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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
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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
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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
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