Monday, April 02, 2007

The Feminine Mistake

Leslie Bennetts writes an opinion piece at regarding her recently published book, The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much?

It would probably annoy Bennetts to no end that, like those she complains about, I haven't read her book either.

But that's not going to stop me . . .

By presenting her audience as either the women who have chosen to stay at home and the women who have chosen not to, Leslie Bennetts is missing a key audience, an audience for which her book might just be the most helpful, the women who haven't made the choice yet.

As Bennetts explains her book, it serves to reinforce the decision of the working mom and serves to criticize the decision of the stay at home. It's unlikely to affect the behavior in any appreciable way in either of these two groups. The stay at homers will tend towards defensiveness (as Bennetts complains they have) and the working moms will tend towards smugness.

Just as telling a friend who's in a bad relationship that she is in a bad relationship is rarely productive, likewise, I suspect, a friend who's made the "Feminine Mistake" is unlikely to be receptive to having this pointed out to her.

But, the women who haven't had to yet make the choice . . .

Bennetts states that

My goal in writing The Feminine Mistake was to provide women with what I saw as one-stop-shopping that would help close this information gap. My goal was to gather into a single neat package all the financial, legal, sociological, psychological, medical, labor-force, child-rearing and other information necessary for them to protect themselves. My reporting revealed that the bad news is just as ominous as I'd feared; so many women are unaware of practical realities that range from crucial changes in the divorce laws to the difficulties of reentering the work force and the penalties they pay for taking a time-out. I devoted two chapters to financial information alone.

If this is the case, then clearly her target audience, the audience who would be most benefited by the information presented, is made up of the women, young, unmarried and/or childless, who have not yet been faced with the choice of whether or not to "abandon their careers and become financially dependent on their husbands." This is the group who can then weigh their options and make their choice more fully informed.

But Bennetts doesn't seem to get it. She's surprised by the defensiveness of the stay at homers and wants to save them from themselves. This is highly unlikely. Like the millions who play the lottery, they will continue to hold out hope that each will be the one to beat the odds, the exception to the rule.

Instead of complaining about the lost causes, she should be focusing her energies on those she can sway.

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