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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
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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
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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
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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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