on December 8, 2003
There have been a number of good books to appear lately offering a critique of feminism. Perhaps one of the best is this volume. Although it has been around for some years now, it still remains one of the most comprehensive, articulate and well-researched books to take on the excesses of feminism.
A major thesis of this volume is that while feminism may appear to be anti-men, it is even more so anti-women, at least women of a certain stripe. Wives and homemakers are the real target of radical feminists, insists Graglia, and she spends a good part of this hefty tome (450 pages) in documenting this claim.
The author, who is a lawyer by profession, but a homemaker by choice, has the intellectual firepower needed to take on the heavyweights of the feminists movement. The thoughts and writings of Friedan, Steinem, Greer, Millet, de Beauvoir, and all the other major movers and shakers in the feminist movement are here carefully evaluated, and their antipathy to wives and families are carefully assessed.
Solid chapters explore the rise of modern feminism, the feminist agenda, the totalitarian impulse in feminism, the push for androgyny, and the attack on the institutions of marriage and the traditional family, among other things.
The author is especially adept at showing how women cannot have it all, at least not at the same time. The push for climbing the corporate ladder invariably takes a toll on child rearing and family, and many women have suffered as a result of buying the feminist line on this issue.
She tackles a number of other myths, such as the idea that gender is simply a social construct, and the idea that motherhood and homemaking are somehow second class lifestyles. She shows how women have been the big losers in the feminist-promoted sexual revolution. She documents how women have suffered under no-fault divorce. And she demonstrates how the push for a purely androgynous society results in all parties losing out.
While acknowledging that women have the right to pursue the feminist script if they so choose, Graglia firmly believes that feminism is really anti-women. Feminism remains a destructive and destablising social force. In the end, feminism has damaged women, harmed families, and put children at risk. Strong words, but after reading her arguments one has to agree that not everything has been sweetness and light in this major social revolution. Indeed, like most revolutions, the results are often worse than the original problem.
While many will violently disagree with the major propositions of this volume, the author's arguments deserve a fair hearing. Spence Publishing deserves credit for running with such a volume, at a time when many other publishers wouldn't dream of offering such a daring title.
on September 21, 2002
Mrs. Graglia's work is an important shoulder-tap on mainstream feminist-dominated Western culture. It details the morally barren and intellectually dishonest bases of the mid-20th Century round of feminism only just now petering out.
The author now & then shares her personal taste in, er, conjugal relations, and occasionally employs vivid imagery to make a point. Most amateur reviewers cannot overcome their reactions and revulsions enough to stay with the narrative. For myself, I enjoyed the break from the rather turgid, stuffy writing style loaded with two-dollar words. My Oxford abridged dictionary doesn't even list "fungible"!
But the thesis is strong: modern feminism was a big factor in creating the child-hating, sexually perverse culture we live in today. Not surprising, really, since biographies and self-admissions reveal that today's feminism was founded by disgruntled corner cases with just those characteristics.
As a result, women actually have a harder time relating to other women, men and children, and have fewer choices today than they did in the mid-1950's, in that the woman choosing to be the core of her family is reviled and pressured to abandon her children and neglect her marriage.
Women who prefer to serve strangers in the marketplace are actually subsidized at the cost of traditional families, through "childcare" credits, anti-competitive affirmative action programs, corporate workplace inefficiencies etc. And as Mrs. Graglia notes but IMO does not sufficiently develop, modern (non-)mothering by working women requires the existence of a huge economic underclass of proxy-mothers, who are paid as little a possible for doing the untimately thankless job of making sure little Jill and Johnny don't kill themselves or feel totally abandoned.
Anyway, Domestic Tranquility is a valuable read for those wishing a balanced viewpoint. I enjoyed having my brain deprogrammed a bit, and now think I see the world better without the feminist distortions of the dominant culture.
on May 17, 2000
This is one of the best books I've read in years! I like it because it questions feminist dogma that I am always being exposed to at the university and in the major media. I've known a lot of young women who are college-educated and have been damaged by their women's studies courses that have drummed anger and hatred against the oppressors, men. The feminist have made the difficult relationship between the sexes nearly impossible. It is sad because it is harder to find love. Men are not oppressors, but are actually protectors and providers, or should be, or used to be until women abandoned their roles and so we abandoned ours. I'm really tired of universities and media presenting only the feminist viewpoint. I found this book to be refreshing because of its different viewpoint. Although there are many books on feminism in libraries, there are very few books that have an opposing viewpoint. This book helped me articulate what I vaguely felt about feminism but couldn't put into words. firstname.lastname@example.org
on May 20, 2004
I must, of course, preface this review by saying that I am a feminist. However, my mother was a homemaker, and my older sister is also a homemaker. That being said, I can also understand why Graglia would be so offended by the things that feminists have said about homemakers in the past. I think my sister and my mother are both hard workers and my sister is, as my mother was, devoted to raising her children in a traditional setting and being a full-time mom. However, the context in which these comments were made cannot be denied; these overzealous women made generalizations about homemakers just as many blacks, when they were the victims of oppression, must have made hasty generalizations about whites. This is something that just happens, right or wrong, when you are so passionate about an issue, idea, or belief.
There are several parts of this book with which I take exception. They are, but not limited to, the following:
1) She blames women whose husbands molest their daughters because the wives should be sexually satisfying their husbands. This does not address the issue of pedophilia and the perverseness of a man who would sexually abuse his own daughter. In no way should the woman be blamed when her husband obviously has more serious problems than an unsatisfactory sex life. If the mother is ever to blame, it is in those instances in which she knew it was going on and allowed it to continue.
2) She presents what I view as flawed statistics. Graglia states that 90% of all births to black mothers aged 15-19 are illegitimate. This obviously makes perfect sense, since the average age of marriage is currently 24 for women and 26 for men. A married eighteen- or nineteen-year-old is rare and surely most women younger than this are not married. Graglia also discusses rape and sexual abuse statistics which show a veritable explosion in occurrence of these crimes over the past forty years. However, rape and sexual abuse are not as taboo or ignored by the police as they once were; this explains why these statistics have risen so alarmingly, despite the fact that both are still widely underreported.
3) Graglia acts as though a declining birth rate is a huge problem, although Earth is projected to reach her carrying capacity--the maximum amount of people Earth's natural resources can support--in the not too distant future. Overpopulation, not underpopulation, is a bigger concern for scientists, unless my Geology professor had no idea what he was talking about.
Lastly, Graglia uses the one reason that disgusts me the most as to why women should stay home--that women who dare work in the marketplace are taking away jobs that men who are the solitary breadwinners need. Propaganda, anyone? This argument was used to get women to give up whatever employment they held during the Depression...and then, during WWII, free child care was made available in the workplace so Rosie the Riveter could do her patriotic duty. Naturally, Graglia is against this child care. I do not have a problem with the fact that she does not support child care that one-income families must pay for, but it frustrates me to no end that our government has manipulated women in this way, and Graglia has bought into the brainwashing.
I like to read both sides of the issue, but I found this book absolutely infuriating. The writing does not flow well and I found it difficult to concentrate and, when I did, what I read just made me mad. According to other reviews, it looks as though other people really liked it. If you are homemakers, that's great, but I, for one, want to have a profession and a family, and I don't think there's anything wrong with it. So if we can just learn to live and let live, that would be perfectly wonderful. I support your choice to stay at home, and all I would ask is that you support my choice to work outside the home without thinking I must be a terrible mother.
on November 17, 2002
I really felt that this was a very good book. I feel that Mrs. Graglia took on a challenge to write about such a controvesial topic. Today it is politically uncorrect to say that women should put their children first. If you say that people take that to mean you support the opression of women. What Ms. Graglia does is show that the traditional women has no reason to hang her head down. She should be very proud of the choice she has made to put her children and family first. Ms. Graglia does a very good job of supporting the traditional homemaker. The point of her book is not to say that all women should be homemakers. She acknowledges that there are women who would rather have a career and not have children or put them in day care if they do have children. I feel that the point of her book is just to support the traditional women. These days careers are glorified (you are only somebody if you have a career, and prestigious one at that (like a lawyer, doctor, engineer etc)). Materialism is glorified. Independence and fulfillment of ones own wishes is glorified. I think that a lot has been done lately in society to support the working mother. The media has done all it can to support that choice and make women feel good about that choice. Very little has been done to support the traditional homemaker, and the things she does for her family and children. I am glad somebody wrote a book to support her choice too! In fact, I am glad to see that the popular TV comedy, Everybody Loves Raymond, shows a traditional wife caring for her young children full time.
The book also points out some of the joys of caring for your own children. It talks about the joys of being a homemaker. It dicusses the benefits of being a traditional conservative women. Lot of what she writes about does not float with feminist values, but she brings up some important, and I feel valid points. She also points out that men and women are very different. I tend to agree. Feminist movement seems to think that women have exactly the same desires as men.
I read the book, because I wanted to show my wife just how important the role of homemaker can be. I am glad that my wife choose that role. I enjoy taking care of my family and giving a wonderful women the oppurtunity to joyfully raise her own kids.
I understand that this is not the choice that every women should make. It depends on your own individual likes and interests. However if you do, you have no reason to feel bad. Ms. Graglia does a good job of showing this.
on January 5, 2002
Perhaps staying home all those years has dulled her writing skills. Some of her arguments have "meat", to use a manly term, but she writes in a style that sounds alternately like Cosmo and the New York Review of Books. It's hard to take her wild prose swings between vamp and Kant.
As other reviewers have noted, her solipsism is showing: she sees her life experience as the only valid one. It's a tome not, er, objective enough--read "male"--to be taken seriously. Feminism comes in all shapes and sizes, just like women, and to swipe all feminists with the same paintbrush provides an unrealistic portrait. Her classism shows, too--in good ol' redneck country, where I live, most families have two wage earners just to have a trailer, a coupla kids, and food--and unlike her husband, who performed no household duties except "playing with the children in the evenings", these lower middle class dads perform many household and childrearing chores. She seems to know nothing of women and families outside her cocooned socioeconomic status. Let her come visit the hills of Appalachia for a year, and THEN write a book.
on November 14, 2001
As a novice homemaker who struggled mightily with feminist expectations, I really wanted to like this book, which I read in the course of my transition from career to home. And at first, I did like it. Graglia's exposition of the inherent misogyny of doctrinaire feminism was right on. But about halfway through the book it became apparent that a woman who stays home isn't, in Graglia's view, moving into a different area of achievement which brings balance to the family unit, but rather renouncing all achievement so that the man can shine in solitary glory. And this is supposed to give her some sort of hero-worshipping sexual high.
Yep, that's the worst part. I've read enough books on both sides of this issue to know that when an author starts slighting people whose sexuality isn't like her own, it's a sure sign she's run out of real arguments. In fact, it was kind of embarrassing to read, because so obviously a projection of the author's private tastes: a woman should be "constantly available for sex", and prefer vaginal penetration to clitoral orgasm; when she does have an orgasm, it should be part of the "prelude" to intercourse; she ought to feel "controlled" by the man, who in turn ought to make liberal use of "the lover's pinch"; but sado-masochism is going too far because she should experience his power directly rather than through instruments. And so on.
If she wanted to express herself that way, she should have sent away for the Harlequin Romance writer's guide. Dressed up as philosophy, it's blatantly arbitrary and self-serving: how very convenient that what she likes should also happen to be the recipe for perfect femininity!
Oops, I almost forgot to mention the several pages she spends rhapsodizing about how lucky African mutilation victims are because the absence of a clitoris allows them to focus completely on their husbands. She waxed quite poetic when describing how they cry and scream for mercy as they're cut open on their wedding nights and raped for days to keep the wound from healing. I hate to bring that awful topic up, but I swear it's in the book and she really does write approvingly of it. Despicable.
on October 28, 2001
Okay, I have a question. How come books like these always assume that everyone lives in an extremely wealthy republican household, with plenty of money so the wife can just quit her job? I wouldn't mind being a stay at home mom, but thats never going to happen. Not in a million years. You see, I live in the REAL WORLD. Out in the real world it takes two salaries to survive. Out in the real world most wives have to work, its not because they have this "power trip" its so they can actually buy their kids enough food and clothes and get them through collage. My mother worked, her mother worked, and I'm sure my great grandmother worked too. And thats because we are part of a class that this book ignores, the "untouchables" aka working class. If you look throughout history, its only been the middle class wives who got the pleasure of staying at home and taking care of the kids. Everyone else was either doing factory work or farm work. But of course Ms. Graglia ignores this basic fact, preferring to see through rose tinted sun glasses at a world where everyone is rich and can survive on one little salary. And no, I'm not a raving feminist, I'm just a realist.
I would like to mention though that I find baking cakes, changing diapers, and house keeping about as interesting as a pyschic's lecture...
on January 15, 2001
When my mother gave birth to my brother in 1967, she quit college and began the most important job of her life - taking care of us full-time. She did not stop doing this job until my younger sister graduated high school in 1996. At that point, she returned to college and is working toward the career she always wanted.
Although my mother says that it was HER CHOICE, I wonder why my father didn't have the desire to sacrifice his career to stay at home raising us.
That question is what drew me to this book. I knew in advance that the author would take a very conservative stance -- reading on the book jacket I saw that feminists were termed 'women-hating', but I was hoping it would give me the answer to WHY so many women put aside their lives to raise their children but so few men are willing to do the same.
Unfortunately, the author never touches on this point. A lawyer turned homemaker (I hate the term housewife), she rigidly tries convincing me that motherhood is my surest form of fulfillment.
If you're a conservative, you'll love this book. However, you most likely already know and agree with her arguments so what's the point of reading what you already know? If you're a liberal, you'll hate this book. Howevever, you most likely already know and disagree with everything she'd have to say so why bother reading it? If you're in the middle, like me, you'll probably be left with many unanswered questions.
I read that her husband is a law professor. I wish he'd written a chapter explaining why it was OK for her to stay home, but not him. If raising your children is the most important job one can do in their life, why aren't more men fighting to be the one to stay home and raise them???
on July 24, 2000
Graglia follows, with absolute consistency, one formula in this book: consider only the most extreme feminist positions, assert that all women who wish to work in addition to having a family are dupes of a monolithic feminism in thrall to those extreme positions, and ignore inconvenient facts.
To begin with the inconvenient facts, nowhere does Graglia acknowledge that the ideal of domesticity she extols has a history, one that dates only to the 18th century (though her ham-fisted emphasis on the Romantic trope of "the awakened Brunnhilde" is something of a tipoff). In particular, she does not consider that 1) for generations, there was no sharp distinction between the home and "the marketplace," since most women were doing farm work, helping run the family business, etc; and 2) even when the housewife ideal was enjoying its acscendency in mid-century America, it was an ideal available only to women of a certain social class (and, as a consequence, largely to white women).
If you begin by neglecting historical context and continue by constructing a straw man with whom to do battle, victory (of a kind) is virtually assured. It's a shame to see Graglia settle for this, since she does have some valid criticisms to make of feminist extremism, and is clearly capable of doing better. Especially dismaying is the way in which she presents women's choice between a life of domesticity and existence as a souless, defemininized harpy. She can present such a stark view of home life and work life in part because she does not mention the ways in which women -- and men -- have found creative ways to accomodate both. Here the reader will find no mention of part-time work, flex-time schedules, or working at home.
Nor (and this is a more serious criticism) does Graglia even begin to acknowledge that work might, even for some wives and mothers, be about more than money and power. While she describes the role of housewife in glowing terms, only by emptying the desire to work of any concrete content and presenting it abstractly as a pure, Nietzschean will to power can she claim that all women find their "true selves" through vaginal orgasms and domesticity. Of a woman whose work is an extension of her "true self," who is working because she loves what she does, Graglia has nothing to say. Of the possibility that a man might love a woman at least in part because of her direct engagement with the larger world (an engagement, I would argue, that is available to stay-at-home wives and mothers as well), and would regard as a loss the "emptying out" of the woman that Graglia dwells upon so lovingly as a consequence of full-blooded heterosexual intercourse, she cannot conceive.
By far the best (and the briefest!)outline of a moderate, reasonable feminism is Dorothy Sayers' "Are Women Human?" Its argument, though a few decades old now, is eminently sensible and virtually unanswerable. Sayers' short book makes crystal clear that feminism need not be about male-bashing, and it has the added virtue of exposing the denials of female human nature to which anti-feminists are forced to resort. If you're looking for an anti-feminist book, I'd recommend "Modern Woman: The Lost Sex," which (though showing its age a bit) covers much the same ground that Graglia's tome does, makes explicit its allegiance to an unnuanced biological determinism, and is better-written to boot.