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A new book is out, the title is a play on words from the original 20th Century Feminist Classic: The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan. The new book is called The Feminine Mistake by Leslie Bennett.

This new book is still feminist in nature, although the author insists that it has nothing to do with feminism. Just because a book toes the feminist line about working outside of the home and spends lots of words (and scientific studies) encouraging women with children to work outside of the home doesn’t mean it is a feminist book, does it?

Most of the studies have to do with statistics. There is a certain number of marriages that end in divorce, men die, or become unemployed, and other financial issues and this book is here to convince you that just because bad things happen, all women are being stupid for giving up their careers and staying home with their children.

Lest you think that the “being stupid” description of her attitude is too harsh and unfair, here she is in her own words when describing the negative response she has received from stay at home moms and publications that cater to them.

But other publications catering primarily to stay-at-home mothers are terrified of offending them, and any coverage has to be tailored to accommodate their sensitivities, real or imagined. “We don’t want to upset the stay-at-home mommies,” more than one editor told me in a patronizing tone of voice that suggested the conspiratorial whisper of adults who are trying not to wake the cranky children.

The same thing is happening with organizations that are interested in speaking engagements. Groups of professional women are eager to hear what I have to say, but those whose membership includes many stay-at-home mothers are afraid to risk their wrath by offering potentially upsetting information. Institutions that rely on the volunteer efforts of stay-at-home moms are particularly leery of presenting any program that might challenge their assumptions and rouse their ire.

As a result, the information contained in my book is being disseminated widely among working women, but stay-at-home wives — the ones most at risk, and therefore the ones I most wanted to reach with my findings — are being insulated from the truth by well-meaning decision-makers who are, in my opinion, infantilizing them. Yes, it’s true that women who don’t work are often so defensive about their choice that they’ve helped to create this regrettable climate. But do they really want to be treated like children who must be shielded from distressing information?

Here is an account of a public “debate” at the New York public library where there was mostly a lot of agreement and head nodding apparently.

Here is another article by the author of the book about how deciding to stay home from work is not merely a lifestyle choice, but something much more.

From reading the articles by the author (and not the book, so there may be some errors), it is far better for women to work because the time when children are small and life is hectic really is just a few years and you can make it through that. Work is fulfilling, having money gives you leverage in your marriage and at the end of the day because bad things happen you can only depend on yourself to get things done so keep working.

One article notes that the book is dedicated to four people, and the second person (even in front of her own daughter) is Norma, the babysitter-nanny-substitute caregiver because the author continued to pursue her own career. This article is a well written rebuttal with this gem:

Bennetts offers the stay-at-home mothers a challenge: give up your idealised views of the perfect marriage and the perfect job and embrace chaos. So what if your house is a mess, and you’re not quite on top of your emails? So what if you are constantly exhausted? “A lot of women conceptualise the whole issue in ways that don’t serve them very well. They say: ‘Oh well, it’s a question of having it all, and if I can’t have it all I might as well give up and go home’.” Bennetts suggests they settle for just being good enough – and for getting by.

(spelling British in the original). The New Yorker also has a review of the book that points out many of the fallacies that Leslie Bennetts advances in her book.

To Bennetts, this domestic satisfaction is a travesty. Although she claims that her argument is an economic one, rather than one based on “values,” she believes not only that women have to work but that they should want to. She’s also convinced that working mothers are the best kind that children can have, teaching resourcefulness and independence by example, and demonstrating the virtue of engaging in work that one loves. A baby boomer to the core, Bennetts is happiest when she is quoting exultant, successful older women who have juggled work and child care and have come out the other side saying things like “You know what? I think my kids really benefited.” In her view, “a combination of good child care and an egalitarian marriage” is equal to the challenge of running a household, and she points to herself as a writer for Vanity Fair who works from home and also makes dinner for her kids every night, at least on those nights when she’s not interviewing Jennifer Aniston about being yet another woman who didn’t expect her husband to leave her.

Also, from The New Yorker article:

She barely considers the possibility that a woman might clear-sightedly find the rearing of her children the most rewarding work she can do, not out of a sense of self-sacrifice but out of a sense of personal fulfillment, a position eloquently characterized a few years ago in the book “Maternal Desire,” by the psychologist Daphne de Marneffe. Nor does she consider whether the flight from the workplace might be a justified rejection of a culture that assumes that parenting can be dealt with in the margins of one’s work life. There is a real economic cost when someone gives up work in favor of being a mother, as Ann Crittenden skillfully outlined six years ago in her book “The Price of Motherhood”; and that cost does, as Bennetts argues, become acute if a woman is unexpectedly widowed or divorced. But to some extent such circumstances can be hedged against with insurance policies and the efforts of a decent matrimonial lawyer. For many women, a contented life of motherho
od and homemaking, even given the uncertainties, may offer better odds of satisfaction than the guaranteed stress of unloved work and the difficulties, emotional and practical, of surrendering to another the task of caring for one’s children.

These kinds of arguments will continue because people like to argue, not because of the merits of Ms. Bennetts’ point of view.

The best caregiver of children is their mother. Of course there are a few exceptions, but to argue that women should have to work and love to work outside of the home is counter factual and asinine. If for some reason you find yourself compelled to believe polling data and statistics, you may want to read this book.

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What do you think? Here are two stories to think about.

From the USA Today Religion editors, a story dated 3/7/07, titled: Americans get an ‘F’ in religion. A study showed that Americans (from the United States, not Canada or Mexico) knew very little about the Bible. 60% of Americans can’t name five of the Ten Commandments and about 50% of high school seniors thought that Sodom and Gomorrah were married.

The story goes on to discuss how religion is playing a bigger role in world events and that we would all be better served if we had better knowledge of the Bible and other religions of the world. There are now some high school elective classes on the Bible in some school districts but there are ongoing controversies with the curriculum and how it is to be taught. There is concern that textbooks about the Bible would also be slanted and biased against its’ teachings:

The Bible and Its Influence has been blasted by conservative Christians such as the Rev. John Hagee, pastor of the 18,000-member Cornerstone Church in San Antonio. Hagee calls it “a masterful work of deception, distortion and outright falsehoods” planting “concepts in the minds of children which are contrary to biblical teaching.”

Hagee wrote to the Alabama legislature opposing adoption of the text, citing points such as discussion questions that could lead children away from a belief in God. Example: Asking students to ponder if Adam and Eve got “a fair deal as described in Genesis” would plant the seed that “since God is the author of the deal, God is unfair.”

Hagee prefers the Bible itself as a textbook for Bible classes, used with a curriculum created by a group of conservative evangelicals, the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, based in Greensboro, N.C. The council says its curriculum is being offered in more than 300 schools.

The biggest whopper told in the article is this one:

The First Amendment Center also published a guide to “The Bible and the Public Schools,” which praised a ninth-grade world religions course in Modesto, Calif., and cited a study finding students were able to learn about other faiths without altering their own beliefs. But it also said the class may not be easily replicated and required knowledgeable, unbiased teachers.

ALL teachers have a bias, it just depends on whether the bias shows in the classroom. So, Americans know very little about other religions and still know very little about the Bible and Christianity.
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The next story is about ‘hooking up’. In case you are not aware, hooking up is meeting for a casual sexual encounter with no strings attached. This would go from kissing to all the way. The LDS equivalent might be a NCMO [non-committal-make-out], there is even a dating website http://www.incmo.net/.

What made this phenomenon worthy of a story is a new book that dares to say *gasp* that hooking up might be bad for young women “putting them at risk of depression and even sexually transmitted disease, and making them ill-equipped for real relationships later on.” THE HORROR!!!!

For that, Laura Sessions Stepp, author of ”Unhooked,” has been criticized as a throwback to an earlier, restrictive moral climate, an anti-feminist [WHAT?] and a tut-tutting mother telling girls not to give the milk away when nobody’s bought the cow.

Ummmm. That actually sounds like sound advice. Also, who knew that feminism stood for the right to have casual sex acts whenever you want to? No wonder she is being criticized for her stance. The article quotes from some reviewers who have stumbled upon truths without acknowledging them as such.

The author ”imagines the female body as a thing that can be tarnished by too much use,” [*true*] wrote reviewer Kathy Dobie in Stepp’s own paper, the Post, and suggested that Stepp was, in one part, trying to ”instill sexual shame.” For Meghan O’Rourke, literary editor at Slate.com, Stepp is ”buying into alarmism about women,” and making sex ”a bigger, scarier, and more dangerous thing than it already is. [perceived to be]”

Apparently these women never had to be concerned about STD’s or an unwanted pregnancy, unless they think medical cures, condoms, and abortion are the answer. They may have found a cure for the physical problems but there are still the emotional and spiritual problems to consider.

In response to criticism, the author of the book replied:

True, she regrets that ”dating has gone completely by the boards,” replaced by group outings that lead to casual encounters. True, she regrets that oral sex ”isn’t even considered sex anymore.” But she isn’t saying girls should not have sex; just that they should have it in the context of a meaningful connection: ”I am saying that girls should have choices.”

Too often, Stepp argues, girls and young women say proudly that they like the control ”hookups” give them — control over their emotions, their schedules, and freedom to focus on things like schoolwork and career (the students she profiles in her book are high achievers).

But she says they frequently mistake that freedom for empowerment. ”I often hear girls say things like, ‘We can be as bad as guys now,”’ she says. ”But I don’t think that’s what liberation is all about.”

LDS leaders have also lamented the lack of young people dating any more and Elder Dallin H. Oaks has encouraged young singles to get dating and quit messing around just hanging out. If the author of the book just changed her advice to wait until marriage, she would be doing better.

Of course, this advice applies to the men too.

There is of course, some disagreement about how pervasive this culture is:

The debate over hooking up — how prevalent, how harmful — was neatly displayed not long ago in a high school classroom in Maclean, Va. Nancy Schnog, who teaches a course in adolescence to 12th-graders, was discussing Stepp’s findings.

”She hit the nail on the head,” one girl said, according to Schnog. ”She perfectly described our social climate.” Many agreed, but an equally vocal faction argued the opposite. ”This is totally overblown,” said another girl. ”Why do adults always stereotype our generation so negatively?”

At the University of Maryland, Robin Sawyer, who teaches a course on sexuality, finds Stepp’s book pretty much on target.

”Men have always hooked up,” says Sawyer. ”What you are seeing now is a desire of women to act in a masculine way, without being judged a whore.” He also finds that the ”hookup” vocabulary softens the impact of the behavior. ”’I hooked up with someone’ sounds a lot better than ‘I had oral sex with someone whose name I don’t even know,”’ says Sawyer, who is mentioned in Stepp’s book.

”Can you generalize from a few women? If you can find a criticism, it is probably that,” Sawyer said. ”But her thesis is pretty accurate. This is not
your grandparents’ generation.”

At least there is general agreement that there is a problem. What we call things does matter, you should not be surprised about the push for political correctness because the language used changes how we think about things.

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