For decades Elisabeth Badinter has been at the forefront of the fight for women’s equality. Now, in an explosive new book, she points her finger at an unlikely and unexpected danger that’s undermining the status of women: liberal motherhood in conflict with all that is “natural.” Attachment parenting, co-sleeping, natural childbirth, homemade baby food, baby-wearing, stay-at-home mothers and especially 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 and anything that distracts a mother’s attention from her offspring have turned child-rearing into a singularly regressive force.
In sharp, engaging prose, Badinter names a reactionary shift that is intensely felt but has not been clearly articulated until now, a shift that North America has pioneered. She reserves special ire for the fanaticism of the La Leche League—an offshoot of conservative evangelicalism—showing how on-demand breastfeeding, with all its limitations, curtails women’s choices. Moreover, the pressure to provide children with 24/7 availability, empathy and wisdom has produced a generation of overwhelmed and guilt-laden mothers—one cause of the West’s alarming declining birth rate.
A bestseller in Europe, The Conflict is a scathing indictment of a stealthy zealotry that cheats women of their full potential.