Tuesday, April 24, 2007

To Hell With Caitlin Flanagan...

...is probably the title of a lot of reviews of her book, To Hell With All That, in which she tells us all about her inner housewife and blames feminism for screwing up the whole staying-home-with-the-kids thing because it made her, Caitlin Flanagan, an incompetent housekeeper.

The logic, as near as I can follow it is this: feminism devalued housewifely skills and mocked the role of housekeeper so smart girls (Ms. Flanagan included, naturally) didn't bother to learn how to run a household and, voila!, all the stay-at-home moms she knows have housekeepers and can barely manage to raise their kids, what with all the self-fulfilling bookclub crap and the driving the kids to karate class. It's kind of a classic essay in the Me And My Friends journalism and it even sucks by the standards of that crappy genre.

She also glorifies the pre-feminist generation of women as smart, busy women who volunteered (or even got jobs!) and didn't waste their time ferrying kids around to soccer practice in a golden age of safety and female omniscience. My parents' generation was human and to pretend that they had some special grasp of how to manage life is silly. Just because you don't know how to iron a shirt doesn't mean your generation sucks, it just means you need to ask somebody to show you how or if, god forbid, your circle of friends doesn't include any such person, read a freakin book already. And try to meet some new people, too, ok?

As for feminism, Caitlyn, read this essay and stop wasting your time. http://tomatonation.com/?p=677

I'm sick to death of the idea that feminism is responsible for everything that a certain class of affluent women don't like about their lives (or their friends' lives, since Flanagan makes it quite clear that her life is The Best Possible Life Ever, because she's not a feminist, and her smugness goes a long way toward making the book unreadable.)

Oh, and the Smug reached toxic levels in her essay about sex. Here's the logic: feminism taught women that they should regard sex as something to enjoy instead of a mere duty to perform for their husbands. Tired mothers (who exhaust themselves trying to achieve the feminist goal of being a perfectly nurturing mother) have no energy for sex, so feminism is to blame for an epidemic of women who don't have much sex.

I'm not going to waste much more time on this but there's a couple of obvious flaws here: first, the claim of an epidemic of sexless marriages is the product of more Me And My Friends journalism--Flanagan cites no real evidence that such a trend exists. (Besides, she's oblivious to the notion that the audience for that poorly-researched trend journalism is a class of overworked people who are getting less sex than they want and who are thrilled to read that somebody else is getting less.) Second, overachiever mothers aren't a product of feminism, they're a product of a social class that is hardly representative of the generation as a whole.

And that's the problem with Flanagan's book: she can't tell the difference between her own tiny, affluent slice of society and an entire generation. For heaven's sake, she had a full-time nanny--what she knows about the life of the average stay-at-home mom is miniscule at best.


Post a Comment

<< Home