French Feminist Elisabeth Badinter says in this New York Times article that the baby has become "an ally" to male domination over women. And that this new more natural motherhood ideal is encouraging women to shun the inventions that liberated them in the first place such as bottles, disposable diapers, epidurals, and birth control pills.
I agree that modern science has come up with many innovations, such as birth control pills, that have allowed women to take control of their own bodies and have liberated women. But, to formula-feed a baby for the sake of personal liberty is unnecessary when great breastpumps exist. Attachment-parenting mothers don't have to give up bottles altogether! I have to say that formula should only be employed if there is no other option. It is not an innovation that has liberated women. I'm not sure if that is what Badinter meant, but I am assuming so.
Breastfeeding has been proven to set a baby up for good health for a lifetime. Is personal liberty of the mother worth more than the life-long health of the infant? Sometimes breastfeeding just has not worked out for a woman, so it is great that science can help out in that situation. I do not want to make anyone feel guilty for not being able to breastfeed. The breastpump, not formula, is the true liberator.
Badinter is concerned that women will become dominated by their babies so that they either will become stay at home mothers against their will due to an internalized ideal of womanhood or they will feel extreme guilt if they must return to work. I'm more worried about the opposite problem: that women will feel so pressured to work outside the home that they feel guilt if they aren't working mothers.
To say that the empowerment of women must include women working outside of the home is to embrace the artifice of modern economy over what is authentically human. Shouldn't we be enraged at the society and economic situation that requires both parents work in order to feed themselves and have a home to live in? It seems that the biggest factor limiting women's freedom in the 21st century is that our economy has become reliant on us in the labor force. Now that we have jobs outside of the home, will society allow us to choose not to work?
Women can now move beyond shocking the men with our demands to be allowed into traditionally male rolls and wanting them to perform traditionally female tasks. There are very few men of my generation who are shocked by that, and most perform household and parenting chores willingly!
Women now to need to work on maintaining our right to choose our own path whether it be a stay at home mom or a career or some hybrid of the two. This is in serious jeopardy. In America we barely get enough time off of work to recover from childbirth and get accustomed to parenthood before having to return to our jobs. Also, if a woman takes 5 to 10 years off of work to raise her children, employers are likely to overlook her for another candidate who has been continuously employed. Perhaps this is another incarnation of the glass ceiling?
Also, an issue that Badinter overlooks is that men can participate in attachment parenting too. Men cannot breastfeed, of course, but every other aspect (babywearing, cloth diaper washing, putting the baby to sleep, etc) men can do too. Of course it would be limiting of women's freedom if they believe they must raise children without the help of another caregiver such as a father or even a nanny who has the same ideals, but attachment parenting does not require the sole caregiver to be the mother. Even though mothers are natural primary caregivers, stay at home dads are becoming more common. A working mother can practice attachment-style parenting when she is with her baby: on the weekends and in the evenings.
The world is a much different place than it was when our grandmothers were having children. If we choose to go back to some of the more natural parenting techniques that they used, it is not a step back for women's freedom. It is the synthesis of the ideals of the time before Feminism with the ideals of Feminism, which is a natural progression of culture.