Oh, The Vileness That is Caitlin Flanagan

Caitlin Flanagan is now trying on the role of political consultant for the Democrats. And why the hell not — it’s a venerable tradition of those who do not have a clue about what the voters want to offer advice to the Democrats on how they should capture this group or that.

Caitlin starts things off with a recitation of why she’s Really, Really a Democrat at heart:

I am a 44-year-old woman who grew up in Berkeley who has never once voted for a Republican, or crossed a picket line, or failed to send in a small check when the Doctors Without Borders envelope showed up. I believe that we should not have invaded Iraq, that we should have signed the Kyoto treaty, that the Starr Report was, in part, the result of a vast right-wing conspiracy. I believe that poverty is our most pressing issue and that we should be pouring money and energy into its eradication. I believe that allowing migrant women and children to die of thirst in American deserts is a moral transgression that will stain us forever.

So far, so good, Caitlin. But things take a dramatic turn in the following paragraph:

But despite all that, there is apparently no room for me in the Democratic Party. In fact, I have spent much of the past week on a forced march to the G.O.P. And the bayonet at my back isn’t in the hands of the Republicans; the Democrats are the bullyboys. Such lions of the left as Barbara Ehrenreich, the writers at Salon and much of the Upper West Side of Manhattan have made it abundantly clear to me that I ought to start packing my bags. I’m not leaving, but sometimes I wonder: When did I sign up to be the beaten wife of the Democratic Party?

That’s right — Caitlin didn’t leave the party, the party left her. Where have I heard this before?

Seriously, she sounds like she’s cutting and pasting the same kind of garbage that all the other “I didn’t leave the party, the party left me” types spew when they offer advice to the Democrats on how to win these people back. Complete with references to the Upper West Side. Might as well just say, “Those nasty intellectuals and Jews won’t invite me to their parties, and if they do, they’re mean to me.”

And why are they mean to you, Caitlin?

Here’s why they’re after me: I have made a lifestyle choice that they can’t stand, and I’m not cowering in the closet because of it. I’m out, and I’m proud. I am a happy member of an exceedingly “traditional” family. I’m in charge of the house and the kids, my husband is in charge of the finances and the car maintenance, and we all go to church every Sunday. This month Little, Brown published a collection of my essays about family life called To Hell with All That: Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife. It’s written in the spirit of one of my great heroes, the late housewife writer and feminist Erma Bombeck. It’s not a book about social policy or alternative lifestyles or anything even vaguely political. It’s a book about how much I miss my mother, who died recently, and about the struggles I have had fighting breast cancer without my mom around to help me. It’s a book that pays tribute to the ’50s housewife instead of ridiculing her.

Let’s stop right here, Caitlin. You’re no more a housewife than I am. You do high-profile work for which you make good money and get yourself on television. You may think that because you do it at home and turn off the computer when the kids come home from school, you’re a housewife. But you’re not.

And yes, dear, your book is political because in it, you’re shitting on all the work that feminists have done and do now in order to glorify a 1950s norm that never was the norm. And you have the audacity to tell other women that they should be doing what you do — minus, of course, the writing gigs for the New Yorker and the Atlantic. And minus the housekeeper and nanny.

Here’s a secret, Caitlin: there are plenty of Democrats in marriages in which the feminist wife stays home with the kids and the husband works. They just don’t kid themselves about the risks of having only one income, nor do they see the arrangement as being a way of recapturing a glorious past. They’ve simply decided that they can afford it, and that this is the best arrangment for them. There are also plenty of couples for whom this is not even an option. You’d throw them under the bus along with the feminists.

Oh, and Caitlin? I’ve read Erma Bombeck. You, Flanagan, are no Erma Bombeck.

As far as I can tell, every reviewer and reporter who has encountered my book has assumed that I’m a conservative Republican. At the end of an interview on a national TV network, a reporter said, “Caitlin, I can’t let you go without asking you one question.” Here was her question: Was it really true that I’m a Democrat? Those reporters’ assumptions don’t tell you anything about me, nor do they tell you much about the reporters themselves: they made an honest mistake. What it tells you a whole lot about is the Democratic Party and the face it projects to the world.

No, Caitlin. It says something about you. It says something about the fact that on the one issue you write about, you espouse retrograde conservative views and engage in sister-punishing. It says something about the fact that you don’t bother writing about Doctors Without Borders or any of the other things that you listed as part of your Democratic bona fides.

It also says something about the way you dress. You might lose the pink jackets and headbands if you don’t want to be mistaken for a Republican.

But we let the Republicans have complete ownership of the image of the traditional family. And that’s one reason we keep losing elections.

Oh, here we go with the advice. Brace yourselves!

The Democrats made a huge tactical error a few decades ago. In the middle of doing the great work of the ’60s–civil rights, women’s liberation, gay inclusion–we decided to stigmatize the white male. The union dues–paying, churchgoing, beer-drinking family man got nothing but ridicule and venom from us. So he dumped us. And he took the wife and kids with him.

Ah, so perfect. She’s really jes’ folks, with the beer-drinking, union-man husband. Except for the fact that he’s a corporate executive.

And now here we are, living in a country with a political and economic agenda we deplore, losing election after election and wondering why.

It’s the contempt, stupid.

I don’t even know where to go with this one. Someone with nothing but contempt for working women trying to give advice to the party that at least nominally supports working women and doesn’t try to chase them back into the kitchen.

Face it, Caitlin. You *are* a Republican.


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70 Responses to Oh, The Vileness That is Caitlin Flanagan

  1. Tony says:

    A bit of stray from the topic… and a bit of a rant, but I need to do this one, so please humor me… Caitlin….as much as I disagree with her argument and think it’s vile, her essay would be ten times more readable if she didnt’ feel obliged to open with that damned ad hominem defense (“I support Doctors Without Borders blah blah blah but here’s why Democrats are evil”)

    It wouldn’t piss me off so much if this wasn’t literally about the 1,000th time I’ve heard this kind of bullshit. Forget the ad hominem attack. Forget begging the question. Forget appeal to the majority. Forget correlation means causation. Forget Godwin’s law. By far, by FAR, the most common rhetorical farce that has been used in recent years has been the g-ddamned ad homimen defense. “Oh I LOVE X but where’s why X sucks!” News to the world: if you’re going to criticize something just do it! There’s no need to spend the first paragraph of every g-dforsaken essay affirming how you, as a person, are such a ‘unique’ and ‘unexpected’ person to be making whatever argument you have in mind. It doesn’t make the argument any more interesting!

  2. Magis says:

    I think she’s confusing the Democratic Party with mindless sitcoms which are…well…like her…mindless.

  3. Josh says:

    I must have missed all those campaign ads that said “Fuck Joe Sixpack, vote Kerry!” Flanagan is confusing what the Democratic party is with what the Republicans say it is, which seems kinda Republican to me.

    Why did the Upper West side become synonymous with liberalism? I live on W. 74th and a lot of my neighbors are ex-fratboy yuppie assholes who vote GOP.

  4. Blue Jean says:

    Gee, I must’ve missed the campaign commercial where the D’s are burning Mrs. Cleaver in effigy…

  5. Jill says:

    I love her reasoning — “They hate my lifestyle!”

    No, girlfriend, we don’t hate your lifestyle. We hate the fact that you’re a fucking hypocrite who tells us that our “careerist” lifestyles make us bad wives, mothers and women, while you write for various elite publications, publish a novel and spend your evenings as a TV pundit all while telling those of us who don’t have a hot dinner on the table every night that we’re moral failures. We resent the fact that you’re building your career on telling the rest of us that having a career is bad. We dislike your smarminess, your disengenuity, and your complete divorce from reality.

    If you stayed home and baked pies all day, I don’t think any of us would really give two shits about you. But when your MO is “You should stay home, because I stay home and it’s great, and if you don’t stay home your kids are suffering” and yet it’s fairly transparent that one can’t spend all that much time at home when she’s a novelist, a magazine writer and a TV regular, we dislike you.

  6. publish a novel

    Trivial, nitpicky point, which doesn’t actually bear on the main thrust of Jill’s argument :-). Caitlin Flanagan didn’t publish a novel. She tried to write a novel, and gave it up in favor of writing columns.

  7. Because you know you need me to keep you honest about Caitlin Flanagan trivia :-).

  8. Mary says:

    I’m so tired of these WASP-y upper-class women waxing poetic on the joys (and neccesity) of being a housewife and completely ignoring the blatantly obvious fact that many two-parent households, um, HELLO, cannot afford the luxury of having a stay-at-home mom (or a housekeeper, for that matter). So ashamed she’s from Berkeley…

  9. norbizness says:

    Jeez, it saddens me to think that her vote in California vote for a Republican or whatever in her demographic-of-one might be absolutely fucking useless. Welcome to the club, says the virulent non-Republican in Texas.

  10. bmc90 says:

    She ak like she dissin ole Lincoln fram tha middle o da cotton feeld, fulla pickworm, but she really on da porch wid her mint julep, lookin down ons us fram undah dat parasol.

  11. Sally says:

    I think the thing that’s so annoying about her is how disingenuous she is. Like how she claims just to be having a reasonable, balanced discussion of women’s choices, and she doesn’t at all mean to hurt anyone by bringing up that mothers who work outside the home are neglectful, evil people whose children are starved for love and whose husbands will desert them if they get sick. She can’t understand why anyone would mind her saying that. After all, she sometimes criticizes herself! Similarly, here she claims that feminists hate her because she’s in a traditional marriage, whereas really feminists hate her because she bashes anyone who doesn’t make the same choices (or, as in most cases, can’t afford to make the same choices) as her. She would be a lot less annoying if she were just honest about her nasty intentions, rather than pretending to be nice and then acting all wounded when people called her on her nastiness.

  12. zuzu says:

    God, you know who she is? Sue Ann Nivens.

  13. The Truffle says:

    Earth to Caitlin! Earth to Caitlin! Nobody’s picking on stay at home mothers. Get your brain out of the 1970s and look at your calendar. It’s 2006. Nobody is showing any contempt for you because of your decision. In fact, the only one showing any contempt for anyone is you. And you are now projecting that contempt onto other people.

  14. Jon C. says:

    Looks like this post and the comments have basically proven Flanagan’s point. Flanagan adopts the panoply of liberal policy positions, but because she has the temerity to challenge the feminist CW on one issue, she gets branded a “vile”, “fucking hypocrite”, a possible anti-Semite, a plantation-dwelling racist, and, horror of horrors, a “Republican.” And for good measure, her fashion choices are disparaged as well. Guess you all showed her what’s what.

  15. Sally says:

    Nothing she’s done would make me call her an anti-semite or a racist. I think she’s vile and a hypocrite, but it’s not because she’s in a traditional marriage. And if she’d said “feminists thing I’m vile and a hypocrite because I’m gratuitiously cruel and because I insult other people for making particular choices but give myself a pass for making the same choices,” it wouldn’t have packed quite the same punch as claiming that we hate her because she doesn’t work in an office. There’s no disputing that a lot of feminists dislike her. It’s just that she’s dishonest about the source of their ire.

  16. zuzu says:

    Looks like this post and the comments have basically proven Flanagan’s point. Flanagan adopts the panoply of liberal policy positions, but because she has the temerity to challenge the feminist CW on one issue, she gets branded a “vile”, “fucking hypocrite”, a possible anti-Semite, a plantation-dwelling racist, and, horror of horrors, a “Republican.” And for good measure, her fashion choices are disparaged as well. Guess you all showed her what’s what.

    OOOOH. You showed me what’s what, that’s for sure.

    Where, exactly, did the plantation come in?

    And if you have some other way to read sniping about Upper West Side liberals, please clue me in.

  17. Sjofn says:

    God, you know who she is? Sue Ann Nivens.

    Ahahahaha, you’re exactly right.

  18. Jon C. says:

    Where, exactly, did the plantation come in?

    Quoth bmc90, post 10:

    She ak like she dissin ole Lincoln fram tha middle o da cotton feeld, fulla pickworm, but she really on da porch wid her mint julep, lookin down ons us fram undah dat parasol.

    And if you have some other way to read sniping about Upper West Side liberals, please clue me in.

    Sorry, I can’t come up with anything. You’re right, complaining about Upper West Side liberals automatically means you hate Jews. There’s no other way to read such comments in good faith.

    OOOOH. You showed me what’s what, that’s for sure.

    I wasn’t trying to show you what’s what. I just think that your post and the ensuing comments are a silly, quixotic, over-the-top response to some fairly unremarkable comments by an otherwise liberal Democrat. And your labelling her a Republican at the end of the screed had the added effect of essentially vindicating her claim that she’s being run out of the party.

  19. zuzu says:

    Jon, you clearly haven’t read any of her work. I refuse to pull punches when someone who would tell an interviewer that the interviewer was a bad mother because she was at work rather than home with her children dealing with their dead gerbil, or who would say that women who work outside the home aren’t fucking their husbands properly.

    If she wants to prove her liberal bona fides so badly, she’s going to have to come up with a lot more than the retrogressive traditionalist strict gender-role shit that she does. And she’s going to have to do a lot better than trotting out the tired old Strawfeminist and Strawdemocrat.

  20. Lauren says:

    Jon must be done with his finals. Haven’t seen him in awhile.

  21. Jon C. says:

    I refuse to pull punches when someone who would tell an interviewer that the interviewer was a bad mother because she was at work rather than home with her children dealing with their dead gerbil, or who would say that women who work outside the home aren’t fucking their husbands properly.

    Fine, don’t pull punches if you aren’t so inclined. But it just seems silly to imply that the woman’s a Jew-hater, or that she’s a “Republican” because she dissents from the liberal line this one issue. It’s kind of like Kos arguing that Steny Hoyer should be thrown out of office because he isn’t sufficiently adulatory towards Stephen Colbert.

    Jon must be done with his finals. Haven’t seen him in awhile.

    Would that I were! I have a few more weeks to go, but regular classes are over now and I needed a study break.

  22. Karen says:

    Today is my day to rant about Caitlin Flanagan. I ranted at Beliefnet’s Crunchy Con and got flamed by Rod Dreher himself. I’ll treasure the moment.

    Now that I’m calmer, I think I can summarize the feminst problem with Flanagan, et alia. It isn’t that she celebrates domestic tasks. Martha Stewart and, now, Rachael Ray, do the same thing but don’t inspire screaming rants. I, at least, admire both women. Feminists actually do understand that food needs to be cooked, houses cleaned, and laundry washed, folded or hung, and stowed appropriately. Failing to do those things leads to a chaotic and miserable life. Flanagan and Lukas don’t stop at defending home cooking or laundry; they insist that ONLY WOMEN SHOULD DO THOSE THINGS. Even when they themselves don’t. Flanagan, in fact, in a response to a letter about her infamous “Serfdom” essay in the March 2004 Atlantic dismissed the idea that her husband should do any housework because he was “the head of the household,” and she treated him as such. In other words, housework sucks and being born with a Y-chromosome is such a favor to the world that it exempts the possessors from doing stuff that sucks. Thus, she implies that housework is some kind of punishment and women deserve that punishment.

  23. zuzu says:

    But it just seems silly to imply that the woman’s a Jew-hater, or that she’s a “Republican” because she dissents from the liberal line this one issue.

    Jon, my point with both of those things, in case you missed it, is that she’s employing precisely the same language, down to the Upper West Side liberals, that other pundits have used in playing the “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me” game. I’m sure it gets her more talk-show slots.

    And “this one issue” is a fundamental issue — female autonomy and self-determination. It ties into some pretty basic party values of equality and dignity and civil rights. There are a lot of men on the left who don’t fully get it, but they’d be horrified if there were a serious movement in the party to send women back to the kitchen.

    Nobody hates her because she’s married, has children or goes to church on Sunday, except the poor, overworked man-hating, child-denying, atheist Strawfeminist. People hate her because she’s smug, condescending, and shits all over the work that feminists and feminist allies in the Democratic party and on the left have done — the very work that allows her to play the Phyllis Schlafly of the Left, working in a prestigious job while hectoring other women who can’t or don’t want to give up their careers to submit to the authority of their husbands and live some manufactured 50s fantasy.

    And she’s playing this poor-me schtick to the hilt. If there’s anything the talk shows love, it’s an anti-feminist in feminists’ clothing, who’ll cozy up to the men and say that she’s got all the answers, that if women just gave up their silly aspirations, everything would be so much better. Go watch the video of her appearance on the Colbert Report to see just how creepy she is. Colbert was playing a character, but she wasn’t.

  24. Sally says:

    But it just seems silly to imply that the woman’s a Jew-hater, or that she’s a “Republican” because she dissents from the liberal line this one issue.

    That one issue happens to be the only issue she writes about. When she brings up any other issue, such as the goodness of Doctors Without Borders or the rights of undocumented aliens, it’s either to silence her critics or to take a swipe at women who make different choices than her. The reason that no one knows she’s a liberal is that she does very little to indicate her liberalness. She may only be conservative on one issue, but that’s the issue on which she’s made a name for herself.

  25. Lauren says:

    Not to mention the binary thinking and the throwback politic.

  26. Tony says:

    Btw, to illustrate my slightly (but not entirely) off-topic point a bit further, a Google search of “Caitlin Flanagan” and “Doctors Without Borders” turns up a grand total of 23 results, at least two of which reference to the above article, and several others which (1) are websites criticizing DWB but link to Flanagan’s articles, (2) websites critcizing Flanagan but urging support to DWB, and none of which directly link Flanagan to DWB in any way. It’s safe to say that Flanagan, DWB zealot extraordinaire, has never written a word about DWB except for her ad hominem defense.

    A Google search of “Caitlin Flanagan” and “housewives” turns up 9,610 results.

  27. Christopher says:

    Jesus, white men are such wimps.

    Other people have endured decades of institutionalised racism, and have still managed to be progressive and still work for equality for all people, even white men.

    Meanwhile, we hear a handful of feminists say that maybe they don’t want to have sex with us, and we start comparing the whole movement to the freaking Nazis.

    Why are we so touchy?

    I guess my point is, if Joe Sixpack is so skittish and needs his ego stroked every second of the day, maybe having him as an ally is more trouble then it’s worth.

  28. kate says:

    Mary Says:
    May 3rd, 2006 at 2:39 pm

    I’m so tired of these WASP-y upper-class women waxing poetic on the joys (and neccesity) of being a housewife and completely ignoring the blatantly obvious fact that many two-parent households, um, HELLO, cannot afford the luxury of having a stay-at-home mom (or a housekeeper, for that matter).

    Hear hear! And maybe that some women are in really bad, dangerous or restrictive marriages that they must leave for their own safety/sanity and that of their children. So what must they do Mrs. Flanagan – Hudnut? Advertise in the paper for a willing man to support them so she can stay at home with them whilst he loves, worships and works to support her and her children? Hundreds of those men around and the feminists just go and scare them off.

    I guess my point is, if Joe Sixpack is so skittish and needs his ego stroked every second of the day, maybe having him as an ally is more trouble then it’s worth.

    Methinks Mrs. Flanagan – Hudnut is working very hard to stroke every wounded male ego she can find, with whatever tools necessary I’d imagine as well. The pink casmere and head band are a ruse my friends and real turn-on for an alienated, fortyish, balding, beer packing, hairy union dude.

  29. Tony says:

    Christopher: That was pathetic. If you want to be hypocritical, racist, sexist, attack strawmen, and care about whether someone is a “Joe Sixpack” go ahead but you’re not helping your cause.

  30. Raging Moderate says:

    telling those of us who don’t have a hot dinner on the table every night that we’re moral failures.

    that mothers who work outside the home are neglectful, evil people whose children are starved for love and whose husbands will desert them if they get sick.

    someone who would tell an interviewer that the interviewer was a bad mother because she was at work rather than home with her children dealing with their dead gerbil, or who would say that women who work outside the home aren’t fucking their husbands properly.

    I’ve read several of Flanagan’s articles and interviews and I’ve never heard her say any of these things.

    Could someone please provide a link where she does?

    Thanx.

    P.S. Please no “look it up yourself” replies. I just spent an hour looking and I found a few quotes that contradict the above statements, but none to confirm them.

  31. PHLAF says:

    You know, it’s not just hypocritical that this woman is slamming working mothers on the one hand while she is indeed a working mother herself (you can’t claim to be a housewife when you pay someone else to do the housewife-stuff for you – from the profits you made while doing non-traditional work, no less), but her success in that work depends on a lot of other working mothers/working women. Where would she be without the women who work in publishing, television production, news media, etc. ? Where would she be without the working women who clean her house and pick up her dry cleaning?

    If every working mother who has somehow supported Ms. Flanigan’s work quit tomorrow, who would edit her books or make her up for her TV appearances or interview her or review her work? Who would do the dishes and vacuum and run to the grocery store for her?

    She’s delusional. She’s that particularly annoying kind of delusional that comes with being priviledged and sheltered and never having to know what it’s like to be a real working woman – a single mother who works the night shift while her mom stays with the kids at night, and then takes care of her own house and her own kids and maybe even tries to take a few courses so she can do a little better some time in the future, and maybe gets about four hours of sleep if she’s lucky, and who has to pinch every penny and worry endlessly about being able to afford well-care, much less sick-care, for example.

  32. Marian says:

    Doesn’t Flanagan sort of do SAHM’s a disservice anyway? She’s part of the reason why the SAHM is stereotyped to be rich, pampered, sits on the couch eating bon-bons all day while the nanny minds the kids and the housekeeper cooks dinner. She does these things and claims to have made a ‘traditional woman’s’ choice.

    What about the one-income families who live on very little; who do without cable TV, cell phones, dinners out, etc. just because they want that much for someone to be home with the kids? She doesn’t exactly give them a voice either.

    Thanks Caitlin for proving the “SAHM’s are Stepford wives” stereotype!

  33. zuzu says:

    P.S. Please no “look it up yourself” replies. I just spent an hour looking and I found a few quotes that contradict the above statements, but none to confirm them.

    Sorry, we’re not your research department here. Search this site and Pandagon.

  34. evil_fizz says:

    Raging Moderate, all you need to do is look at the previous Caitlin Flanagan threads here and there are a couple at Pandagon. Go find the line about the dying hamster in the Elle article and then we’ll talk.

  35. Magis says:

    Raging Moderate:

    P.S. Please no “look it up yourself” replies. I just spent an hour looking and I found a few quotes that contradict the above statements, but none to confirm them.

    Can’t resist.

    Look up SARCASM
    Look up SATIRE

  36. Sally says:

    Sigh. Ok, so here’s what happens next. You know those mildly self-critical things that Flanagan says in between implying that working mothers are evil bitches whose kids hate them and whose husbands never get laid? Raging Moderate is going to latch on to them, completely ignore that the whole “but I’m just being honest! Look, I can be self-critical!” thing is part of Flanagan’s hateful, disingenuous schtick, and spend the next hundred and fifty posts demanding that we prove to him that Flanagan is, in fact, the hateful, disingenuous nightmare that we all know her to be. Thread derailment will ensue.

    RM is a troll. He’s a reasonably coherent troll who doesn’t swear or talk about Mexicans having low IQs, but he’s still a troll. Ignore. Move on.

  37. Jill says:

    I’ve read several of Flanagan’s articles and interviews and I’ve never heard her say any of these things.

    Could someone please provide a link where she does?

    RM-

    See this Elle article for the gerbil thing.

    From the same article:

    In [her essay “How Serfdom Saved the Women’s Movement”], she argues that professional women have entered the workforce on the backs of poor immigrant nannies and that the children of these lawyers and doctors and executives love their nannies more than they do their own mothers: “To con oneself into thinking that the person who provides daily physical care to a child is not the one he is going to love in a singular and primal way—a way obviously designed by nature herself to cleave child to mother and vice versa—is to ignore one of the most fundamental truths of childhood.”

    and

    “What few will admit—because it is painful, because it reveals the unpleasant truth that life presents a series of choices, each of which precludes a host of other attractive possibilities—is that when a mother works, something is lost,” she writes in the “Serfdom” essay. Lest you take these words at face value and think, Hey, something is gained, too!, she yanks away the parachute in the next sentence. “Children crave their mothers,” she says, then proceeds to make a bunch of assertions that lead to the inescapable conclusion that professional working women are selfish, pursuing their desires heedless of their children’s “agony.”

    and

    For the next few minutes, Flanagan expounds on home-cooked meals, saying how much she missed them when she was sharing an apartment just out of college, working some “dopey job” in Washington, DC. “I felt so lonely, and so sad, and so unwelcome, and I just think it’s really great when, if someone’s out all day and working, and working, and working—and some days he might be late,” she adds, the “he” being her husband, Rob, whose last name Flanagan does not like to reveal but who, as has been written elsewhere, is a Mattel executive who produced Barbie in the Nutcracker and Barbie of Swan Lake. “I always have his dinner out. It’s not fancy. But someone had a hot meal waiting for him. Someone loved him. Someone thought he was out all day dealing with business. It’s like you come through that door, Yeah, a hot meal,” she says dreamily.

    “Now, that’s just personal,” she says, with sudden briskness. “This is no prescription for a happy life.” Huh? “I mean, I have a really good friend who’s an incredible television executive. Her husband’s a really highly placed writer. They rock out their lives to the nth, nth degree. Their son’s a good friend of ours. I love going to their house. They, you know, order in everything,” Flanagan continues. “Everybody feels very loved there. It’s just different styles.”

    “But that’s not how you write,” I protest. “I mean, do you think your friend is as deeply connected to her son as you are to yours?”

    “No,” she says quietly.

    “Have you two talked about that?”

    “That,” Flanagan replies, “would be a wounding thing.”

    and

    Another reason Flanagan might find much favor in the male-dominated magazine-of-ideas milieu is that her compassion for the plight of men is boundless, while women, frequently, should just shut up and put out. “In the old days,” Flanagan writes, “a housewife understood that in addition to ironing her husband’s shirts and cooking the Sunday roast, she was, with some regularity, going to have relations with the man of the house.”

    and

    She goes on to portray the ravages of chemotherapy and her husband’s tenderness toward her. “When I couldn’t walk from the car to the doctor’s office, he carried me.” Then, here it comes, with about 500 words left in her barrel: “And if that’s a traditional marriage I’ll take it. If marriage is like a bank account, filled not only with affection but also with a commitment to the other person’s well-being as much as to one’s own, I suppose my balance was high. I suppose that all the days I had made a home for my husband, and all the times I had ended my writing days early so that he could work late or come home to a hot dinner and not a scene of domestic chaos—all that, as much as the desire and intensity that originally brought us together, were stores in my account.”

    Lovely for her, but pity those batik-wearing libbers when they fall ill, those gay men with AIDS, even mild domestic rabble-rousers like myself. Will there be no one to carry us?

    There’s more in various articles in Salon, etc.

  38. raging red says:

    “That,” Flanagan replies, “would be a wounding thing.”

    How is it that she can see that this would be a “wounding thing” to say to her friend, yet not understand why so many feminists get angry with her? I guess she has no problem saying “wounding things” to nameless, faceless women.

    For the next few minutes, Flanagan expounds on home-cooked meals, saying how much she missed them when she was sharing an apartment just out of college, working some “dopey job” in Washington, DC. “I felt so lonely, and so sad, and so unwelcome…

    Um, did she not know how to cook? (Apparently she does now, for her husband.) I’m a single woman with a career, and I love home-cooked meals too. So when I get home, I cook myself a meal. I don’t sit around feeling lonely, sad, and unwelcome because there’s nobody there to greet me with a hot meal as soon as I walk in the door. (Of course, I do have a boyfriend who loves to cook as much as I do, so sometimes I do get to kick my feet up with a gin & tonic and let him do all the work.)

  39. Jill says:

    How is it that she can see that this would be a “wounding thing” to say to her friend, yet not understand why so many feminists get angry with her? I guess she has no problem saying “wounding things” to nameless, faceless women.

    And I have to wonder if they’re still friends after this article came out.

  40. Raging Moderate says:

    Thanx for the replies.

    I have already read the articles you provided (and then some). I stiil haven’t seen where she says the things that have been attributed to her.

    When a woman works, something is lost = working women are moral failures, bad mothers, and evil?

    Huh? What am I missing here?

    Would I be correct in assuming that the quotes I listed above (post # 30) were your interpretations of what she said, and not what she actually said? Most of the criticisms I have heard go something like this: “When she says “abc”, what she really means is “xyz”.

    Example:

    “Children crave their mothers,” she says, then proceeds to make a bunch of assertions that lead to the inescapable conclusion that professional working women are selfish, pursuing their desires heedless of their children’s “agony.”

    Inescapable conclusions are in the eye of the beholder, I guess, as I managed to escape them.

    I can understand those of you who say she is a hypocrite; it seems pretty clear that she doesn’t practice what she preaches. But I’m not sure why so many people twist her words and claim she said things that she never did.

    RM is a troll. He’s a reasonably coherent troll who doesn’t swear or talk about Mexicans having low IQs, but he’s still a troll. Ignore. Move on.

    Perhaps I am a troll, but one with good intentions. I’m not an anti-feminist. I just think that some of the more extreme elements of feminism do more harm to your goals than good.

    P.S. I don’t believe I’ve ever met a Mexican, so I have no idea about their IQ’s.

  41. raging red says:

    And I have to wonder if they’re still friends after this article came out.

    Indeed.

    You know, I think her whole “Democrats don’t accept me but Republicans do” argument is a canard. I don’t see how party affiliation has anything to do with anything when it comes to criticizing her. The main thrust of the criticism is not “Now that’s not a very progressive thing to say,” but rather “That’s a completing insulting and privileged and ignorant thing to say.” The reason she gets those kinds of criticisms from Democrats more often than from Republicans is because in general, many more Republicans agree with her on the whole “traditional family values” tip.

  42. Jill says:

    RM-

    You partially quoted zuzu as saying

    someone who would tell an interviewer that the interviewer was a bad mother because she was at work rather than home with her children dealing with their dead gerbil

    and asked where in the world she saw that. There’s your article.

    I don’t think any of us said, “Caitlin Flanagan said, verbatim, xyz.” We’re taking the sum of what she has said in her numerous articles and books and distilling it down. I think if you actually read her essays, you’ll see that the characterizations we’re making are pretty darn accurate. The Elle magazine article is just the beginning.

  43. Lauren says:

    Wasn’t RM banned? Several times? And keeps coming back?

  44. Raging Moderate says:

    Jill,

    Sorry, my mistake.

    I thought that the posters who made the statements I was asking about were quoting Flanagan. I only realized later that they were interpretations or characterizations of what she said, not what she actually said.

    I read the article with the “dead gerbil” comment, and it seems we read it differently. “When a mother works, something is lost” – since you’re here working, you lost the chance to comfort your child. I see this as a statement of fact (opportunity cost – Econ 101), while you see it as a condemnation of the mother. I think the way we interpret this comment says more about you and I than it does about Flanagan.

  45. Jill says:

    I think all these people have similar names. “Raging moderate,” “Deep thought,” etc etc. I get confused, but I don’t think RM was banned. Although I wish these people would just change their names to “Right-winger who comes to argue, derail the thread and get on everyone’s nerves.”

  46. Lauren says:

    I do believe zuzu banned him. Or tried to. Dude is probably changing his email address or surfing by proxy every time he visits the blog and gets stuck in mod.

  47. Hestia says:

    I think the way we interpret this comment says more about you and I than it does about Flanagan.

    Then it apparently says that you’re unaware of a couple little concepts called “context” and “bias.” In the context of Flanagan’s other writing, your interpretation is, at the very least, unnuanced. Flanagan has an agenda; a sentence like “When a mother works, something is lost” coming out of her mouth means a lot more than the sum of its words.

  48. raging red says:

    So is her comment that her [probably former] good friend isn’t as deeply connected to her son because she orders in all the time instead of making home-cooked meals just a statement of fact, not a condemnation of the mother?

  49. zuzu says:

    I do believe zuzu banned him. Or tried to.

    Ban, or ban not. There is no try.

    I haven’t banned RM. Not yet, at least.

    Trust me, he’ll know it when he gets banned.

  50. bmc90 says:

    RM, what is driving us all crazy is that Flanagan is hoisting all child neglect on to the working mother band wagon. When EITHER parent works there is a “lost opportunity” to spend time with a child. The thing that is so nutsy is that a) no one bats and eyelash at men working, and working henious hours that effectively mean they have NO time with their kids; b) an air of wilful ingorance as to the realities of working class family econcomics suffuses Flanagan’s commentary; and c) families with a lot of kids or special needs kids or other circumstances also ‘miss opportunites’ with each individual child, but no one is talking about limiting family size to deal with that. In sum, Flanagan’s arguments are all a siren song designed to ingratiate herself with the male establishement while inviting women to crash into the psycological rocks of blaming themsleves for everything wrong with modern work and family. We here are by and large not buying that bill of goods.

  51. I think the way we interpret this comment says more about you and I than it does about Flanagan.

    Actually, I think it says something about Flanagan, and specifically about her writing style. She has an impressive ability to write well-crafted, witty collections of paragraphs that convince different people to believe totally different things about her perspective. Wry self-observation? Nuanced critique of changes in women’s roles? Drive-by, judgmental bashing of working mothers? Who is the real Flanagan?

    You don’t get this level of disagreement about, say, Erma Bombeck, nor do you get it about, say, Phyllis Schlafly. Not in the sense of disagreeing about what either woman is actually saying. But I’ve seen people in different blogs that I follow all over the map in what they think Flanagan means by her articles.

  52. zuzu says:

    And, gosh, I wonder what she means when she says that Democrats have abandoned white men?

  53. This article in particular is a little weird, since it boils down to saying Democrats are driving away the center because people like Barbara Ehrenreich say unpleasant things about people like Caitlin Flanagan. By that standard, Republicans really ought to have driven away the center long ago, since plenty of right of center pundits say plenty of unpleasant things about people more moderate Republicans actually like.

    But, you know, if you pick and choose your quotes properly, it’s pretty easy to get the Flanagan of your choice – well, from among a certain range of choices, anyway.

  54. Case in point: In this article, Flanagan describes her book as basically an apolitical book about how much she misses her recently deceased mother. On the Colbert show, she described it as a book about how feminism has shortchanged American women. Big difference, there.

  55. geoduck2 says:

    This article in particular is a little weird, since it boils down to saying Democrats are driving away the center

    And it’s such B.S.

    This is “wither the dry hump” woman who is obsessed with blow jobs.

    We are just swarmed with these people. There’s obviously good money to be made as a professional anti-feminist. The cookie woman (who actually graduated from Princeton & the Kennedy School) released her book just the other day.

  56. Shelleth says:

    I’m not an anti-feminist. I just think that some of the more extreme elements of feminism do more harm to your goals than good.

    Hooray, a man is here to inform us ignorant women about the right way to consider and pursue feminist goals! Thank god he told us that we’re all doing more harm than good to our “goals” or we never would have known!

  57. Tammy says:

    Raging Moderate, let me explain something to you about women. When we see or read a man who can’t pick up on or worse, pretends he can’t pick up on, cattiness, we think he’s a simpleton who probably cheats on his wife and couldn’t wipe his own ass with a stick and a roll of toilet paper.

    So if you persist with pretending that you don’t know that Caitlan is being a good, old-fashioned cat, we will be forced to conclude that you drool on yourself and probably do need a housewife hovering over you to mop it up.

  58. geoduck2 says:

    Here’s more wack-a-doodle quotes:

    “Under these conditions,” she writes, “pity the poor married man hoping to get a bit of comfort from the wife at day’s end. He must somehow seduce a woman who is economically independent of him, bone tired, philosophically disinclined to have sex unless she is jolly well in the mood, numbingly familiar with his every sexual maneuver, and still doing a slow burn over his failure to wipe down the countertops and fold the dish towel after cooking the kids’ dinner. He can hardly be blamed for opting instead to check his e-mail, catch a few minutes of SportsCenter, and call it a night.”

    An interesting insight into how she sees sex (WIFELY DUTY) in a marriage. Disturbing.

  59. Fitz says:

    I SEE! awaiting moderation = Exiled to Siberia

  60. zuzu says:

    Case in point: In this article, Flanagan describes her book as basically an apolitical book about how much she misses her recently deceased mother. On the Colbert show, she described it as a book about how feminism has shortchanged American women. Big difference, there.

    And the 2/3-page ad in the New Yorker says, “Unexpected wisdom about *sex in marriage *white weddings *overscheduled kids *mothers, homes and work *and other provocations!”

    And the pull quote from the NYT book review says that she writes about subjects that “arouse fierce emotions.”

    Oh, nothing political there. Also nothing about tender remembrances about her mother.

  61. Christopher says:

    “Christopher: That was pathetic. If you want to be hypocritical, racist, sexist, attack strawmen, and care about whether someone is a “Joe Sixpack” go ahead but you’re not helping your cause.”

    ?

    Let’s look at the quote of Miss Flanagan’s I was responding to:

    “The Democrats made a huge tactical error a few decades ago. In the middle of doing the great work of the ’60s–civil rights, women’s liberation, gay inclusion–we decided to stigmatize the white male. The union dues–paying, churchgoing, beer-drinking family man got nothing but ridicule and venom from us. So he dumped us. And he took the wife and kids with him.”

    Her thesis is that stigmatization of guys like me forces us to be Republican. While the term “Joe Sixpack” was not actually used, I think one might well describe Mr. sixpack as a “union dues–paying, churchgoing, beer-drinking family man”.

    My counter thesis was that, even if one accepts her premise that Mr. Sixpack is chased away by feminists saying mean thingas, it may not want to make us change our behavior.

    If Joe’s help is predicated upon constant ego stroking, then perhaps he is a less then useful ally.

    My other point was that non-whites and non-males have endured oppression far beyond people saying mean things to them, and have managed to endure it.

    Therefore, dealing with a bit of ribbing from these non-white males seems like an acceptable amount of sacrifice to make for an important cause. If we can’t even sacrifice that much, then how useful will we be in a crunch?

    I thought all that came through reasonably clearly. In fact, I’m not actually sure what you thought I was saying. Did you think I was a self-hating white guy?

  62. TK says:

    RM, look up her interview with Stephen Colbert just last week. She quite flatly said that contemporary marriages were inferior to those of the 50s and 60s (interesting that she drew a line on both sides of those two decades) and that being trapped in a loveless marriage with no resources to get out was on balance still preferable to the contemporary kind, by which she meant feminist. She even said that her original title for her book was “how feminists sold women down the river.” That should take care of your skepticism about her views.

  63. Paddymick says:

    Lots of blather folks, but no substance. If you don’t like what she said, provide a rebuttal… Anyone?

    Example–“I’ve read Erma Bombeck and contrary to what Caitlain says, Erma says [quote]”…

    Example of bullshit kneejerking–“I’ve read Erma Bombeck and Caitlain is no Erma Bombeck”. Newsflash. No one was arguing that Caitlain was Erma Bombeck.

    You can jump up and down all you want but until you learn to at least approach Caitlain’s opinion (face it, it is A LOT more common than you would like to admit–how do you think religious politicians continue to get elected–why do you think even “progressive” dems have to pander to the religious right?), you won’t ever represent any sort of majority.

    How Caitlain defines herself (whether or not she is a “real” housewife–whatever the hell that means!) has very little bearing on the point she is making. Just as you admitted, there ARE many women who ARE housewives who do subscribe to her point of view. Quit beating the messenger and start digesting the message. Respond to the message, please.

    Your rationale is akin to arguing that poverty isn’t really an issue if Warren Buffet is the one who is championing it. Who cares if Warren is filthy rich (or Caitlain is a corporate witch), the issue still rings true. The left has secured very little support from the conservative mothers and housewives of America.

    These women tend to hold a lot of sway in our society (they have more kids, for starters, kids who will grow up believing what their loving mother taught them). Quit your bitching and start addressing the issues. Worthless bunch of whining politocrats!

  64. zuzu says:

    The left has secured very little support from the conservative mothers and housewives of America.

    Well, why the fuck should they? Conservative housewives are by definition not left-wing.

    It’s a waste of time going after conservative housewives. Now, liberal housewives, that’s another story.

  65. Pope Ratzo says:

    If she were really a Democrat I doubt that she’d let herself be marched at bayonet point to the Republican Party. Not with all the damage the GOP has done to the country in the last 5 years.

    I’m sorry, even if the DNC put out a memo tomorrow saying that they don’t approve of my lifestyle, I still wouldn’t, under any circumstances, be able to ally myself with today’s GOP.

    Let’s see…

    War in Iraq.
    Domestic Spying
    Out of control spending
    neglect of cities in emergencies
    Torture
    Secret Prisons

    should I go on?

    This woman is a fraud.

  66. Ann Marie says:

    This woman starts off listing all the liberal values she claims to hold, then says that because various writers, none of whom are elected representatives or officials in the Democratic party, have been critical of her in print, she is now on a “forced march” to the Republican party, which shares none of those values. If her principles are that flexible, and that ego-driven, let the Republicans have her. Good riddance. She seems to think she represents some larger issue, but this is all just about her.

  67. Tony says:

    I don’t think I saw clearly that you were responding to that particular passage. It seemed like you were making a blanket statement about white men. If you’re going to proclaim progressive values including equality for all people, then making blanket statements about white men is clearly hypocritical, (and the whole feminazi thing is clearly a strawman to attack).

  68. Mario says:

    Thank you for unstitching her argument.

  69. Been There Done That says:

    I was once married to Caitlan Flanagan — well not to her, specifically, but to the type. What Raging Moderate may come to understand some day (assuming he eventually has a real relationship with an adult woman, and meets a couple of Mexicans etc.), is that Flanagan is a passive-aggressive sado-masochist, who has managed to turn the projection of her neuroses into a profitable home-based industry.

    But, given that his own neurotic style is classic passive-aggression, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for him to figure any of this stuff out.

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