The Feminist Side of Caitlin Flanagan

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I have two things in common with many feminists:

(1) I’ve been appalled at what Caitlin Flanagan  said about working moms in To Hell with All That; and

(2) I haven’t actually read her book.

I did see Flanagan on The Colbert Report, where she belittled the idea that husbands  now have to take their wives out to dinner  on “date nights” just “to get a little nookie” — but I’m not sure if she was just playing up to the level of absurdity of Colbert.   My wife Marianna is slightly less Flanagan-illiterate than I am: she’s listening to Flanagan’s book on CD during her commute (ironically, because she’s illiterate in another way: she meant to order the book online but accidentally ordered the CD!).   She was all ready to say “to hell with all that” about To Hell with All That — but, to her surprise, she’s found it not too bad, and even pro-feminist in some surprising ways, as Marianna posted on her own blog:

[Flanagan] is nowhere near as retrograde as I thought it would be. I thought that Flanagan would defend the 50s and its bygone life and exalt it as the good old days. To the contrary, Flanagan is not defending the decade, but rather, she is defending the women of the decade. Her point is that contrary to today’s view of the women of the 50s, they were not stupid apathetic sex slaves, but rather industrious, educated and smart, and that they wanted independence and careers just like the women of today. This does not sound retrograde to me. It seems that Flanagan is putting those women in the feminist category.

If you have any gripes with this analysis, take them up with Marianna!

- Scott Moss

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0 Responses to The Feminist Side of Caitlin Flanagan

  1. Ann Bartow says:

    Weirdly (pace this: http://feministlawprofs.law.sc.edu/?p=685 ) I just saw Linda Hirshman on the Colbert Report and she was actually sort of funny and I couldn’t help grudgingly agreeing with some of the things she said. Hell is suddenly drinking sweet tea!

    Still, I read many of Flanagan’s essays as they originally appeared (before they got toned down for the book) and she really peeved me off. She is condescending and obnoxious toward working moms, and
    as Flea of One Good Thing said, “Hey, when a mother takes shit, something is lost, too, you know?” http://feministlawprofs.law.sc.edu/?p=748

  2. nancymc says:

    Her point is that contrary to today’s view of the women of the 50s, they were not stupid apathetic sex slaves, but rather industrious, educated and smart, and that they wanted independence and careers…

    That was the point of Betty Friedan’s “Feminine Mystique” published in 1963.

    So Flanagan is telling us something that’s been a standard feminist point of view since forever, as if she just discovered it.

    But more importantly – who the hell is Flanagan claiming holds “today’s view” of 1950s housewives?

  3. Ann Bartow says:

    Flanagn’s strawfeminists, no doubt. From “How Serfdom Saved the Women’s Movement” http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/prem/200403/flanagan

    Fifty years ago a young matron lucky enough to have household help would have been up and dressed and off to the department store or the library guild or the dry cleaner’s by midmorning, and no one would have questioned her inclinations as far as motherhood was concerned. But now, of course, the situation is so fraught with four decades’ worth of female advance and retreat that almost any decision a woman makes about child care is liable to get her blasted by one faction or the other.

    Well, have to run, off to go blast some women about their childcare choices with all the other feminists! And when I’m done, back to driving mothers out of the Democratic Party! http://feministlawprofs.law.sc.edu/?p=510