Reader L.M. comments on our latest post on Judith Warner’s bestseller Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety. There, we wondered whether the “madness” of competitive, obsessive-compulsive parenting isn’t so much a problem that exists all across America as Warner claims but a problem that exists inside the heads of Warner and her ultra-affluent friends in Washington, D.C., who provided the material for her book. (See “Perfect Madness”: America’s Problem–or Judith Warner’s?, March 8.)
When Warner tells us that she became “paralyzed” fretting over whether to throw the basic or the deluxe Hello Kitty birthday party for her 3-year-old, or, as the Washington Post reported, one of her neighbors, upon reading a column by Warner in the New York Times, dumped the Valentine’s Day cupcakes she’d just baked with her sons into the garbage, you’ve got to ask: Do these women have all their marbles? (I myself felt sorry for those little boys who’d been looking forward to the cupcakes instead of a neurotic fit from Mama, but no one in Warner’s ‘hood seemed to mind.)
“Have women become so weak that they cannot care for a couple of babies in a comfortable home without coming unhinged?
“Several generations ago, mothers raised large families, made their clothes, cooked from scratch, pumped their own water, grew vegetables, and raised livestock, all without utilities, appliances, or government assistance. Suffragettes were thrown in jail fighting for the right to vote. Their granddaughters grew up to help win World War II; they worked long hours in factories, sold war bonds, and nursed the wounded. In England, women were doing the same thing in the midst of food shortages and air raids. Farther east, many women were helping the Resistance, hiding Jews, or taking their children and running for their lives. Let’s take a page from their book…
“Are there no blood centers, nursing homes, or businesses in Washington, D.C., that could use a hand? Anyone who obsesses about cupcakes and birthday parties can’t say she doesn’t have time to help.”
All right! Now for this e-mail from reader L.R., who is distressed by the IWF’s special report Ms. Education (pdf format) taking apart campus women’s studies courses for indoctrinating their students with an ideology of victimology and man-hatred. L.R. protests:
“I am truly hurt that a group exists in which the goal is to ‘combat the corrosive teaching of women’s studies’ on college campuses. Women’s studies as a department and interdisciplinary field exists because, like science, medicine, and law, it has saved people’s lives. It is a legitimate site for academic knowledge-production to occur which allows women to be at the center.
“It is a shame that a right-wing group such as the IWF claims that combating an academic field is part of its work. Women gaining access to higher education and succeeding is not a ‘corrosive’ part of women’s studies…. Seeking equality and justice is not ‘corrosive’; it is real learning.
Sorry, L.R., but learning something and “seeking equality and justice” are two different things. I’d say that even if the “equality and justice” in question were defined in ways that I’d approve, such as the “equality” that regards men as women’s friends, not their enemies, and the “justice” that means opportunities for women, not quotas. Classrooms are supposed to be forums for pursuing truth, not lobbying for policy changes. We have legislatures and think tanks for that. As someone who’s writing a doctoral dissertation on female spirituality in the Middle Ages, I’m all for studying women. But I’m not for “women’s studies,” which means misusing universities to push ideological agendas.