Monday, November 10, 2008

Book Club...The Feminine Mistake

Boy, just when we feminists were thinking "mission accomplished"...

Leslie Bennett's book The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much? addresses the debate between continuing one's career and staying home, once a woman has children. She contends that the movement which claims women can't truly have it all and are better off being home taking care of their families is false and damaging to women. She says that women who leave their children in someone else's care and continue their careers are made to feel like bad mothers, creating a societal pressure which is very detrimental. She points out the social isolation, dependency on husbands, feelings of wasted education, and tremendous barriers to re-entry into the workforce that these women face, and presents the very real dangers to them in the case of divorce or illness.

Obviously this is a very appropriate genre for me to be diving into as I enjoy my (very) premature semi-retirement. It has certainly made me reevaluate the way in which I foresee my own role and contributions to our household- this one's even kept me up at night, thinking about my own vulnerability (though not enough to actually seek out a 9-to-5, thank you very much) . Whether you agree with her contentions or not, it is a very well-written and thought-provoking read that I recommend to anyone who is thinking that they want to have children some day. I'm even going to make my husband read it (so he understands the huge post-nup I am going to hit him with). No, but seriously.
For more information, visit the book's website.


Unknown said...

Hello. Wow! So glad to find this post here. Exactly what I thought about the book. Also great that you're asking John to read it. I had Taylor read "Get to Work" (much more radical, probably too radical, but same point). So what do you think about 'A Charmed Wife' and more broadly about all the Martha Stewart media properties in the context of this book?

Lily said...

Well, I should have given credit where credit was due, since Amy was the one who first recommended this book to me. I think that one of the most compelling points of the book is that participation in the business world and domesticity are not mutually exclusive. It is certainly not my objective to make anyone feel inadequately domestic, but rather to make the domestic side of life easier and more attainable, especially for people with busy professional lives.
While she's frequently villainized for setting the wife/mother bar too high for "real people" through her brands, it is important to note that Martha Stewart herself is one of the most successful self-made American business-women (and was a single mother while building her business).

Anonymous said...

Martha Stewart was not a "single mother" while building her business. I think her daughter Alexis was 27 years old when Martha and her husband divorced. Please fact check this. What I'm trying to say is, she didn't have three year old triplets. She had a husband and a staff and sent her daughter to boarding school.

Happy to have found your site.

Lily said...

Anonymous: you're right, Martha's daughter Alexis was 22 when they divorced. Thanks for keeping me honest!
But the fact that she had help raising her child only further illustrates my point that Martha herself is hardly the Suzie Homemaker (or "Domestic Diva") people feel she is insisting we all be. In fact, she's a perfect example of the alternative - whether you think that is a good thing or not is up to you. (Haha, get it? Good thing?)

Anonymous said...

I was one who never thought I could stay home after having only one child, I thought I would be bored. I figured that I would stay home after having two (or more) and then go back to work after they all started school.
It turns out that I stopped working full time BEFORE having children, and found I was not bored at all. Then our family was led to home school our 2 children, and I'm definitely not bored! I feel no desire to re-enter the work force as I know without a doubt that my purpose is to keep our home, be my husband's wife, the mom of our children as well as their teacher.
I read a book last summer called Passionate Housewives Desperate for God. This really challenged my thinking, but also helped me to know that it is okay to stay home with your children AND enjoy it!