“The Happy Hypocrite”

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Joan Walsh reviewed Caitlan Flanagan’s new book for Salon, and the piece is topped by this burb: “I never cared that Caitlin Flanagan calls herself an at-home mother, even though she’s a magazine writer with a staff of helpers. But now she’s using her battle with cancer to denounce feminism and extol her traditional virtues — and I’ve had it.” That gives you some idea of the tone and content of the article. Here is an excerpt:

…I picked up Flanagan’s new book, “To Hell With All That: Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife,” and I lost my equanimity. It’s mostly a lightly reworked compilation of her New Yorker and Atlantic Monthly essays from the last few years, but dressed up with a more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger introduction blaming feminism for causing women “heartache,” and a truly below-the-belt conclusion, on how surviving breast cancer confirmed Flanagan’s conviction that traditional marriage and motherhood is best. I put the book aside for almost two months because even though I’m tough, I’m not tough enough to kick someone with cancer, and Flanagan deserves a kick for the dishonest and divisive gloss these new essays give the book, and her whole career. But I guess I learned something new about myself in this process: Apparently I am tough enough to kick someone with cancer, but only after feeling bad about it for a while.

I haven’t read Flanagan’s book and don’t expect to. I’ve read some of her work in the Alantic Monthly and in the New Yorker, and I think she makes a lot of facile generalizations about people to construct “arguments” that support her particular world view. Her apparent belief that being an anti-feminist helped her survive cancer is truly creepy and despicable, and makes about as much sense as someone else arguing that maybe if she had been a feminist she’d never have gotten cancer in the first place, which is to say, none.

–Ann Bartow

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