What Did Katie Roiphe Say That's So Offensive?

by Hanna Rosin

Conor, I edited that Katie Roiphe piece you mentioned, and I could not agree with you more. I am baffled by the enraged responses from otherwise very intelligent feminists. Either the mere sight of Roiphe's name makes them seethe. Or the mommy wars are truly un-killable. Roiphe writes:

One of the minor dishonesties of the feminist movement has been to underestimate the passion of this time, to try for a rational, politically expedient assessment. Historically, feminists have emphasized the difficulty, the drudgery of new motherhood. They have tried to analogize childcare to the work of men; and so for a long time, women have called motherhood a "vocation." The act of caring for a baby is demanding, and arduous, of course, but it is wilder and more narcotic than any kind of work I have ever done.

"Minor dishonesties" is hardly a turning of the rhetorical knife. It's a fairly mild and gentle way to make what is an obvious and undeniable point. The idea of motherhood as a "vocation" has been around for at least a century, and anyone who has ever been to a pre-school parents' meeting lately will recognize its continued prevalence.

Katie did not say that feminists hate their babies, or that baby-less women are useless, or anything else she's being accused of saying. What she did is perfectly capture the seduction of disappearing into the newborn, opium den haze.