Yesterday I spent a not-quite-committed-to afternoon off catching up on current happenings in my little North American corner of the world. Most of the current socio-political cultural news I get is from my friend Lize who is very well-educated, passionate, literate and liberal, and who writes Prematurely Grey. The hot topics there which I followed off into other corners of the Internet included the latest in the Mommy Wars (enter Caitlin Flanagan) and and introduction to the Compact.
I was also sucked in by the mainstream media reportage of the "silent birth" of the Holmes-Cruise baby and it drove me to read more about Scientology to find out (better late than never) what all the fuss is about. I could go off on a rant and a tangent here about Tom Cruise and the really stupid, damaging things he has said, but this post is about Caitlin Flanagan and her damaging stupidity. Tom will get his turn later. I will just say now that I am glad I am not Katie Holmes' mother as I do not think I could have smiled and kept silent as I watched my daughter skip off blithely down the path of self destruction with him.
It is not surprising that Caitlin , the justly reviled author of "To Hell with All That: Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife", would show up multiple times on Prematurely Grey, nor that her opinions would send Lize into an outraged spin. I admit to being bothered more by her success peddling her shtick than in the outrageousness of the shtick itself. There will always exist people who spout seductive and destructive philosophy which is grabbed as a life-line by those casting about for validation and well-defined answers. And certain adaptations of said philosophy could actually improve some people's lives. That's what religion is all about, after all. And I completely respect another person's right to his own beliefs. What I absolutely, positively cannot abide is a hypocrite. And a rich, smug, self-righteous hypocrite with every purchased support system in the world is the worst of all.
As I write this entry, I find myself getting all riled up by the same things that outrage every other thinking, educated, liberal woman who is exposed to Caitlin's views. I start to write about how her ideas are just wrong... but that's not the point. The focus must be on why she should be dismissed out of hand--and it's not about her views and whether or not I agree with them, it's about the money and the mouth. She has plenty of both, but they are not co-located. It's also about the scalabilty of her "solution" and its lack of personal relevance to most women in this country--let alone the world. Finally, to think that being a better mother--or anything else--can be determined by one factor and works the same for everyone is insanely naive.
How can one even think of giving the time of day to a woman who--while ardently preaching that women should stay at home and take care of their children, their men and their hearths--by her own admission does not cook, does not clean, was not the primary caregiver for her children before they went to pre-school, and who has a very active professional career that she runs "from home" with the help of a personal organizer? She doesn't even have the honesty to confess "Do as I say, not as I do". Instead she holds herself up to be a better mother and wife because she is home at roughly the same time her children are and sees it as her duty to give her husband regular blow jobs.
And just who is her target audience? In this country where personal wealth is measured by the ability to buy things and hired staff is a luxury of only the truly rich, her lifestyle is so alien to most of us that I can't even begin to see how it could possibly scale to the real world. When she writes about mothers staying home or not and she refers to women of her acquaintence, she is referencing the top 1% or the top .5% of the economic tier in this country. While some of us get someone in to clean the house every couple of weeks (and consider ourselves fortunate) they have housekeepers, cooks, personal assistants, personal organizers, personal trainers, nannies, gardeners, etc. The experiences, deprivations and benefits of growing up in that kind of environment cannot be boiled down to does Mommy work outside the home or not. Mommy may very well stay at home with the children--while serving on several charitable boards and participating in other philanthropic activities. Don't let's kid ourselves; it's no less work and she's no more available.
Finally, I have to say what bothers me most about people taking Caitlin seriously (and they must as she wrote/writes for the Atlantic monthly and the New Yorker) is that her views show a fundamental lack of understanding of the complexity of human life and human relationships. There is no one solution that works for everyone. To sniff and call a woman a worker bee because the woman says "she has to work" when she might very well mean she wants to work shows a clear lack of understanding of the differences between individuals. Just because Caitlin has no drive does not mean that no one else does either. How obvious does it have to be that we are more able to enrich the lives of those around us--including our children--if we are happy? If someone is not happy because she is doing what she is 'supposed to do' rather than what she wants/is driven to do, how pleasant is she to be around and how good a caregiver is she?
One last question, where is Caitlin's husband in all of this besides providing her a meal ticket and getting regularly serviced? If I were a man reading her columns/book, I would be outraged at the diminished place I was given in today's family. My husband is a supreme caregiver and we equally share the roles and responsibilities of life management, householding and childraising. And we don't have sex because it's my duty--we do it because it's fun.