It's a Man's Man's man's Man's world
During the three years that I wrote and edited Mommy Wars, I had alot of conversations with men that went like this:
Man: So, what are you working on these days?
Me: A book about working and stay-at-home moms.
Man: Huh, you could write a whole book about that?
So I was especially curious to see what a man (in this case, JamesWolcott) thought of Mommy Wars ("Meow Mix," October 2). In hisreview, Wolcott described Mommy Wars as a "vanilla fudge of chattybanality and flat assertion." As a man with no children, he didn'texactly identify with the work/family struggles women tackle; but,surprisingly, he also could not appreciate the contributors'stories about universal problems facing women--cancer, domesticviolence, children with special needs, postpartum depression,financial hardship, a mother's suicide, infertility, child abuse,and plain old lousy husbands--from a variety of smart, candidvoices ranging from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jane Smiley to"Lizzie McGuire" creator Terri Minsky to Washington Post reporterLonnae O'Neal Parker. Lately, women have written a lot of books andarticles and blogs about our work/family challenges--including thefact that many men seem astonishingly clueless about the reality ofour daily lives as we search (often in vain) for the following:affordable, high-quality child care, jobs with enough flexibilityso that we can pick up our children from school, employers who paywomen and men equally, and husbands who don't expect to get a medalfor occasionally emptying the dishwasher. Wolcott's bafflementtoward women writing honestly about their lives was fairlypredictable--a track already well-worn by critics intent onderiding a female literary tradition that dares to deviate fromsuch serious and important male subjects as flyfishing,elephant-hunting, and keeping mistresses. What baffles me most iswhy a respected national magazine would trivialize the gut-wrenchingconflicts facing women by using "Meow Mix" as a title. Readersdeserve a reviewer who can identify with women's issues and amagazine that does not compare our struggles to cat food.
leslie morgan Steiner
Like many of the women described in Wolcott's review, I am alsotrying to write while being a mother, with my laptop perched "onany flat surface." I worry over Linda R. Hirshman's claim thatwomen who might otherwise have positions of authority are stayinghome and "have no power in the world." Yet full-time parents, likeanyone who works with children, have an extraordinary power andresponsibility: to shape the kind and educated citizens who willsoon enough take care of us and all we've done and undone.Sometimes this means sacrificing one's own vocation for a while, orat least the energy to do it well. How pointed that JohnHollander's villanelle "Policing the Yard" appears in the sameissue, with its devastating refrain: "Picking up what they'ddropped too long before: / That will return to haunt them all themore." This is chilling to any of us who don't pay enough attentionto parenting and equally so to a mother dusting off her C.V.,assessing her skills, and attempting to reenter the workforce.
Wolcott's article on the so-called mommy wars provides a clear caseof the narcissism of small differences. There is no discernabledifference in the well- being of children hand-raised by theirmothers and those raised by mothers who work for pay. The realdifference occurs when children are raised in poverty, sufferabuse, or are unwanted. It is regrettable that Caitlin Flanagan wasupset by her mother's short foray into the world of work. But shehas grown up to be a loving woman (according to herself) and onewho obviously has enough selfconfidence to broadcast her opinions.That's not such a bad development for the offspring of a mother whoworked outside the home.
In the excellent review by Ruth Franklin of Jan T. Gross's bookFear: Anti- Semitism in Poland After Auschwitz, she emphasizes thehorrendous role that many Poles played in making life impossible aswell as dangerous for Jews, both after the war and during it ("TheEpilogue," October 2). The virulent anti- Semitism that infectedPoland during the 1930s, even before the rise of Hitler, continuedinto the 1940s with extensive collaboration with the Nazis duringthe Holocaust. Unfortunately, this is a period that the currentPolish government and its people have chosen for the most part toignore, painting Poland purely as the victim during these periodsand never as complicit in the perpetration of the Holocaust. Evento this day, it seems that whenever there is any mention of Polishguilt in the Holocaust or the massacres of Jews after the end ofWorld War II, the Polish ambassador denies it with a flood ofletters to the press. It would be of some comfort to the fewsurvivors of the Holocaust and to the victims of the later murdersof returning Jews if the representative of Poland in the UnitedStates would freely admit to the facts, instead of being in totaldenial.
Silver Spring, Maryland
Department of corrections
In "By the Horns," the newspaper that published editorial cartoonsthat led to Muslim violence is identified as Dutch. It is Danish.We regret the error.