We here at Media Central are really excited about the battle that's brewing, particularly because we're a month away from Mother's Day and this is the perfect ratings-grabbing fight we've been looking for, particularly on those slow news days. Two women, both writers, have books which take the opposite sides of one of our favorite topics: The mommy wars. And both of their books have images of a red house on the cover, one in perfect condition, the other in a form of a crumbling red house of cards. How's that for great graphics?
Want a preview of our battle royal?
In one corner, we have Vanity Fair journalist Leslie Bennetts, author of the soon-to-be-released tome, "The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much?"  which calls the decision to stay home with one's children or to alter one's career for family, naïve and financially stupid. She's gearing up for a national media campaign, which includes her new essay in Glamour  this month.
In the other corner, we have Atlantic Monthly journalist Caitlin Flanagan, author of the treatise, "To Hell with All That: Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife ," which says that when mothers go to work, they miss providing their children with the powerful notion that the person who loves them most has sacrificed her career to be with them. She already made the rounds on the book promotion circuit last year, including writing a piece in Time  touting her pro-traditional family argument, but the paperback version of her book is being released in May, so we're calling her back to the ring.
Oh yeah, we've got a rumble here folks.
Last year, Flanagan set the media world aflame when she was everywhere proclaiming that kids do better with their moms at home (even though she is a work-from-home mom with a nanny, but let's not dwell on that). She looked at marriage as the foundation for the American family and that when a mother stays home, both the husband and wife have their own family responsibilities. It's their social contract. Everyone must make sacrifices, most especially mom, who, while she loses her former self, experiences "moments of transcendence that comes from mothering a small child," she wrote.
Flanagan touched a nerve with working moms when she said that kids lose something when their mothers are working outside the home. Saying that while the benefits her twin sons enjoyed from her being at home may not be quantifiable, the effect of her presence is there. And it's deep: "All they gained, really, was the sweetness of being with a person who loved them most in the world. All they gained was an immersion in the most powerful force on earth: mother love. And perhaps there is something of worth in that alone."
Whoa. What a crusher of a passage. Pulling out all the mommy guilt stops. How can anyone argue with that, that kids flourish when they're with the person who loves them most of all?
Well, that, friends, is why we've also invited Bennetts to this match. With her new book and the press attention that comes along with it, Bennetts delivers equally crushing lines, saying that women like Flanagan who believe that their marriages won't collapse are living in Fantasy Land. They're deluded. They're immature by relying on a man to provide them with their livelihood. They're letting down their daughters by showing them that, no matter what educational and work accomplishments women achieve, women should be reliant on men. That women who are at home with their children do nothing that can't be done just as well by hired help. That women who step out of the paid workforce entirely or scale back their work, suffer career hits from which they and their careers, never recover.
"The feminine mistake - building a grown-up life around the notion that someone will take care of you - is an outdated idea that could jeopardize your future," Bennetts wrote in Glamour . "Wouldn't you rather protect yourself against adversity and enjoy the rewards of work, money and success in addition to family life? Why should you settle for less?"
Yowza! Calling women who stay at home moronic and childish. Saying that mothers are their - and their daughters' -- own worst enemy. That at-home parents are easily replaceable. That's certainly pulling out all the feminist stops. How can anyone argue that, with divorce rates so high, putting your whole economic future into the hands of your spouse is an idiotic decision that dis-empowers women?
Forget about trying to fix workplace situations that force women to choose between careers and family by instead promoting family-friendly policies that allow women to continue their careers. That's not a very sexy news story. It's about mind-numbing public policy issues. It involves legislators. C-SPAN debates. It, frankly, doesn't make for good headlines or TV news segments. Certainly not as good as people calling one another bad moms or childish morons.
Forget about those who try to reach for the moderate middle, those who don't fully buy into either woman's arguments, but are just trying to live their lives and dodge the maternal judgment police. We here in the media, we're not interested in them. They're boring. They don't throw rhetorical bombs. They don't name call. You see, judgment, guilt, challenging one's intelligence and one's heart makes for good business. News business that is.