Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Book Review: The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women

The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women.

I finally finished reading this book last week. To be honest, the book had a lot more content about childfree women than I was expecting. She discussed the choice to go childfree through several chapters, although the implicit "solution" to regain our status was not limited to foregoing childbearing. Rather, the author discusses naturalism and its impact on mothers, especially in a culture where certain aspects of naturalism are treated as mandatory.

For example, she discusses breastfeeding. Yes, it is great and healthy for children. However, the author states that a lot of the advantages touted by breast-feeding advocates are overstated, citing a report by the Society of French Pediatrics on the subject. Furthermore, her history of, and quotes by the La Leche League made me realize that they are more militant than even I knew. They contribute to an overall pressure on women to stay home and forego working, and do not accept the choice to feed via formula under any circumstances. They also demand that mothers feed longer than the 1-2 years most medical authorities suggest, advocating that they let the child self-wean somewhere between ages 3&1/2 to 7. For example, they stated,
"Doctors have no hesitation whatsoever about making parents feel guilty about not using a car seat . . . by contrast breastfeeding is often treated as a choice."
That's because not using a carseat can kill a child, LLL. Not breastfeeding, at worst, deprives them of some immunity and other health benefits. That's not the same thing.

The author discusses the shame and guilt we place upon mothers to breastfeed, stay home, and otherwise be a naturalistic mother whose every need is subjugated for any advantage a child may gain by it. She states that now that we are no longer being controlled by men and banned from the workplace, we are voluntarily living as we would have pre-feminism. Our culture, and the culture of many other countries, creates a pressure that has replaced sexism in keeping women out of the public sphere.

Lastly, I would like to discuss an issue that is dominant in the one-star reviews posted by the LLL faithful on the books's Amazon page. The author is part owner of a publicity firm that counts several formula companies as clients. This is an arguable, if indirect, conflict of interest. But the author is not acting as a judge in a court of law, or a mayor choosing a vendor. Conflicts of interest don't always mean that the person is not entitled to speak their piece. Especially when, as here, the author is supporting her views with citations and logical reasoning, rather than simply expecting her readers to rely on her unbiased authority. It may be relevant, but it isn't dispositive.

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