French feminist warns green movement forcing women to stay at home
Elisabeth Badinter, a leading French feminist, has warned the green movement is threatening decades of improvements in gender equality by forcing women to give up their jobs and become earth mothers.
Mrs Badinter claims a “holy reactionary alliance” of green politicians, breast-feeding militants, “back to nature” feminists and child psychologists is turning Frenchwomen into slaves to green “fads” like re-usable nappies and organic food.
In her new book, Conflit, la Femme et la Mere (Conflict, the Woman and the Mother), Mrs Badinter contends that this politically correct cabal is burdening mothers with intolerable guilt unless they stay at home and breast-feed for as long as possible.
Their perfect French mother, she writes, “breastfeeds for six months and doesn’t put her baby in a crèche or not too early, because baby needs to be with mum and not in a nest of germs; she is wary of all things artificial and is ecologically-minded. The jar of baby food has become a sign of selfishness; we’re back to the purée mashed by mum.”
Women in childbirth are even made to feel that epidurals are wrong, she goes on, adding: “We don’t need to bow down to nature.”
Those who choose to stay at work or to not have children are ostracised.
“It’s as if we were all female chimpanzees,” says Mrs Badinter, 65, who is widely admired in France for her outspoken views.
The rot started in the 1990s, she claims, when the French Right introduced payments for mothers wishing to stay at home, and the trend has accelerated with environmental pressures.
Her attack on muesli-eating ecologists sparked a furious response from Cécile Duflot, head of France’s Green party.
“She has completely missed the point. The real issue is to find out why today there is still inequality between men and women on pay and domestic chores, not to consider that today having a child is a problem,” she said.
“She blasts washable nappies as an extra burden for mothers without thinking for a second that a man could put them in the washing machine.
“What she completely forgets is the notion of pleasure. One can take pleasure in raising one’s baby – that goes for men too.” As for the breast-feeding brigade, Miss Duflot pointed out that only half of French women breastfeed, compared to 99 per cent in Norway.
Edwige Antier, a paediatrician and MP for President Nicolas Sarkozy’s centre-Right UMP party also slammed Mrs Badinter, calling her an “archeo-feminist” who is “in denial of motherhood”.
She had, she added, overlooked two key advancements in recent decades: the advent of the contraceptive pill and the child psychologist’s notion that babies are real people whose upbringing can bring fulfilment.
Mrs Badinter’s views are particularly controversial in France, where the rate of women who return to full-time employment after one child is the highest of all industrialised countries. It also has the highest birth rate in Europe.
She argues that France will go the way of Germany, Italy and other low birth rate countries if women feel too pressured into staying at home.
The feminist conceded that most French women managed to balance motherhood and work. But the trend for mothers to stay at home “excuses men in advance for continuing to do nothing in the house”, she says. According to a study published in November, French women do 80 per cent of household chores.
“If we don’t watch out, we can say goodbye to women’s freedom of choice and to the struggle for sexual equality,” she told Le Journal du Dimanche.