Sunday, March 15

Madonna syndrome: I should have ditched feminism for love, children and baking

Now this is an interesting article, from a liberated feminist lady who seems to be regretting being all that and wants to be a nice cuddlesome feminine girl with 2.4 children, home and hearth with a man. The article is actually not that important, but do take a look at the comments at the bottom. I quote some of the first few which struck a chord.

Hi Zoe, I am very moved by your article and your brave honesty in facing your inner self, your soul and your inner yearnings and being true to your feelings. Yes, ideologies often negate life's experiences. I can see parallels in my own life. Is it worth it?

Mohan, Liverpool, UK

Well this is what us so called 'oppressed Muslim women' have been saying all along. It is natural for a woman to want to be married, have children, feel she makes her husband happy and raises her children well. We love it and see our job, Motherhood as one of the most important in the world.

Alliyah, London, England

Your article actually brought tears to my eyes!! Bravo for you. You seem very brave to me to go public with an opinion so maligned and yet SO TRUE. We all know it deep in our souls and you are right- we owe it to the next generation to tell them the truth.

Sarah, Colonial Heights. Virginia, USA

Ms. Lewis, placing blame for your own personal failures on your mother and feminist thought is irresponsible and immature. It is your responsibility to pursue any path in life you see fit. Feminism by no means articulates that women aren't allowed to be empowered and have a family at the same time.

Virginia, Boston, USA

I'm yet to hear a man complain about his success/having lost out on having a's not clear cut that if you had kids or baking, you'd be happy. I know plenty of married women/mothers who have that and aren't glad you've had the success& still have a chance at love,kids and baking

Anne, Liverpool,

Is it feminism that makes us unhappy or our consumer culture? We want it all and cannot have it. Surely the first feminists understood that. And, as catchy as "Like a Virgen" may be, when I think of strong women or women who have contributed to my rights, Madonna doesn't come to mind...

Claire Kinnen, Canton, USA

Cry me a river. At least you had the chance to CHOOSE whether you wanted children or not. My girlfriend "accidentally" got pregnant when she was allegedly on the pill. I found out later from her that she was lieing because she wanted a child. Now I have to pay though the nose for 18 years.

Mike Hunter, Fort Myers, Fl, USA

I am 29 years old, happily married for 11 years, expecting my sixth child. If there's anything anymore wonderful, challenging, or world-changing I could do, I can't imagine it. I personally believe this brave woman just voiced what all women secretly believe, in their heart of hearts.

Kim, Lincoln, USA

Lewis' arguments about what is "instinctive" to men and to women are offensive and demonstrably wrong. I know a lot of women who prioritized boyfriends/marriage/kids early on. Most of them ended up divorced and alone, wishing they'd made very different choices. The grass is always greener, I guess.

Katie, Portland, OR, USA

I suppose the best advice is: "be careful what you wish for - you just might..."
I was lucky; I didn't get what I wished for. Incompetence and indolence has its upside.

Ken Leyland, Liverpool, U.K.

Mummy told me that if I relentlessly pursue my career that I'll be happy and I'm not and it's all her fault and Madonna's too!! Maybe a husband and baby will make me happy... It's hard to be admired and respected by men or women when you're a spoiled child.

Judith Samson, Santa Cruz, USA

A nationwide known former German TV-news speaker, Eva Herman, got slandered, humiliated and illegally sacked by her broadcasting agency because she expressed similar views. Better be prepared for much of the same, Ms Lewis. Mind you, many parents and developmental psychologists are on your side.

Dorothea Boehm, Bielefeld, Germany

It takes a lot of courage to admit that much of the former life was not the best choice. Feminism in the sense that only a working woman is a good woman is a form of anti-female hostility because it despises the unique capacity to give birth and be part of a special relationship, primary attachment.

Dorothea Boehm, Bielefeld, Germany

So much muddled thinking in this it's hard to know where to begin."Soft and feminine" women she feels are DNA-selected are largely upper-class--most women had to hoe fields and carry water from wells. And for many of us, work isn't a "choice"--we need it to support our children because the men split

Anna, Baltimore,

Well, your primary job IS fiction.
But I don't think you can expect feminism to apologise for your lack of critical thinking in approaching many issues.

Lainie, Selangor,

I am a full-time homemaker. I have five young children. I was raised to have a career, but chose to be married. I have NO regrets. I absolutely love being at home. Yes, I get to bake, & garden, & sew too. I am very happy at home, and it is very fulfilling. Don't delay a family; it is true hapiness!

Brandy, Las Vegas, USA

Alyssa Scotland said: Many people destroy relationships by confusing being hard-headed and controlling with being independent.
Exactly, men aren't threatened by "strong independent" women, they're threatened by self-absorbed stubborn misandric women inasmuch as they don't want relationships w/them

steve, san francisco, usa

"And by the age of 30, one in five of these “freemales”... has gone through a broken cohabitation."
You make it sound so terrible! I was one of these by age 23. Shacking up with someone, discovering it was a mistake, moving out is not bad - it's a learning experience. Thank god we weren't married..

Pav, London,

Damned if you do, damned if you don't. You could be in the country staring out at the mud and rain, fractious children at your side - thinking bitterly about the play you never wrote! Contentment is the enemy of the writer anyway - no one wants to read about happy self satisfied people.

Jenny Bardwell, Sutton,

And once you've had children and a man for a decade or so, and realize how not all cracked up to be that choice is, either, come join those of us who aren't living vicariously through other people and who have our own money. Suddenly, it won't look all so hardened.

Bradylord, los angeles, USA

Feminism is about choice not career over homemaking. However Zoe is right that too many men are threatened by able women and also right that the most dangerous enemies of women are not weak men but other women. The task of modern feminism is to build a lasting solidarity among women. Good luck.

David Assinder, Richmond, Surrey

Feminism is not a woman's right to live how men have lived. Feminism is about equality and mutual respect for all, and how men have lived does not live up to this standard. Fulfillment happens when 'equality' is translated from individual self-love to mutual reciprocal love between the genders

Myra, Edinburgh,

Hip, hip, hooray- this woman completely missed the purpose of feminism. Feminism is about choice. If I choose, I can pursue a career, in any field I want. Or, I can stay home and bake cookies for my husband and kids (so long as I don't imply that that's a universal female desire innate in us all.)

CLR, Daytona,

I don't understand what she is complaining about. We all have careers and jobs, and most have made sacrifices. I am 35, never married, and for the past 12 years cared for my ill mother. I have hopes for marriage and a child or two but I don't whine about 'having it all', whatever that means.

Nora Jordan, Toronto, Canada

I could have written this article, it's like looking in a mirror. I am a 39 yr old lawyer with a great job who decided to concentrate on my career for the last 10 yrs only to wake up one day and realise that I had spent all that time alone and that this essentially is my life forever....

NG, London,

You are not alone Zoe, there are many of us out there. I ditched it all and am so content as a woman just being wife and mom. My husband loves me being feminine (not feministic). Go for it girl, you need not a dashing career in the city, don't believe the feminist mantra. It is so freeing!

Christy, Los Angeles, USA

So Sas Taylor thinks its because she is so capable that men are scared off. Perhaps it could be that she comes across as arrogant?
The article frames the issue in terms of genetic determinism when it could be more to do with girls being brought up to believe that all problems are caused by boys.

NeilH, London, UK

"I feel a great pressure from other women of my generation, who have partners and kids, to join their club. In their eyes I am not the trailblazer but the failure."
- Hence this article. And the countless comments from mothers about how you've failed simply because you have a career and they don't.

Sam, Auckland, NZ

Very relevent article!
I am from the other side of the fence and couldn't imagine a more fulfilling way to live. There is a beautiful simplicity to
life at home with a husband and children. You are smart and beautiful and by no means without hope! I sincerely hope you will get your wish!

Julie , Loris, USA

I refuse to believe that men find ambitious, intelligent women a threat. I suspect only unambitious, unintelligent men feel that way.
It's a shame to read Zoe's views. Apart from anything else, feminism frees men from being the sole provider, which I have always found an quite unwelcome burden.

MalcolmL, London, UK

Male point of view. I was sexually abused in adolescence. Remembered in early adulthood. Didn't deal. Coped via substance abuse. Now dealing. Wish I did sooner. Soon 37. There is pain knowing what I missed out on, not looking for a desperate fix. Oh well, society is full of lies anyway. Ha Ha.

Eric, Denver,

I think this article is prob better understood as a plug for the play, rather than as a well-researched piece on the state of modern feminism! All the same, the "pressure" and "panic" that the author and her friends feel is a recognizably feminist issue.

Emma, Oxford,

Trust me . Motherhood isn't all it's cracked up to be. Women who tell you it is are just jealous of your freedom.

Sonya, Bath, UK

Fenella thinks full-time motherhood is about giving up your intelligence and standing barefoot in the kitchen. A pretty unintelligent assumption, that. I have a First Class degree and adore being a full-time Mum, my brains are constantly stretched by the enormous task of raising 3 brand new people.

Lizzy, Norwich,

Isn't the key word is choice? To choose whether to continue a career or stay at home. Divorced, I have to work to pay bills and know I've missed many major moments in children's lives. Dead end job, guilt, no spare cash, total exhaustion is the norm. Surely not what feminists fought for?

Louisa, Glasgow,

"I thought that men would love independent, strong women, but (in general) they don't appear to."
Ladies, don't EVER believe that a man isn't interested in you because you're too successful/strong/intelligent/awesome/etc.
If a man isn't interested in you, it's because of something else.

Ron, Reston,

You have no idea how satisfied this article makes me.
Nobody can 'have it all'. We men could have told feminists that 40 years ago, but they wouldn't listen.
Still, at least we aren't wasting time fighting our genetic programming and deluding ourselves, and we can have kids till we die.

GT, Plymouth, England

Ah, Nick & John; the 'holding the door open' complaint always come up in discussions about feminism. I hold doors open for everyone, sometimes I'm thanked, sometimes I get a blank stare. No gender /age group has the monopoly on poor manners. Try holding doors open for men and see what I mean.

Heidi, Southampton, Hampshire

Don't agree with the article. Being a feminist doesn't equate to growing old all lonely and sad. I have a good career and am married. It's possible to have both in your life.

Shelley, London, UK

You might possibly have read Vera Brittain rather than Germaine Greer.

Sue, Felpham,

As a 38 year-old happily married feminist I cannot relate at all to this article. My husband & I have been together for ten years and he is the most important thing in my life. I value our relationship above all else but I've never felt the need to sacrifice my ambitions or ideals for our marriage.

canadian contrarian, London, UK

Ask any young mother who is utterly dependent on her bread-winner husband, going without sleep and money, whether she is happy and fulfilled. Always remember that you CAN have children at ANY age -- just go involve yourself, with foster care, with Boys and Girls Club, with babysitting, etc. etc.

Genevieve, Charleston, USA

I also agree with this article.I had 4 children by the age of 31 & wouldn't have missed the fun of country life with the kids,loving man,dogs and breadmaking for anything.Now at 40 I am picking up my career at a pace that suits us all. My confidence,acceptance & satisfaction anchored deep within!

Rosie, Toulouse, France

It seems to me the real problem you have is about balance. Everyone I know, men and women, who live a life focused solely on success have made huge sacrifices, mostly around relationships and family. This isn't about feminism. This is about the choices you made. Perhaps some reexamination is needed.

Angela, San Diego, USA

I agree with Anabel from Sydney. I'm in my 20's, and most guys I know do not feel threatened by successful women, just as most women I know don't think about relationships and children/career and ambition as a dichotomy. You CAN have it all; it's simply a matter of prioritising.

Alyssa, Edinburgh, Scotland

Feminism is not, and never really has been, about "having choicies." From the outset, it was a calculated attack on marriage. It's objective has always been to desconstruct and discredit marriage as a so-called oppressive institution.

Jack, USA,

Also, part of the problem for these women may be the attitude that brought them success. You can have it all your own way in your career, but relationships require compromise and mutual respect. Many people destroy relationships by confusing being hard-headed and controlling with being independent.

Alyssa, Edinburgh, Scotland

As a man, I do not find competent women a problem, in fact I prefer them. I think you have definitely thrown out the baby with the bath water by taking an either/or attitude instead of combining your strengths. I do hope you get what you want, even though the clock is ticking.

norcot, Oakham , UK

This is a badly constructed argument. It doesn't have to be one or the other. I suspect that many older, bitter women think that they focused on their careers simply becuase it puts a rose coloured tint on the fact that no one was offering them anything else.

Coco, London,

Penny. Or Bun? You can do anything, be anything - but you can't have everything. Full time motherhood is not compatible with a thrusting career (unless you can afford help). 36 is not too old. Make your choice. I went for a bit of both (3 kids, p/t work) - tiring but worth it.

Nicole, Beverley,

Feminism was about giving women choices - and it undoubtedly has. With choice comes responsibility for yourself and your decisions. Aren't happy with the choices you made? Don't blame your mum or Madonna because you have been frivolous with your time. Look within.

Lynne, Melbourne, Australia

It seems mostly attitude, in their youth women are simply too good for any but Brad Pitt millionaires, and as their youth fertility and looks fade, are bitter & resentful that men aren't rushing forward to marry and provide for their declining years, with their attitude still surly! what a suprise!

G. L., Hertford, England

I am male, single, no kids, no ex-wife and turning 40 next week. Yes, I'd would love to be in a loving relationship but i'm not, so what. Oh, and I will carry on holding doors open for women or offering to help carry their bags up and down stairs. If that makes me a sexist pig, so what!

A Thorn, London,

I don't understand. Why did you need to give up relationships to be a playwright? That's not a necessary choice. I'm from a younger generation and the guys I know have no problem with capable women. They accept that you are their equal. They wouldn't respect you if you couldn't match them.

Annabel, Sydney, Australia

There is always smth to be sacrificed, the most imp thing is to make up yr mind what is convenient 4 u to sacrifice and what suits you best. I think one shouldn t regret the past choices because you cannot turn back time anyway. It s great to decide on what u want in duly time.

Elena-Geanina Cerchia, Bucharest, Romania

I know I'm being pedantic but the reference to suffragettes turning in their graves is confusing the issue: suffragettes fought for the right for women to vote. I imagine that most of these brave ladies would not have viewed relationships or having children as in any way contradictory to this aim.

Nicola, London,

I prepared for a career, had my first child just over a year after marriage & 1 month after college graduation. I had more kids, stayed at home until my husband had a bad car accident and I had to go to work. I have a successful career, but I'd rather be home. Happiness is my family.

anne beus, Sandy, Utah, USA

I want to gag. Having children young is a good idea if you want them. But the whole idea of giving up life as an intelligent person to stand barefoot and pregnant, rolling pin in one hand, hubby's martini in the other, is so bad it's hilarious.

Fenella, Brighton, UK

Why do you automatically associate being loved with being chained to the kitchen worktop kneading dough (something most stay at home mothers are too busy for)? Feminism didn't tell women to give up on love, but to fight for equality and respect - surely the cornerstones of any happy relationship

Josh, London,

Myself and all of my friends, even from primary school days, are married to good earners (in some cases very good). For men it takes a lot of the worry, and the resentment that is the inevitable corollary of dependency, out of the equation, while a double income is great.

Arnold Ward, Weybridge, Surrey, UK

Sexual equality is a myth for both parties concerned.

Matt, Sydney , Australia

I'm confused - surely the aim of feminism was to give women equality and the opportunities that were previously denied to them? Most importantly, this means the opportunity to choose what sort of life and priorities we want - feminism isn't a doctrine of the life we should lead or want to lead.

Kate, Reading,

The basic fact is, getting pregnant (or not getting pregnant) is not a consideration for men. Until Western society learns to normalise babies/ children & childcare and demythologise the cult of motherhood, the so called 'choices' mentioned here will reamin distinct.They are not mutually exclusive

Sarah , London, UK

I agree with Nick - I too am sick of holding doors open for women only be shot a glance as if I had denied them the right to fend for themselves, when actually it is a sign of respect, albeit old fashioned.
It has nothing to do with belittlement - just mutual respect and dignity.

john davies, Birmingham,

It isn't about having it all, it's about having the opportunity to make choices. What women rejected in the past was not being given the opportunity to be anything other than be a house wife and mother. All of us whether male or female should take responsibility for our lives and decisions.

Laura, Edinburgh,

One sad by-product of feminism was to downgrade the role of wife and mother, and being a parent generally. Notwithstanding "career" success, being a spouse and parent will be the most rewarding thing most people do.

A.N, London, UK

I think one of the most important things my mother ever told me was never to wait until you can "afford" children, that if you wait you'll regret it. It all works out and you figure it out in the end. You need to be happy with your choices, not with what other people think your choices should be.

Stephanie, London,

Betrayed by whom? Zoe cheer up, you are only 37. Feminism gave you the courage and opportunity to pursue a rewarding career. Now concentrate on the next phase of your life. I gave up making films at 45 when my son was born. The kid, kitchen and pets are fulfilling because of my former life.

Sarah Kelen, Beaconsfield, UK

A brave but sad article. I know many career women who feel the same. Men and women need complement one another - not be rivals. Nowadays with the Net women can do part time work, look after the kids, be a good wife, and have a rewarding life, without any more drudgery than most men's jobs.

john bentley, Loule, Portugal

She is still ONLY 36!She has plenty of time to make any choice she wants.Being a writer is a perfect job for someone to do some family juggling and she still has time to do it all.Feminism is about being equal, but does not mean you have to behave the same! Embrace equality AND be yourself.

Angela Casey, Edinburgh,

"I beat the rugby lads at drinking games".
Ah, the hearty rewards of years of feminist struggle. Why do some women believe feminism to be about emulating the (bad?) behaviour of men rather than simply being regarded as equal in order to choose their own life without constraint?

Richard, London, UK

The grass is always greener on the the other side; I can only imagine what you'd be regretting if you'd been a housewife! Obviously the myth that you "can have it all" is just that. I think you romanticize domestic life a bit though because it's no longer an option.

Jill Sweet, Toronto, Canada

What a great article. Finally someone being real. Feminists, movies, women's magazines sell us the fantasy that we can "have it all". Sadly, this is very untrue for most women (aside from the lucky few) and women't choices today are harder than ever.

Vivian, London,

Fantastic. At last, someone has the sense to realise that men and women are genetically different and that is ok.
I am sick of holding doors open for women only be shot a glance as if I had denied them the right to fend for themselves, when actually it is a sign of respect, albeit old fashioned.

Richard, Marlow, UK

I worked 70 hours a week to buy our house(no mortgage)then had the good luck to have a wife who pursued her career leaving me at home with two babies,the next 5 years were the happiest of my life.....some things money cant buy.

nick glaister, belper, england

I haven't read all the comments, but I'd just like to say that a woman's being strong and independent is not a problem for many men. In fact, there are many strong, independent women out there with happy families about them.
(I'm talking about mental strength, mental independence....)

mike, málaga, spain

I don't understand, why couldn't she write and have children? can't you have dreams anymore if you're married? Surely being a writer is one of the most flexible careers, especially if you're well known. J K Rowling had a child when she wrote the first Harry Potter!

hannah, Sheffield,

It's amazing how many single, physically attractive, women in their 30's and 40's I know at my work place. Most are bitter and disillusioned about how their lives have turned out. Some blame it on men, many more are angry at their mothers, teachers and peers pushing feminism down their throat.

Michael, Denver, US

Oh well. There it is then. Back to the drawing board. But I think it was the American philosopher Barbara Bush who said that nobody hits 72 (man or woman) and wishes they had spent more time at the office.

Christopher Chantrill, Seattle, USA

At this age a lot of men also look at their career, what they have to put into it, what it brings them and don't like what they see. But unlike the women in this article they have no choice but to get on with it. These women are struggling with what is a very, very luxurious choice.

gavin, London,

It seems to be the hallmark of Gen X that we take things to extremes. Both women AND men of this generation have generally put of having children until later. Feminism is about women having choice. It doesn't mean that the author (or other women) will make the RIGHT one, just that there is one.

Lisa Lamb, Santa barbara, USA

If feminism is about being equal to men, then it is not about 'Having it all' but enjoying what you have.Most men have failed marriages,have a fairly succesful career and a little overweight.They certainly do not have everything in their hands.Women should view themselves as IMPERFECT as men.

Ronda, NY, US

the most telling part of the article is saying "great I have a successful play and will adore me". doesn't sound like much of a feminist to me.Sounds more like someone who wants to be rescued despite her success. Tanya from Melbourne you said it all!

Catherine, Victoria BC, Canada

Successful career women may still be looking unconciously for a man they can look UP to, same as if they had intended to be traditionaly housewives. Try marrying down as men have often felt the liberty to do. Be a cougar. Lots of young working class males might be available for these ladies.

Marc Waller, Montreal,

Actually that's what feminism is all about. A choice. Sometimes its the right one and sometimes, with the benefit of hindsight, its not. You aren't owed a happy ending, just the ability to decide the ending for yourself.

Angela, Epping, Australia

Feminism was about giving women choices, so we could go out and work and have a career. Pre femisim you were in trouble if you never met 'Mr right', or if 'Mr right' moved out leaving you with a child to support. Feminism gave us independance, but also responsibility for our choices, good and bad.

Elizabeth, London,

I'm sorry you aren't happy with your choices but don't blame feminism - feminism told you you were equal to men and gave you the options. From there you had to make your own decisions. Making mistakes is part of being human and taking responsibility for your mistakes is part of being an adult.

Tanya, Melbourne, Australia

The big lie is "Having It All". Nobody can, neither men nor women. There is always a trade-off, a price to be paid. For every road taken, another is not. We make our choices, and live with them whether they turn out to be good or bad.

Dirk Bruere, Bedford , England

Too true, Angela, the wannabe domestic goddesses I know are still working to save up for goddess-hood or are back working to support husband after he lost his job. They don't have kids despite ticking biological clocks--can't afford them. You'd have to be VERY middle class to think Madonna=feminism!

Jessica, Washington, DC, USA

I got married at 38 to a great guy and we have an 18 year old daughter in college. I know I appreciate my husband more because of the single years. I traveled, got two master's degrees and had a career. I 've been at home now for eight years and love it. So buck up, life is full of surprises.

Helen Summers, Fletcher, USA

My mother studied engineering, married, had us 3 kids at 25, did her masters and now works successfully traveling with my dad all over the world. You can have it all, you just need timing, luck and a lot of hard work. I don't see what all the fuss is about.

Zenna, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Tell me something. Haven't ANY feminists had a FATHER?! Father mind you - not " male parent ".

James , Canberra, Australia.

What exactly was 'feminism'? To me it seemed to be mostly about exhorting women to work as hard as men. I could never understand what was so great about that, unless you were clever enough to get a high powered job, which most of us (men or women) don't have.

phil, bridgetown ns, canada

I could not agree more. I am 42 y/o New Yorker and I can tell you that not only do most inteliegent and interesting women beat themselves up over their careers and life, but they do not accept men who apprciate them for the brains & beauty. I love women who are sure of themselves, but also accepting

christopher, New York City, USA

It's impossible not to push career if you want a mortgage.My sister & her partner, 28, together 8 years, wd love to have children, can't afford it (difficult career path for both). I decided @27 2 prioritise relationship b/c of bio-clock but mortgage won't allow kids yet.Often wonder if I was right.

Angela Smith, London,

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