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The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women

3.3  ·  Rating details ·  535 Ratings  ·  112 Reviews
In the pathbreaking tradition of Backlash and The Time Bind, The Conflict, a #1 European bestseller, identifies a surprising setback to women's freedom: progressive modern motherhood

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
ebook, 224 pages
Published April 24th 2012 by Metropolitan Books (first published January 1st 2010)
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Luisa Fer
Jun 19, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: french
Before reading this book, I had read an interview in a Quebec newspaper where Elisabeth Badinter outlined the book's main ideas. I found her incredibly lucid and courageous.

It is true that we live in a child-centric society, how we got here is to some extent explained in Le Conflit. The feminist waves had a peak and then they crashed. She argues that right now, the new generation of women are caught between the environmentalist movements, the anger at their own mothers who fought to achieve equa
Molly Westerman
This book is like a collection of missed opportunities. It addresses hugely important questions, but in so few words (160 page in huge type) that the analysis is surface-level at best and often downright nonsensical. It's about vital and deeply personal issues but manages to be quite boring. It critiques contemporary parenting culture's use of "the natural," which really is incredibly problematic, but in ways that more like pot shots at women (the ones who parent in ways that annoy or disgust th ...more
Aug 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women by Elisabeth Badinter is a non-fiction read. While I didn’t agree with all of her conclusions from her data, the points that she raises are thought-provoking and an important consideration, not only for feminists, but for mothers and fathers. The connections to Rousseau’s naturalism as a school of thought are interesting as is the historical perspective on motherhood in France contrasted with other countries.
Dec 11, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In her latest feminist missive, Elisabeth Badinter seems determined to conceal a number of extremely important points with wandering discussion; layers of dry, sarcastic vitriol (particularly directed at La Leche League); sweeping generalizations; and an almost tangential conclusion. Her message: thanks to changes in feminist theory and the vaunting of all things natural, a new "high ideal of motherhood" as full-time and all-embracing (i.e., the belief "that a good mother takes constant care of ...more
May 19, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I had heard how awful this book is, but I figured that it couldn't be so shrill and reactionary as people claimed. I wanted to read it, both as a feminist and as someone considering having kids.

Holy god, this book is awful. Seriously. Before I get into how awful this book is, there's one good point that Badinter makes that I want to acknowledge. Women who don't have children are looked at as selfish or narcissistic or otherwise dysfunctional in some way for not having children. However, many if
Edina Rose
Jun 29, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book says loud some of the things I believe in. There shouldn't be unnecessary conflict between being a good mother and being an accomplished woman who fulfills her potential. Juggling motherhood and family, social and professional duties is challenging enough as it is. Why should excessive demands be put on mothers in the name of the children's well being?

Well, I think lots of these demands are really unnecessary. If you don't want to breastfeed, then don't. If you want to use good childc
May 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: The "Women Get Stupid After They Have A Child" guy I work with.
Recommended to Stephanie by: New York Times
Thought provoking ideas about modern feminism, exhaustively researched and presented in 113 pages. I'd love to be able to point my friends, dates, and coworkers (I'm talking to you, Mr. "Women Get Stupid After They Have A Child") toward this book for a better understanding of the economic and social realities a woman faces as she attempts to hammer out her identity as a woman and a mother. Unfortunately, the book's lackluster translating and editing takes much of the thunder out of the rhetoric- ...more
Mar 10, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I struggled with Badinter's theories in this book, at times becoming angry at her and wanting to scream that being a stay at home mother by choice is no less honorable than working up the corporate ladder. Giving all to my children does not make me less of a woman or put those woman who wish to climb the corporate ladder back many years in the fight for equality.
Apr 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gender-studies
A One-Minute Review
Elisabeth Badinter’s The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women will delight and annoy all points of the political spectrum. This usually indicates a great book. From page one, Badinter launches a reasoned, but powerful, feminist critique at the worrying results of the cult of all-encompassing motherhood. She describes a society pushing mothers to be mothers. Mothers aren’t mothers and workers, mothers and women, or even mothers and lovers. Mothers are
May 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I finished reading less than a minute ago, so a very fresh reaction: everyone should read this book. The thesis is essentially that by expecting too much of mothers, motherhood becomes so heavy a burden that it is unreconcilable with women's obligations to their careers, to their partners, to themselves. I am constantly irritated by the ever-growing list of pseudo-scientific recommendations that pregnant women and mothers of young children are exhorted to abide by, and so it was incredibly refre ...more
"elisabeth badinter points her finger at a most unlikely force undermining the status of women: extreme motherhood, in thrall to all that is "natural." attachment parenting, co-sleeping, baby -wearing, and on-demand breastfeeding— 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 districts a mothe ...more
Very interesting topic, makes some really good points, kind of annoyingly written (almost a little sarcastic). Also, quite short and with weirdly large text and margins. Like... There's obviously a lot of information here, and this seems to be deliberately just skimming the surface.

Focuses on the naturalist movement of the last few decades (co-sleeping, attachment parenting, increased emphasis on breastfeeding, etc.) and on how government policies and cultural norms about motherhood are related
Прочитать отзыв в блоге.

Читается как сборник эссе по разным темам. Подойдёт для кого-то, совсем незнакомого с women studies. Ожидала большего. Потом дополню.
Jun 21, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hm, well: not quite what I was expecting. Elisabeth Badinter has written this rather polemical work on the modern concept of Motherhood (the capital letter is deliberate, as Badinter finds the concept to be almost mythological in its power and scope) and the ways in which it confines and oppresses modern women. So, FYI: don't be thinking this is a research piece. She cites research but does not discuss it in depth; mostly this is a big strop on the sheer weirdness of the cultural shift away from ...more
Donna Linklater
While this book has some points I agree with (church of la leche league anyone??) and points out some of the restrictive aspects of "attachment parenting", it misses a few key points.

First off, a lot of women will tell you that they turn to attachment parenting because it's easier and more convenient-- if you've ever had a baby who wakes several times in the night, you know that it's an enormous challenge to take them out, nurse them, wait until they're settled, and then place them back in thei
Sep 18, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was excited when I was notified of my library hold coming up on this book. I couldn't wait to read it, because I felt it must be expressing what I live every day in terms of conflict between professional fulfillment and present parenting of my children.

While I was disappointed, some of Badinter's arguments are interesting. I found the discussion surrounding the status of parents in scandinavian countries relevant. I was interested in her claim that a majority of women in sweden are employed in
Jul 10, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book really thoroughly addressed the issue of how the "naturalistic" (emphasis on breastfeeding etc) form of parenting inspires guilt within young mothers, and in their efforts to live up to these pressures, are further tied to the home, which was a perspective I had not really considered before. It has a lot of relevant stats, and while Badinter is obviously attempting to paint a certain picture here, she does a good job of not being preach-y. She had a lot of interesting ties to history a ...more
Jul 24, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Although this book isn't much more subtle than the title suggests, it's still worth a read for Badinter's explanation of the post-60s-feminist backlash embodied by the cult of natural motherhood as woman's highest achievement. Among some otherwise liberal and well-educated women, the anti-crib, anti-bottle, attachment parenting (read: mothering) method has become so doctrinal that it's a relief to hear Badinter stubbornly ask why, given the environmental and individual costs of children, remaini ...more
Courtney Sieloff
Provocative book in the era of perfect parenting, I'm-not-perfect parenting, and every style in between. The irony of reading this on my kindle while nursing my infant at 4am was not lost on me. However the author did seem to miss that all of these styles are choices that individuals can chose to make. She did correctly identify that American parents are much less supported in child rearing than are French parents. I have to wonder if all of the "attachment" parenting is a protest of government ...more
Stacie Bryant
Jul 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was comforting to read. Most of the statistics cited in the book are European. It is nice to know that there are many other women in the world who are "child-free", since it feels like society labels you as they would a leper if you don't have children.
Robin Rousu
Probably not the best choice of reading material at 8.75 months pregnant, but it does gives the topic a certain urgency and extreme personal relevancy...
although this book earned but one star from me, i didn't hate it or anything. i honestly couldn't muster up too much of a reaction to it. maybe that is due in part to the fact that the writing was really dry & toneless, but this was originally written in french & translated for english-reading audiences. maybe it was a bit more engaging in the original.

i think the more likely reason i didn't really have feelings about this book is because i didn't really intend to read it. you'd think i'
I have to say, I liked this book more than I expected. It was a lot more academic than I thought it would be, but honestly that tipped it over more to four stars than if it had been more of a "rant."

There are points when I can picture Badinter saying things with a big glass of red wine and a cigarette dangling from her finger, and it sort of makes me giggle. Overall, though, I thought that there wasn't a whole lot of opinion - just a lot of questioning and data (oooh, SO much data), and I apprec
I expected more from this book. I found the text sorely lacking in several areas. There are interesting arguments to be made about the so-called mommy wars, but ultimately, I think this one falls short for several reasons:

- There is no index. This makes writing a review, even a quick one for Goodreads, extraordinarily frustrating unless one reads with a notebook or has the time and inclination to browse through the text to double-check all references. I have neither the time nor the inclination
Mar 19, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A daring critique on an imperative modern topic, the contradiction between our 'me' centered society, and how quickly that can flip when women become mothers, and the expectation seems to be that one must devote everything selflessly to your child, as if there is a debt that can never be paid.

"Motherhood is still the great unknown. For some, it brings incomparable happiness and enriches their identity. Others manage as best they can to reconcile contradictory demands. Yet others cannot cope and
Deborah Markus
I'm not sure what to say about this book. Badinter brings up important issues, but doesn't offer much in the way of viable answers. And some of the points she brings up are, well, kind of pointless. What on earth do painkillers or lack thereof for laboring mothers have to do with "the status of women"? I know, I know -- she's talking about "the naturalists" and how they're trying to turn all women into martyr-mamas. But some of us weren't embracing the ecstasy of pain when we made the decision n ...more
Anne Holcomb
This slim book by a French feminist author examines the origin and the effects of changing social norms and government policies surrounding parenting, and how they affect the well-being of mothers. The trend of "attachment" or "natural" parenting recently shone in the spotlight due to the Mother's Day Time Magazine cover featuring a toddler boy breastfeeding accompanied by the headline "Are You Mom Enough?" Badinter's book traces the origin of this trend to the 1960s - it was sparked by a reacti ...more
Jan 18, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was completely underwhelmed by this book. I found the original thesis interesting: that naturalism and all-encompassing-motherhood provide a new form of oppression for modern mothers that confines them back to the domestic realm just at the point of their liberation from sexism. However, Badinter misses every opportunity to add something meaningful to this discussion in her poorly argued book. Most of the book is a treaty against breastfeeding (never mind that breastfeeding only encompasses a ...more
Sep 07, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
What bugs me the most about this book is how skewed the research data is to prove Badinter's points. As an opponent of breastfeeding, describing mothers as enslaved to their baby, she manages to use the most extreme and controversial quotes. It's as if she's trying to show how nuts some women are when it comes to breastfeeding. I've always seen it as a personal choice, one I hope many new mothers can make. I cringed when Badinter mentions that mothers can experience sexual pleasure from breastfe ...more
Jan 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The author is certain to leave no one feeling blasé at books conclusion. I found many of her statistics to be fascinating, and many of her opinions to be extremely thought provoking.

However, there were many times I found it difficult to ... empathize? with her point.. For example, I cannot find it ridiculous that some women avoid birth control pills due to studies showing links to cancer, hormonal imbalance, etc. I agree birth control is one of the most monumental achievements in women's autono
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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.
More about Élisabeth Badinter...
“Childless couples, on the other hand, take pleasure in the advantages of being alone: living for each other, doing more things together than parents are able to do, paying more attention to the other person’s feelings and desires. They see children as a possible threat to the harmony they are able to take for granted.” 2 likes
“The message is clear: a good mother breast feeds. Significantly, this good mother shares a sociocultural profile with women in other developed countries: she is over thirty, is a high earning professional, does not smoke, takes prenatal classes, and benefits from a long maternity leave.” 2 likes
More quotes…