Elisabeth Badinter has, for decades, been in the vanguard of the European fight for women's equality. Now, in an explosive new book, she points her finger at a most unlikely force undermining the status of women: liberal motherhood, in thrall to all that is "natural." Attachment parenting, co-sleeping, baby-wearing, and especially breast-feeding—these hallmarks of contemporary motherhood have succeeded in tethering women to the home and family to an extent not seen since the 1950s. Badinter argues that the taboos now surrounding epidurals, formula, disposable diapers, cribs—and anything that distracts a mother's attention from her offspring—have turned childrearing into a singularly regressive force.In sharp, engaging prose, Badinter names a reactionary shift that is intensely felt but has not been clearly articulated until now, a shift that America has pioneered. She reserves special ire for the orthodoxy of the La Leche League—an offshoot of conservative Evangelicalism—showing how on-demand breastfeeding, with all its limitations, curtails women's choices. Moreover, the pressure to provide children with 24/7 availability and empathy has produced a generation of overwhelmed and guilt-laden mothers—one cause of the West's alarming decline in birthrate.The Conflict is an indictment of a stealthy and surprising setback to women's freedom: progressive modern motherhood.
"Badinter, a doyenne of French intellectual thought, loves to cut against the grain of her times . . . Her most recent battle cry: to defend women from the impossibility of being 'the perfect mother' . . . It is an argument likely to resonate among American women who must decide whether to embrace the notion that breast-feeding, washing diapers and remaining home with their children is morally or politically superior to pursuing a career."—The New York Times “Impressively researched, elegantly argued and forcefully written . . . Badinter’s warnings about the dangers of excessive childcenteredness are in many ways well founded.”—Judith Warner, The New York Times Book Review “The Conflict was first published in France, but its message is most pressing in the Anglophone world, where a vast industry peddling organic baby foods and anxiety is sucking the joy out of motherhood. Ms. Badinter’s polemic is sardonic, urgent and gripping . . . This is a cry for freedom.”—The Wall Street Journal “Badinter’s arguments are provocative and rigorous . . . [Her] impressive imperative to own one’s own life, to take rigorous and energetic responsibility, to cast off the silly or cowardly or frivolously domestic ways, seems very appealing, and refreshing and brisk.”—Slate "Badinter has shaken her fellow feminists with a frontal assault on the breastfeeding, pumpkin-peeling, earth motherhood ideologists who she believes are a threat to women's liberation . . . The Conflict maintains that women have thrown off the shackles of male domination only to impose a far more pernicious tyranny on themselves—that of their own children."—The Times (UK) “Badinter highlights some alarming trends that are rarely questioned, thanks to current attitudes about the supremacy of the maternal role . . . She delivers sharp insights about the regressive turn of modern attitudes about motherhood.”—Bookforum
Elisabeth Badinter is the acclaimed author of three seminal works on feminism—The Myth of Motherhood, Wrong Turn, and Masculine Identity—which have been translated into fifteen languages. Badinter teaches philosophy at the école Polytechnique in Paris, where she lives.