From Publishers Weekly
In the idealized myth, mothers and babies spend their days discovering the wonders of life, reading, playing and laughing. Mom wears her baby in a sling, never raises her voice and of course has unlimited time and patience. Baby grows up safe, happy and respectful. In real life, however, it's a different story. Douglas (Where the Girls Are) and Smith College philosophy professor Michaels, "mothers with an attitude problem," blow the lid off "new momism," "a set of ideals... that seem on the surface to celebrate motherhood, but which in reality promulgate standards of perfection that are beyond [a mother's] reach." The authors examine the past 30 years of television, radio, movies, magazines and advertising to show that the bar has been increasingly raised for "the standards of good motherhood while singling out and condemning those we were supposed to see as dreadful mothers" (notably harried working mothers). Using ample humor (e.g., buy the wrong toys and your child will "end up a semiliterate counter girl in Dunkin' Donuts for life"), abundant examples and an approachable style, Douglas and Michaels incriminate not just Republican administrations and Dr. Laura, but also celebrity mothers, Drs. Spock and the evening news. While the authors are occasionally repetitive and sometimes condescend to moms who stay at home, their thought-provoking, accessible foray critiquing new momism will be of interest to liberal mothers-and possibly fathers-helping them to judge the media's images of motherhood with a more critical eye.
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Douglas and Michaels have fashioned an absolutely fascinating expose of the media- generated motherhood frenzy that they dub the "new momism." Fed up with the trumped-up myth of maternity promulgated by TV shows, movies, advertising, women's magazines, and the news since 1970, they analyze, in scathing detail, how and why motherhood has become the number-one media obsession during the last three decades. Explaining, in convincing detail, how these idealized images have actually harmed childless women, working mothers, and stay-at-home moms, they link the current emphasis on "intensive mothering" to a powerful conservative subculture determined to "re-domesticate the women of America through motherhood." Although hampered, at times, by a somewhat strident tone, this eye-opening report contains a wealth of valuable insight into the never-ending, and ultimately self-defeating, quest for the maternal perfection glorified by contemporary American society. Margaret FlanaganCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved