient le pouvoir suprême de culpabilisation, capable de changer les moeurs."
- l'existence de l'instinct maternel. "L'environnement, les pressions sociales, l'itinéraire psychologique semblent toujours peser plus lourd que la faible voix de "notre mère Nature" selon elle.
- certains pédiatres "réactionnaires" telles qu'Edwige Antier (pour rappel, j'avais consacré un billet à son dernier livre "Le courage des femmes").
What she decries:
- the tyranny of motherhood in defining oneself as a woman
- the tyranny of the perfect mother: "Today the raft of motherhood has been loaded with too many expectations, constraints and obligations. There is a danger for both the woman and the couple as well as for the social bond"
- the ideology of La Leche League ("the fatwas of the ayatollah of breast-feeding")
- the ideology of naturalism, which has re-emerged with the economic crisis. This trend which makes biology and nature the basis of all virtues and that more or less condemns the contraceptive pill, jars of pre-made baby food, epidural anesthesia, disposable diapers, etc. "Nature becomes the final authority for laying down or giving out advice. It's become an ethical framework that is difficult to criticize, next to which all else looks dour. Only nature can embody Plato's cherished Good, Beauty and Truth. Naturalist philosophy wields the supreme power to guiltify [if that's not a word, it should be], capable of changing attitude/habits/lifestyles/morals."
- the existence of the maternal instinct. Environment, social pressures, and personal experiences always seem to carry more weight than the feeble voice of "our Mother Nature", according to her.
- certain "reactionary" pediatricians like Edwige Antier (reminder: I dedicated a post to her last book, Women's Courage").
Ce qu'elle estime important et à défendre :
- la variété des désirs et des styles de vie féminins,
- la possibilité de concilier son rôle de mère et ses désirs de femme,
- le fait qu'être une femme ne doit pas se résumer au fait d'être mère,
- l'ambivalence de l'amour maternel et la possibilité de l'exprimer,
What she deems important and in need of defending:
- the diversity of women's desires and lifestyles
- the possibility of reconciling the role of the mother and the desires of the woman
- the fact of being a woman should not be limited to the fact of being a mother
- the multifacetedness of maternal love and the ways of expressing it


The march of civilizations is a series of defenses that man has put up against the dread of pure existence.
by marco on Wed Feb 17th, 2010 at 02:17:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's a fairly simple dialectic when you consider it. Cultural preferences towards being a "good"/"natural" mother lead to women staying behind in the current society, so these cultural preferences should be attenuated in order for men and women can be more equal.

It's an object lesson in picking the wrong enemies.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Feb 17th, 2010 at 05:11:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
read to be... should stop editing my sentences...
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Feb 17th, 2010 at 05:38:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
marco, change the title to "Dati's Revenge".

Of 21,00 births registered in Paris in 1780, only 5 percent of them were nursed by their own mothers. It is a riveting statistic that has come to characterize an era, France's "heyday of wet-nursing." The numbers provided evidence of maternal indifference on a massive scale and today are often held up as the prime exhibit in the case against the existence of maternal instincts in the human species [!]. But I don't think that's what they actually prove.

These much-cited numbers derive from Lieutenant-General Charles-Pierre LeNoi, a police official whose job it was to monitor the referral bureaus used by working parents to locate wet nurses who failed to live up to the terms of their contracts [!], as well as registering the disappearance of infants lost in the shuffle.

Of the 20,000 babie nursed by women other than their mothers, the luckiest 25 percent were born to propertied parents who placed their children directly with wet nursed. Often such elites would rely on rural tenants or other contacts to find acceptable candidates.... The unluckiest 25 percent of babies were delegated to foundling homes as described in chapter 12. It was upt to these institutions to locate someone to feed them, if they could.

The remaining wet-nursed babies were mostly born to the middle-class --artisans, shopkeepers, or traders. These were the "Bourgeoise de Paris," but often only barely. Within this social class, a mother's salary or her upaid labor was critical for the family's economic well-being. Typically such motheres were neither unmarried nor distitute. They relied on professional intermediaries to find wet nurses for their babies. Hence the edge to the feminist query raised by philosopher Elisabeth Badinter in Mother Love: Myth and Reality. If such a thing as maternal instict exists, how could so many thousands of mothers be so unfeeling as to ship their newborns off to be suckled by an unknown woman?

Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, Mother Nature, a history of mothers, infants and natural selection (1999).

The section on infanticide's pretty amusing, too.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Tue Feb 16th, 2010 at 12:16:31 PM EST
Fascinating, almost unbelievable, passage.  I wonder if there is any evidence of other times and places where breast-feeding was "outsourced" to such a degree in a population.

Actually, looking for any remarks about Rachida Dati that Elisabeth (as opposed to her husband Robert) Badinter might have made, I came upon a very interesting recent interview of Hrdy in BibliObs from February 12.  In it she is asked to comment at length about Badinter and her new book, and her responses not only resonated with my own (layperson's) take on "maternal instinct", but they address the very phenomenon described in the passage you quote above:

Une chercheuse américaine répond à Elisabeth Badinter - «Le comportement maternel a une base biologique»An American researcher responds to Elisabeth Badinter - "Maternal behavior has a biological basis"

BibliObs.- Trente après avoir remis en cause l'existence de l'instinct maternel, Elisabeth Badinter récidive. [-> « La femme n'est pas un chimpanzé »]. Elle explique par ailleurs que, de nos jours, des pressions s'exercent pour que l'enfant soit remis au centre de la vie féminine et présente l'allaitement comme une aliénation, voire une régression. Elle parle aussi d'une «offensive naturaliste»...

BibliObs.- Thirty years after questioning the existence of the maternal instinct, Elisabeth Badinter is at it again. [=> "Women are not chimpanzees"]. She also explains that these days there are pressures to put children in the center of a woman's life, and she depicts breast-feeding as a sort of alienation, even a regression. She also speaks of a "naturalist offensive"...

Sarah Blaffer Hrdy.- J'ai lu le premier ouvrage d'Elisabeth Badinter sur la maternité avec un grand intérêt et non sans une certaine admiration. Néanmoins, je ne suis pas d'accord avec sa théorie selon laquelle il n'y aurait aucun fondement naturel et biologique pour expliquer le comportement maternel. Bien sur qu'il y en a! Cependant les critiques de Badinter, sa conviction qu'il existe un dogme déterministe et biologique bien trop simpliste m'a aidé à clarifier ma propre pensée. De ce point de vue, nous pouvons apprendre l'une de l'autre. Une grande partie du problème vient de la façon dont le terme «instinct maternel» a été utilisé. On l'a parfois perçu comme une sorte d'interrupteur qu'il suffirait d'activer ou non, comme pour allumer la lumière.

Sarah Blaffer Hrdy.- I've read Elisabeth Badinter's first work on motherhood with great interest and not without a certain admiration. However, I do not agree with her theory according to which there is no natural and biological foundation to explain maternal behavior. Of course there is! Despite criticisms of Badinter, her belief that there is a far too simplistic deterministic and biological dogma has helped me to clarify my own thinking. From this point of view, we can learn from one another. A large part of the problem comes from the way that the term "maternal instinct has been used". We've sometimes looked at like some sort of switch that we just need to activate or not, as if to turn on a light.

La réalité c'est qu'au cours de la grossesse, se met en place une chaîne de changements physiologiques considérables et qu'à la naissance, des neurotransmetteurs comme l'ocytocine sont libérés, qui favorisent la transformation de la mère. Si elle se trouve dans un contact intime et prolongé avec ce petit étranger sorti d'elle, ses circuits neuronaux se modifient et l'encouragent à répondre aux signaux et aux demandes émis par son enfant. Une fois que la mère commence à allaiter (dans les 70 heures environ suivant la naissance) et que le bébé stimule ses tétons, elle devient encore plus nourricière.

The reality is that during the course of pregnancy, a series of considerable physiological changes takes place, and that during childbirth neurotransmitters like oxytocin are released, triggering a transformation in the mother. If she finds herself in close and prolonged contact with the little stranger that has come out of her, her neural circuits get modified and and encourage her to respond to signals and demands from the child. Once the mother has started breast-feeding (within about 70 jours following childbirth) and the baby stimulates her nipples, she provides even more milk.

L'expérience aussi joue un rôle important pour «l'apprentissage de mère», comme c'est le cas pour tous les primates, mais surtout pour l'espèce humaine. Pour des raisons profondément liées à l'évolution, les réponses maternelles de la femelle humaine sont dépendantes du contexte social et particulièrement du soutien qu'elle va recevoir au non. On observe que les femelles humaines ont besoin d'un soutien plus important que tout autre mammifère. Et il ne faut pas oublier que bon nombre des femmes «abandonnantes» sur lesquelles Badinter a disserté de manière très virulentes, ces mères qui au XVIIIème siècle donnaient  leurs enfants à de vagues nourrices, étaient éloignées de leur bébé juste après la naissance. On ne laissait presqu'aucune d'elles s'occuper de son nourrisson.

Experience also plays an important role in "training the mother", as is the case for all primates, but especially for the human species. For reasons closely tied to evolution, the maternal responses of the female human are dependent on the social context and particularly on the support that she receives or not. We've learned that female humans need more support than any other mammal. And we mustn't forget that a good number of "abandoning" women about whom Badinter has spoken in very scathingly, these mothers who during the 18th century, handed their children to unknown wetnurses, had been separated from their babies right after childbirth. Hardly any of them were allowed to take care of their newborns.

De plus, si vous envisagez la longue histoire de l'évolution  humaine comme une sorte de coopérative de maternage - qui incluent pères, mères, oncles, grands-mères, frères et soeurs plus âgés- où chacun aide la mère à s'occuper du petit et à le nourrir, vous réalisez qu'une mère qui manque d'un tel support social n'a aucune chance d'élever ses enfants avec succès. L'abandon à la naissance était donc une réponse parfaitement naturelle pour les femmes privées de soutien. Proclamer que ces femmes n'ont pas d'instinct maternel parce que dans de telles conditions - arrachement du bébé à la naissance et manque de soutien- le lien avec l'enfant ne s'est pas mis en place, c'est mal interpréter les réalités biologiques complexes de l'amour maternel et l'ambivalence de l'espèce humaine.

Moreover, if you look at the long history of human evolution as sort of child rearing cooperative that includes fathers, mothers, uncles, grandmothers, older brothers and sisters, where everyone helps the mother take care of and feed the kids, you realize that a mother who lacks that kind of support has no chance to raise her kids successfully. To claim that these women have no maternal instinct because in such conditions -- having the baby torn away from her right after childbirth and lack of support -- the connection with the child has not been made, is to misinterpret the complex biological realities of maternal love and the diversity of the human species.

If you read French (or can cope with Google Translate's rough and ready efforts), the entire interview is quite good.  (BibliObs is apparently the literary supplement of Le Nouvel Observateur.)

The march of civilizations is a series of defenses that man has put up against the dread of pure existence.

by marco on Tue Feb 16th, 2010 at 06:49:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Forgot to mention that Hrdy's responses were translated from English into French, and the above English version of her words is a re-translation from that translated French back into English.  So the English above is most definitely not what Hrdy originally said, but hopefully the discrepancies are not too large.

The march of civilizations is a series of defenses that man has put up against the dread of pure existence.
by marco on Tue Feb 16th, 2010 at 07:08:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Brilliant! So glad you pursued their relation to each other. The excerpt is a fair translation. There's more to the political conflict the two "feminists" represent of course not simply La Leche League hysteria but I must return to comment.

I'm in the middle of my zen bath. I just finished reading Theory of Business Enterprise.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.

by Cat on Wed Feb 17th, 2010 at 09:55:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I believe the measure of male domination remains the gap between men's and women's incomes. But it's hypocritical to whine about the income gap while simultaneously turning a blind eye to the larger inequality: not splitting family and household chores, which continues to be an area of unfair competition between man and woman. Men are excused in advance from doing nothing at home.

Because the extra hours men are spending at work instead are an example of freedom and human expression?

Anyone that views gender relations as zero-sum needs to be ignored.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Tue Feb 16th, 2010 at 08:07:44 PM EST
MillMan: Anyone that views gender relations as zero-sum needs to be ignored.

Yes, well, the French media does not seem to think so.  Au contraire.

Also, as I commented above in response to melo, her positions are not as willfully simplistic as they come across in this interview (perhaps a tactic to be provocative, draw attention and sell her book), and in fact, I think she is raising some legitimate and substantive points that merit fruitful discussion, e.g. the personal and financial investment that raising children involves in modern society, the division of labor between parents in households with children, the impact of children on spousal relationships.  These are perennial issues, but with changing cultural winds (that Badinter alludes to, and generally attacks) and economic circumstances, they take on a renewed relevance.

The march of civilizations is a series of defenses that man has put up against the dread of pure existence.

by marco on Wed Feb 17th, 2010 at 02:19:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
perhaps a tactic to be provocative, draw attention and sell her book

Every time we discuss the actions of media trolls like Pat Robertson or Élisabeth Badinter we're tacitly accepting their narratives even if we disagree with their content - and we're tacitly accepting the level of discourse too. And yes, she is a troll - it doesn't matter how nuanced and rational her arguments are outside of this interview.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Wed Feb 17th, 2010 at 03:45:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
MillMan: And yes, she is a troll - it doesn't matter how nuanced and rational her arguments are outside of this interview.

If you are going to accuse somebody of being a troll, media or otherwise, I think you should offer an explanation for your accusation.  (Getting lots of interviews in the media, through conventional channels or through backdoor connections, to sell your book, does not count as "media trolling".  And needless to say, advocating opinions that one disagrees with or finds offensive does not automatically make someone a troll.)

I had never heard of "journalist/media critic" Daniel Schneidermann before afew posted his comment below, but he (Schneidermann) for one does not believe Badinter to be a troll:

Badinter's constance is a testimony to the sincerity of her convictions.


The march of civilizations is a series of defenses that man has put up against the dread of pure existence.
by marco on Wed Feb 17th, 2010 at 03:58:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think you're off beam there. Badinter is a more respectable thinker than that. She doesn't belong in the same breath as Pat Robertson.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Feb 17th, 2010 at 06:24:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
afew: She doesn't belong in the same breath as Pat Robertson.

A more apt comparison would probably be the one invited by Schneidermann, i.e. to Bernard-Henri Lévy.

The march of civilizations is a series of defenses that man has put up against the dread of pure existence.

by marco on Wed Feb 17th, 2010 at 11:20:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In the moral sense, maybe - but in terms of who the media allows access to the pulpit, they're equivalent. Both voices are promoted over far more reasonable voices from the theological world and feminist world. People I've never heard of because they don't sell advertisement space.

Especially on a site like this, where we can promote such people, why, Marco, are you promoting someone who already has elite access (as TBG pointed out) to the media?

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Wed Feb 17th, 2010 at 12:52:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Or alternatively, why did you quote this interview rather than a summary of her more cogent arguments?

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Wed Feb 17th, 2010 at 12:56:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Quite simply, that interview was the first I had ever heard of Badinter.  I did not even realize that she was all over the place in the French media until after I posted the diary.

In response to your previous message:  We often post articles/essays, etc. by people we disagree with here, in many cases to "deconstruct" them.  In fact, it is the very prominence that is one reason to discuss them here, in order to provide a forum analyze, and as the case may be, rebut their messages.

I am not promoting Badinter in the sense of advocating what she says or writes.  I have mixed feelings and am still learning about what she is saying.  But as I wrote below in response to afew, some of the issues she raised struck a chord with me, and I had not heard them discussed so overtly in the MSM before.  Part of the reason I wrote the diary was to see if others might be able to shed some light on her views and writings.  

The march of civilizations is a series of defenses that man has put up against the dread of pure existence.

by marco on Wed Feb 17th, 2010 at 01:06:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Apparently the daughter of the founder of:

Publicis - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Publicis Groupe (Euronext: PUB) is a French multinational advertising and communications company. It is one of the big four global advertising holding companies (the others being Omnicom, Interpublic and WPP). Its current president is Maurice Lévy. Publicis Groupe S.A. provides traditional advertising, media services, and specialized agencies and marketing services SAMS) to national and multinational clients. Its traditional advertising services principally involve the creation of advertising for products, services, and brands. It also include strategic planning involving analysis of a product, service, or brand compared to its competitors through market research, sociological and psychological studies, and creative insight.

I thought I'd mention that in passing, in case it might seem relevant.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Feb 16th, 2010 at 09:14:37 PM EST
ThatBritGuy: I thought I'd mention that in passing, in case it might seem relevant.

Yeah, I noted that as well, but decided not to point it out for the time being in the hopes of seeing a discussion focusing on the substance of her remarks.  Having said that, the relevance of personal background is a continuum, and I myself felt that her having three children was relevant enough to point out in the introduction.

In any case, since there is not much discussion going on anyway, no harm in discussing her Publicis connection.  Which might, I would venture to guess, partly explain why she has cropped up in multiple prominent journals recently:  besides this Libération interview, there is this interview -- The Undoing of Mothers -- in L'Express; another interivew -- Women are not chimpanzees -- in BibliObs; the literary supplement to the Nouvel Observateur, yet another interview -- Elisabeth Badinter : "Let us stop having a single notion of the fair sex" -- in Le Monde; and an article -- Elisabeth Badinter at war against the tyranny of mothers -- in Le Point.  She definitely knows how to make a splash.  Might she have used her Publicis connections (not only as daughter of the founder, but 10% stock owner and member of Publicis' conseil de surveillance (not sure if that is "supervisory board" or "board of trustees", but in either case, it implies a fairly hefty position)?  Was her impressive media splash facilitated by the fact that she is married to a high-profile French ... politician (who incidentally got into the media himself recently in a tiff with Rachida Dati)?  All speculation, but indeed possibly very relevant to her desire to sell her new book.

The march of civilizations is a series of defenses that man has put up against the dread of pure existence.

by marco on Wed Feb 17th, 2010 at 02:01:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Morning billet by email from journalist/media critic Daniel Schneidermann last week:

Démarrant quelques jours après le déferlement BHL, il faut se préparer à subir un déferlement Badinter (Elizabeth). La philosophe publiant un livre, France Inter lui ouvre, aujourd'hui jeudi, toute son antenne, de l'interview du matin, au Téléphone sonne du soir. Pour un jour, France Inter devient Radio Badinter, promouvant la pensée badinterienne au statut de pensée officielle. Si l'on comprend bien son interview chez Demorand, Badinter proteste aujourd'hui contre l'injonction implicite, qui serait faite aux mères depuis le début de la crise, de rentrer à la maison, de renoncer à travailler, d'allaiter leurs enfants, de leur préparer des brocolis bio plutôt que de leur servir des petits pots tout préparés, et de revenir aux couches lavables, de préférence aux couc hes jetables (non biodégradables certes, mais dont l'invention, selon Badinter, marqua un progrès décisif de l'émanciupation féminine).A few days after the BHL wave, we have to face a Badinter (Elizabeth) wave. The philosopher is publishing a book, so France Inter offers her its airwaves today, from the morning interview to the evening phone-in show. For a day, France Inter becomes Radio Badinter, promoting Badinterian thought to official status. If we're right about what she said in her interview with Demorand, Badinter is protesting today against the implicit injunction allegedly aimed at mothers since the crisis began, to go back home, give up work, breastfeed their children, cook them organic broccoli rather than serve up ready-made from little jars, and go back to washable nappies rather than throwaways (perhaps not biodegradable, but according to Badinter a decisive progress in feminine emancipation).
Pourquoi pas ? Il faut débattre de tout. On a parfaitement le droit d'opposer l'écologie au féminisme, les droits des femmes à ceux de la nature, et de fouiller, entre les deux, des oppositions ou des contradictions. On a parfaitement le droit de soutenir que l'émancipation féminine passe par le travail. Mais une petite chose est gênante, à chaque retour de Badinter sur la scène publique. Un détail. Trois fois rien. Mais tout de même. Une de ses "casquettes", comme on dit, n'est jamais rappelée par les intervieweurs fascinés (et encore pas par Demorand, en préalable à son interview de ce matin) : outre son estimable activité de philosophe et d'écrivain, Elizabeth Badinter, fille et héritière de Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet, fondateur de Publicis, est aujourd'hui la deuxième actionnaire, et la présidente du conseil de surveillance de la multinationale publicitaire.Why not? We should debate about averything. A person has a perfect right to oppose ecology and feminism, women's rights and those of nature, and to work out oppositions and contradictions between the two. And there's a perfect right to argue that feminine emancipation comes about through work. But one little thing is niggling, each time Badinter comes back on to the public stage. A detail. A tiny one, but all the same. One of her "hats", as they say, is never mentioned by her fascinated interviewers (and not by Demorand in his interview intro this morning): beyond her highly considered activity as a philosopher and writer, Elizabeth Badinter, daughter and heiress of Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet, founder of Publicis, is today the second biggest shareholder, and chair of the Supervisory Board of the advertising multinational.
Cela ne la prive évidemment pas du droit de penser, et d'écrire. On peut régner sur les pages en quadrichromie des magazines, sur les affiches porno soft des abribus, et faire profession de philosopher sur l'émancipation féminine. On peut, et  la constance de Badinter témoigne de la sincérité de ses convictions. Mais ce double statut a toujours généré, dans la production philosophique badinterienne, un point aveugle : la violence de l'injonction publicitaire faite aux femmes. Crême-toi matin et soir, épile-toi pour ressembler aux actrices porno, sois aussi mince que les squelettes que tu vois défiler dans les pages mode, et consomme, consomme, consomme, achète, fais chauffer le chéquier, pour être enfin parfaitement, totalement libérée. Vu de ma fenêtre de matinaute mâle, cette injonction-là, qui se déploie à chaque dos de kiosque, à chaque coin de rue, semble au moins aussi terroriste que l'injonction à rentrer à la maison, et à revenir aux couches lavables. Mais Badinter, philosophe publicitaire, ne la voit pas.
That obviously doesn't remover her right to think and write. One may reign over the glossy colour pages of the magazines and the soft porn posters on bus-stop shelters, and profess to be a philosopher of feminine emancipation. Yes, one may - and Badinter's constance is a testimony to the sincerity of her convictions. But this dual status has always created, in Badinter's philosophic output, a blind spot: the violence of the advertising injunction aimed at women. Cream up morning and evening, depilate to look like a porn-star, be as thin as the skeletons you see catwalking through the fashion pages, and consume, consume, consume, buy, heat up the cheque-book, so you can be at last perfectly, totally free. Seen from my male morning Internet window, that injunction, plain to see behind each news-stand, on every corner of the street, seems at least as terroristic as the injunction to go home and go back to washable nappies. But Badinter, advertising philosopher, doesn't see it.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Feb 17th, 2010 at 02:56:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's a tricky game to second-guess the biases, interests and ulterior motives of the author, whether conscious or unconscious, as Schneider concedes:

Cela ne la prive évidemment pas du droit de penser, et d'écrire. On peut régner sur les pages en quadrichromie des magazines, sur les affiches porno soft des abribus, et faire profession de philosopher sur l'émancipation féminine. On peut, et  la constance de Badinter témoigne de la sincérité de ses convictions.That obviously doesn't remove her right to think and write. One may reign over the glossy colour pages of the magazines and the soft porn posters on bus-stop shelters, and profess to be a philosopher of feminine emancipation. Yes, one may - and Badinter's constance is a testimony to the sincerity of her convictions.

But since we are already going there, I have to admit that Schneider's emphasis on the the violence of the advertising injunction aimed at women (the dark works of Publicis, we are meant to infer) did cast Badinter's comments in the following passage in a new light for me:

En même temps, on a assisté à la remise en cause du consumérisme. L'idée s'est imposée qu'on faisait fausse route dans la course aux ambitions inutiles et qu'une autre vie, plus conforme à la nature, était possible. Beaucoup de femmes ont été sensibles à ce discours. Et se sont dit : «Et si je prenais comme objectif de m'occuper de mon petit enfant, bref, d'être la mère idéale ?» Cela s'accompagne d'une critique générale du progrès scientifique, de la science «vendue à l'industrie». On s'est également précipité pour instaurer un principe de précaution. Tout cela a engendré de nouveaux comportements, de nouvelles peurs, propices à un retour aux fondamentaux.At the same time, consumerism is looked upon more critically. The notion has taken hold that we've been on a blind path in race towards pointless ambitions, and that another life, more compatible with nature, is possible. Many women have been receptive to this view. And so they asked themselves, "What if I made it my [primary] goal to take care of my little child, in short, to be the perfect mother?" Along with this goes an overall criticism of scientific progress, of science "sold to industry". Everyone is suddenly so cautious about everything. All this has created new behaviors, new fears, that lead to a return to fundamentals.


The march of civilizations is a series of defenses that man has put up against the dread of pure existence.
by marco on Wed Feb 17th, 2010 at 03:43:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, I meant Schneidermann.

The march of civilizations is a series of defenses that man has put up against the dread of pure existence.
by marco on Wed Feb 17th, 2010 at 03:50:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I think she's definitely opposing ecology to progress, as some on the left do wrt economic and social questions. Progress for her is associated with consumerism and scientism (as in, once an expert committee has said something is good for you or does not harm the environment, that is all you need to know). And she's equating any questioning of those two -isms with regression on the front of women's emancipation. It's not so much men she's targeting as green and anti-consumer society thinking.

So the fact that she's in the French Fortune 500 thanks to an international advertising major does kind of jar.

I say this with considerable respect for her and, my word, her husband, one of the best in the French political world, and the pilot of capital punishment abolition in the '80s.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Feb 17th, 2010 at 06:21:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It doesn't so much jar as - let's say - put a new light on her arguments.

Effectively she's arguing that women shouldn't be stay at home mom-chimps, but should be happy corporate and capitalist worker bees instead.

Well, okay. Is that really a feminist argument, or even a progressive one?

The fact that she has connections who stand to profit from her position is surely coincidental.

I agree that comparing her to Pat Robertson is something of a stretch. But coming at this as someone who has never heard of her before, I don't think it's unreasonable to suggest that she's really preaching a kind of industrial capitalist evangelism, and pretending - not very convincingly - that it's the only acceptable form of personal empowerment.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Feb 17th, 2010 at 07:28:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the perspective and clarifications.

afew: Progress for her is associated with consumerism and scientism

Would she come out and say that publicly?  If not, is it something that she would admit to herself?  So out of step with the times are these -isms ("consumerism" and "scientism"), it seems to me, that ironically it is much of her own views that seem to be un retour en arrière.

Having said that, I wonder if she has a valid point insofar as she identifies extremists whose green/ anti-technology/anti-consumerist proselytizing goes too far, pressuring and seducing with new ideologies, even new mythologies, that are not based in reality/reason/evidence.  For example, biofuels were touted briefly but widely by the media as a clean and sustainable form of energy.  But various problems with these, most significantly, environmental and health problems, seem to have killed the trendiness of biofuels -- which, were they to continue to be embraced, might have significant adverse effects on the planet.  In the case of biofuels, reason and evidence seem to have prevailed.  Maybe Badinter is concerned that reason and evidence are ceding to romanticized ideals and over-simplification when it comes to other issues that bear on women's well-being directly: e.g. how much control and freedom they have over own time (wash reusable cloth diapers or use disposable ones, breast-feed or use baby formula, jarred food or home-made purée, etc.), what professional alternatives they have (have kids or not, give up work or stay at work, ask husband to give up work or give up work herself), and so on.  And in some cases, the consequences can be quite serious, as in refusing to have their children vaccinated on fears that they will result in bad side-effects (e.g. concerns that autism can be caused by the MMR vaccine).  I hear these conversations, debates, and fights happening privately among family members and friends with young children, so it intrigued me to hear someone address them so directly, if incitingly, in such a huge public forum.

The march of civilizations is a series of defenses that man has put up against the dread of pure existence.

by marco on Wed Feb 17th, 2010 at 07:38:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
marco:
Would she come out and say that publicly?

Surely not :)

marco:

if she has a valid point insofar as she identifies extremists

Oh, identifying extremists is a valid way of presenting what one claims to be broad social phenomena?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Feb 17th, 2010 at 08:52:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
afew: Oh, identifying extremists is a valid way of presenting what one claims to be broad social phenomena?

no.  but your point is well taken.  identifying and discussing extremists is treacherous stuff (no pun intended), as post-9/11 Bushism has made all too clear (again).  but just because this sort of discourse is sometimes often conducted in bad faith and abused , it does not mean that where there is smoke, there is never fire.  and regarding some of the issues that Badinter brings up, i think there is evidence of fire, since i have come into contact with it myself.  of course, i may be in the extreme minority and the fire may be minute.  but since there is very little public discussion about it -- and because i haven't dug into sociological statistics and research papers about it -- i cannot say.  that Badinter points to these issues in her book and interviews turned what i thought to be a fringe phenomenon limited to my atypical personal experience into one that might concern more people than i had imagined.

The march of civilizations is a series of defenses that man has put up against the dread of pure existence.

by marco on Wed Feb 17th, 2010 at 09:38:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We're thrown back, to a considerable extent, on anecdote, unless we were to pull out some opinion polls. And I think things are more nuanced than Badinter seems to be saying ("seems" because I haven't read the book she's promoting).

Anecdote: in hour or two I'll be at the for-the-moment-fortnightly delivery meeting of our local food association. Plenty of people there who'd rather feed their kids fresh produce than stuff from the Lidl down the road. Yet all the women there have jobs. Some are greener-minded than others, so washable nappies are probably on the agenda for those. Possibly among these couples (a high proportion of youngish ones with children), tasks are more equally shared between the partners, making the choice possible. There are more women than men who come to pick their orders up at the delivery point, but the association is overwhelmingly composed of and supported by couples, not just the mums alone.

As to breastfeeding, I shall have to conduct an enquiry. Maternal leave makes it an option (though maternal leave is considered a career drawback by many, particularly employers). As to vaccination, there are surely some anti-vaccinites in the group, and just as surely some pro-, and some in the middle (like this forum?). But I don't get the impression, at all, that I'm surrounded by obscurantists or that the women I meet there are under cultural pressure to be traditional home-makers and child-rearers.

If one were able to put together some data on this, I think it would be necessary at the same time to compare the sales graphs of ready-made processed foodstuffs that get three minutes in the microwave because it saves time. My (anecdotal but certain) impression is that the supermarket space devoted to these products has increased many-fold over the last couple of decades. My feeling is that, if there is a broad social phenomenon to study in all this, it would be that aspect first and foremost. I wonder if Elisabeth Badinter discusses it much in her book.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Feb 17th, 2010 at 11:14:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
afew: ("seems" because I haven't read the book she's promoting)

Nor I.  Searching for excerpts and extracts -- in particular, any that might contain sociological data on which she bases her arguments -- I came upon a very good blog post/review (in French), which interestingly quotes Badinter admitting that the social developments she critiques are still peripheral in France:

Mais elle reconnaît que tout ce qu'elle combat est assez peu présent en France (cf. son dernier chapitre).
Pour l'heure, les Françaises échappent au dilemne du tout ou rien. Elles avaient déjà bien résisté aux oukases de certains pédiatres ; tiendront-elles face à ceux des naturalismes ? Sauront-elles imposer leurs désirs et leur volonté contre le discours rampant de la culpabilité ?. Et de conclure "Il semble que les jeunes femmes continuent largement à n'en faire qu'à leur tête. Jusqu'à quand ?
But she recognizes that everything she is fighting against is rather scarce in France (cf. her last chapter).
For the moment, French women have escaped the all or nothing dilemma. They've resisted well enough the fatwās [ukases in the original French] of certain pediatricians; will they stand up to those of the naturalists? Will they be able to affirm their own desires and will against the rampant rhetoric of guilt? And to ensure that "It seems that young women continue to much as they please" will remain true. Until when?

This blogger links to two other reviews/commentaries on other French blogs, as well as several media links.

The march of civilizations is a series of defenses that man has put up against the dread of pure existence.

by marco on Wed Feb 17th, 2010 at 12:38:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Forgot the link to that blog:

En aparté - Chroniques autour de la conciliation vie privée / vie professionnelle et des valeurs du travail

"Le conflit : la femme et la mère" d'Elisabeth Badinter


The march of civilizations is a series of defenses that man has put up against the dread of pure existence.
by marco on Wed Feb 17th, 2010 at 01:50:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For what it's worth, here's the book's blurb on Amazon:

Le conflit: Elisabeth Badinter: Amazon.frThe Conflict: Elisabeth Badinter: Amazon.fr
Elisabeth Badinter reprend la plume pour un nouvel essai : 'Le conflit. La mère et la femme'.
Elle constate un repli inquiétant sur le terrain des droits des femmes, lequel se manifeste, par exemple, par la forte baisse de la natalité dans tous les pays développés (bien moins nettement en France comme on sait), la hausse conjointe du nombre de femmes qui ne veulent pas avoir d'enfant (en dix ans, la proportion a doublé), le regain des discours naturalistes visant à river les femmes à leur rôle de mère, et plus spécifiquement par le biais d'un diktat concernant l'allaitement
La barque de la maternité est aujourd'hui chargée de trop d'attentes, de contraintes, d'obligations. Il y a péril tant pour la femme et le couple que pour le lien social : quelle perspective offre une société où le fait d'avoir un enfant serait le lieu d'un clivage fatidique ?
Elisabeth Badinter takes up her quill again with Conflict. Mother and Woman
She notes a worrying reversal in the area of women's rights, which is manifested in a significant drop in birth rates in all developing countries (much less so in France, as we know), the accompanying rise in the number of women who do not want to have children (in ten years, the proportion has doubled), the resurgence of naturalist views aimed at tying women down in the role of mother, and more specifically in the diktat about breast-feeding.
Today the raft of motherhood has been loaded with too many expectations, constraints and obligations. There is a danger for both the woman and the couple as well as for the social bond: what prospects does society offer when having a child becomes a zone of fateful division?


The march of civilizations is a series of defenses that man has put up against the dread of pure existence.
by marco on Wed Feb 17th, 2010 at 12:42:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
She's come across as pretty chill.  (In French with no subtitles, unfortunately.)



The march of civilizations is a series of defenses that man has put up against the dread of pure existence.

by marco on Wed Feb 17th, 2010 at 12:49:55 PM EST
We ARE an animal species.

Quite a lot of women I've known have been repelled by the idea of breastfeeding, and hugely resented the pressure on them to do so. Most don't, of course, but they're often put in the position of feeling they have to give reasons/invent excuses for their "failure". It can all get quite bitter, unfortunately.

This looks quite similar to me: the rationalisation of a visceral dislike, and a kick against unmet societal expectations.

by Sassafras on Wed Feb 17th, 2010 at 11:26:16 PM EST
We ARE an animal species.

Now stop that, you heathen.

Humans are different: we know that. We just can't find any evidence for it.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Feb 18th, 2010 at 06:24:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"I forgot to add, since she breast-feeds on demand, she's supposed to let the baby sleep in the conjugal bed, which quashes intimacy for the parents and freezes out the father."

I just noticed that sentence (there is so much absurdity in what she says, and I have read so many of her interviews these days, that I sometimes browse a bit too fast).

What utter drivel.
We've just had a baby in London. I don't think you can find something pressuring you more towards breastfeeding than the NHS. The extent is a little ludicrous. Yet, they keep insisting that letting the baby sleep in your bed is a BAD idea. They will then tell you what to do to minimise the risks if you decide to nevertheless do it. That's a far cry from recommending that you do it.

And it's never said that you're supposed to breastfeed "on demand". On the other hand, it is suggested that you do not do it too often (one reason is that the first milk is almost water, only after a while will it become more nourishing, so it's best if they feed for a long time, and that doesn't happen if they feed every 30mn...).

So, completely off the mark.

Now, I know some studies have failed to detect an increased risk when babies sleep in their parents' bed. But even that "some studies can't confirm that it's very risky" is a far, far cry from "you should do it or you'd be a bad mother"...

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Thu Feb 18th, 2010 at 05:11:00 AM EST
" Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet[, French Minister of State for Forward Planning, Assessment of Public Policies and Development of the Digital Economy,] has proposed a tax on disposable diapers, without worrying about the extra work that this will impose on mothers."

Ahem.
Taxing something is not quite the same as forbidding it. Otherwise we couldn't consume anything because of something called VAT. Taxing disposable diapers does not impose any extra work per se -it does so if that makes you change your behaviour. But then, why is there no mention on the money saved?

So, let me rephrase "Elisabeth Badinter proposed not taxing disposable nappies, without worrying about the extra work that this will impose on the state (garbage collection and disposal anyone?), not to mention the huge externalities on the planet as a whole".

In any society, taxes must be collected. So things will be taxed. Having a higher tax on something that is a social negative means lower taxes on other things. If disposable nappies are the wonderful liberating experience Badinter claims they are for some women, well then they will still be better off using them, while those who don't will be able to get something in return for not being a strain on society and the planet.
What exactly is wrong with that?

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Thu Feb 18th, 2010 at 05:19:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The advice about sleeping in the bed is aimed at drug abusers and alcoholics, basically - spokespeople have admitted that.

But drivel is the word. Even the bit about freezing out the father displays a lot of her attitude to the role of the father and the mother: I've never felt all that frozen out by having a baby cuddled up to me. The child appears to be an opponent to be controlled, in her view.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Feb 18th, 2010 at 06:22:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Colman: Even the bit about freezing out the father displays a lot of her attitude to the role of the father and the mother: I've never felt all that frozen out by having a baby cuddled up to me.

I may have chosen my words a tad unfairly in translating

    ... exclut le père.

as

    ... freezes out the father.

To "freeze out" was one option offered by WordReference.com.  But the most direct translation would of course be:

    ... excludes the father.

which arguably would have been more neutral in feeling, even if the core meaning of her words remained the same.

The march of civilizations is a series of defenses that man has put up against the dread of pure existence.

by marco on Thu Feb 18th, 2010 at 11:53:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Excludes still leaves you with the idea that the mother is the one looking after the baby in the bed. Still captured by the stereotyping. "Freezes out" carries other baggage, in English at least.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Feb 18th, 2010 at 12:03:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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