Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Leslie Bennetts participated in a online chat yesterday (the transcript is here). Based upon her comments in that chat, I think I have all of the information I need from her. The book's off my reading list. Among the highlights:

1. When asked about the title of her book turning women off(the question was posed by me), Ms. Bennetts missed the point completely. She simply reiterated that the people who have a problem with her title haven't read the book, and that she's right, anyway. Oh so helpful.

2. One woman wrote to share her own experiences -- after being unhappy as a full-time working mom, she chose to try staying at home for a while, and is much happier for it. Bennetts "it's too early for you to assess the wisdom of your choice," and strongly implies that when she's older, she will regret her decision. Once again, she leaves no room for the idea that the choice may be the right one for this woman and this family.

3. When challenged on the condescension in her answer to the woman above, Bennetts pulls the "well, I'm the expert, so you don't get to have an opinion" card. Literally. She says: "If you want to interview thousands of women and then disagree with me because your findings are different, be my guest."

Finally, Bennett has repeatedly dismissed any criticism of her or the book by people who haven't read it. Strangely, she's quite happy to accept kudos from people who praise her and her conclusions without actually having read the book. She tells one such fan "I think you're very wise." Others are simply thanked with nary a work of caution that they should read the book before drawing their conclusions.

After reading anything I could get my hands on about this book (though I have still not been able to get my hands on the book), I've decided that Ms. Bennetts has no real desire to add anything useful to the debate about how families can balance the demands of family and those of work. Every interview she's given and article she's written about the book indicates that what she really wants is to lob bombs at a segment of the population that she seems to regard with disdain. Some choice tidbits from her WaPo discussion:

"It is the source of constant amazement to me that so many women think they can simply opt out of working for pay."

"It turns out that housework doesn't make anybody happy!"

"The only friends I have who were left by their husbands were stay-at-home moms who had given up their careers. Maybe this is a coincidence, but the men ended up feeling as if the women were boring and not accomplished enough to be their partners after they themselves had become successful. So unfair." (compare and contrast to her reaction to a woman earlier in the chat who said neither she nor any of her friends had difficulty re-entering the workforce: "No matter what your anecdotal experience, it does not reflect the realities out there, which are far more problematic."

In addition, the chat is larded with references to the fact that Ms. Bennetts has chosen to 'take responsibility for herself," implying, but not stating, that SAHMs have not.

I did find one valuable piece of information in Bennetts' chat. She says that the source of her statistics about re-entering the workforce was a study from the Harvard Business Review. The study itself is far too expensive (almost $300) for me to run right out and buy it, but Silvia Ann Hewlett, an author of the study, has her own book based on it's findings coming out next month. I think I'll get my information straight from the source.

Sorry to have spent so many words on this issue. I'll admit that it does bother me when people make blanket assumptions that an entire segment of the population is stupid, ignorant, short-sighted and irresponsible just because they've made a choice with which one does not agree. I should probably have been satisfied giving Bennetts the attention she deserves (none), but I couldn't resist getting involved in the debate.


chris said...

Hi. thanks for stopping by my blog--I had no idea I had a fellow Cary reader. Congrats on passing the Bar and getting out of DC. I'm no sure if you know this, but we escaped from Kensington (MD) three years ago.

I hated this book too for the same reasons, by the way.

meh said...

CONGRATULATIONS ON PASSING THE BAR!! Of course, I knew you would all along. You underestimate yourself waaaayyyy too much. whoo-hooo to you.