A new book by an American raising her kids in Paris is being met with skepticism, and some charges of stereotyping, by the actual French mothers it so highly praises.
A Parisian mother watches her children at play / AP
Pamela Druckerman, in her new book Bringing Up Bébé and her lengthy and much-circulated Wall Street Journal article titled "Why French Parents Are Superior," isn't just the latest woman to tell American mothers that a different culture does it better. It's also the latest in a long line of books to tell American women, more broadly, that whatever the problem is, French women do it better. They don't get fat, they don't sleep alone, and apparently now, according to the British title of ex-pat journalist Druckerman's new book, their kids don't throw food.
Americans are eagerly picking over every last scrap of Druckerman's argument, which is, essentially, that the French say "no" to their kids and combine parenthood with balanced adult lives. But what do actual French women think of this stuff? Once they look past the flattery, not much.
Sure, the French reaction online to Druckerman's argument includes a fair amount of gloating -- a natural reaction to being told you're good at everything. But mixed in among the sense of superiority, some French women are wondering what on earth she's talking about.
Chief among the gloating responses is the interview that magazine France-Amérique conducts with French essayist Nathalie Monsaint-Baudry, author of a book about American-French interaction from the French perspective. Asked if the French woman is a female model "for the Anglo-Saxons," she responded simply "Yes. She is naturally feminine. The American woman is 'female.'" And she largely approved of Druckerman's outline of the childrearing division. "In the United States, houses are so 'child-proofed,'" said Monsaint-Baudry, "that one has the impression that it's the parents living with their kids, [not the other way around]." The interviewer then inquired whether Druckerman is right that the French meal, wherein even tiny children behave, is perceived as sacrosanct by Americans. "Yes, they admire it," declared Monsaint-Baudry. "Our 'three course meal' is incredibly sophisticated.'" She added that French "humanism" distances French women from "the Chinese mother and the polemics of last year."
Triumphant responses and matter-of-fact reporting aside, quite a few French folks seem to think Druckerman's overstated her case, and that, more broadly, Americans need to chill out with the French stereotypes.
Antoine Oury at book site ActuaLitté notes The New York Times' complaints about "generalizations" in Druckerman's book. "It's hard to call that wrong," Oury admits. The company Druckerman keeps, "as an American journalist exiled in France and currently speaking six languages -- like Hebrew -- surely isn't representative of the methods and educative resources of the majority of the French population." Oury does take a moment to defend Druckerman, calling it "funny (or disturbing)" to see American critics using Druckerman's earlier Lust in Translation, about arranging a threesome, "to discredit her." (To be fair, Rachael Larimore at Slate's XX Factor wasn't trying to call Druckerman a bad mother: she correctly guessed that the disappearance of an article about the threesome was a publicity stunt, and also suggested Druckerman's manic campaign to produce said threesome at her husband's request betrayed an approach that, whether in marriage or parenthood, might have slanted her view of American women and balance.)
But even Oury ends by saying that "what one deplores the most remains the general tenor of Druckerman's observations."
France TV Info takes it further, saying "more and more the myth of the French style of life is irritating." The author, Julie Rasplus, runs through the recent American gushing about French seduction, cuisine, and now parenting, and points out the counter-arguments.
"Viewed from the United States, French women are close to perfect creatures," agrees an article at L'Atlantico.fr. But "the French bourgeoisie Pamela Druckerman was living in don't necessarily reflect global reality," it points out. "Americans, reassure yourselves: little terrors exist in France, too."
There seems to be some agreement from French commenters across the web on that point. A post from Elisabeth Guédel-Treussard at French Morning, though largely approving of Druckerman's book, sums it up. "Pamela Druckerman has never encountered me in a Parisian Monoprix or a New York Whole Foods. If [she] had, she would have seen my kids tearing around on foot to grab candy and wouldn't have written that 'French children don't make scenes in the supermarket.'"
19 Kids and Counting built its reputation on preaching family values, but the mass-media platforms that made the family famous might also be their undoing.
On Thursday, news broke that Josh Duggar, the oldest son of the Duggar family's 19 children, had, as a teenager, allegedly molested five underage girls. Four of them, allegedly, were his sisters.
The information came to light because, in 2006—two years before 17 Kids and Counting first aired on TLC, and thus two years before the Duggars became reality-TV celebrities—the family recorded an appearance on TheOprah Winfrey Show. Before the taping, an anonymous source sent an email to Harpo warning the production company Josh’s alleged molestation. Harpo forwarded the email to authorities, triggering a police investigation (the Oprah appearance never aired). The news was reported this week by In Touch Weekly—after the magazine filed a Freedom of Information Act request to see the police report on the case—and then confirmed by the Duggars in a statement posted on Facebook.
New research confirms what they say about nice guys.
Smile at the customer. Bake cookies for your colleagues. Sing your subordinates’ praises. Share credit. Listen. Empathize. Don’t drive the last dollar out of a deal. Leave the last doughnut for someone else.
Sneer at the customer. Keep your colleagues on edge. Claim credit. Speak first. Put your feet on the table. Withhold approval. Instill fear. Interrupt. Ask for more. And by all means, take that last doughnut. You deserve it.
Follow one of those paths, the success literature tells us, and you’ll go far. Follow the other, and you’ll die powerless and broke. The only question is, which is which?
Of all the issues that preoccupy the modern mind—Nature or nurture? Is there life in outer space? Why can’t America field a decent soccer team?—it’s hard to think of one that has attracted so much water-cooler philosophizing yet so little scientific inquiry. Does it pay to be nice? Or is there an advantage to being a jerk?
In an interview, the U.S. president ties his legacy to a pact with Tehran, argues ISIS is not winning, warns Saudi Arabia not to pursue a nuclear-weapons program, and anguishes about Israel.
On Tuesday afternoon, as President Obama was bringing an occasionally contentious but often illuminating hour-long conversation about the Middle East to an end, I brought up a persistent worry. “A majority of American Jews want to support the Iran deal,” I said, “but a lot of people are anxiety-ridden about this, as am I.” Like many Jews—and also, by the way, many non-Jews—I believe that it is prudent to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of anti-Semitic regimes. Obama, who earlier in the discussion had explicitly labeled the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, an anti-Semite, responded with an argument I had not heard him make before.
“Look, 20 years from now, I’m still going to be around, God willing. If Iran has a nuclear weapon, it’s my name on this,” he said, referring to the apparently almost-finished nuclear agreement between Iran and a group of world powers led by the United States. “I think it’s fair to say that in addition to our profound national-security interests, I have a personal interest in locking this down.”
The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.
What is the Islamic State?
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
Why agriculture may someday take place in towers, not fields
A couple of Octobers ago, I found myself standing on a 5,000-acre cotton crop in the outskirts of Lubbock, Texas, shoulder-to-shoulder with a third-generation cotton farmer. He swept his arm across the flat, brown horizon of his field, which was at that moment being plowed by an industrial-sized picker—a toothy machine as tall as a house and operated by one man. The picker’s yields were being dropped into a giant pod to be delivered late that night to the local gin. And far beneath our feet, the Ogallala aquifer dwindled away at its frighteningly swift pace. When asked about this, the farmer spoke of reverse osmosis—the process of desalinating water—which he seemed to put his faith in, and which kept him unafraid of famine and permanent drought.
In any case, people have probably heard the phrase in reference to something gone awry at work or in life. In either setting, when the shit does hit the fan, people will tend to look to the most competent person in the room to take over.
And too bad for that person. A new paper by a team of researchers from Duke University, University of Georgia, and University of Colorado looks at not only how extremely competent people are treated by their co-workers and peers, but how those people feel when, at crucial moments, everyone turns to them. They find that responsible employees are not terribly pleased about this dynamic either.
Singapore’s mind-bending logical riddles are so last month. Enter: Vietnam, the latest country to be swept up in what could easily be known as “the viral-math epidemic of 2015.”
This one might even trump its Singaporean predecessor, which became a global legend earlier this year. That quandary, for those who aren’t familiar with it, asked fifth-graders to figure out the birthday of a certain “Cheryl,” who gave two of her friends—“Albert” and “Bernard”—a list of 10 possible dates. She then privately told Albert the month, and Bernard the day. (“Albert: I don’t know when Cheryl’s birthday is, but I know that Bernard does not know too. Bernard: At first I don’t know when Cheryl’s birthday is, but I now know. Albert: Then I also know when Cheryl’s birthday is.”)
A scholar’s analysis of American culture presumes too much.
Last week, Gawkerinterviewed Robin DiAngelo, a professor of multicultural education at Westfield State University. She discussed aspects of her thinking on whiteness, which are set forth at length in her book, What Does it Mean to be White? I’ve ordered the book.
Meanwhile, her remarks on police brutality piqued my interest. Some of what Professor DiAngelo said is grounded in solid empirical evidence: blacks and Hispanics are disproportionately victimized by misbehaving police officers; there are neighborhoods where police help maintain racial and class boundaries. And if our culture, which she calls “the water we swim in,” contained fewer parts racism per million, I suspect that police brutality would be less common.
The common theme is the harassment of people without probable cause to think that they are doing anything illegal.
Two recent articles about the Drug Enforcement Administration harassing Amtrak passengers have elicited like responses from a number of Atlantic readers. “Hey,” they’ve more or less written, “I’ve been harassed aboard Amtrak, too!”
The DEA is mentioned again in what follows, though other stories concern different law-enforcement organizations. The common theme is the harassment of innocent people without probable cause to think that they are doing anything illegal. As Brian Doherty noted at Reason, the gendarme bothering innocent travelers on trains was a stock trope of movies and books about malign European regimes. And now it is a regular feature of train travel in the United States of America.