Caitlin, we beg you: Stay a Democrat!

A response to Caitlin Flanagan's accusations that Salon is trying to drive her out of the Democratic Party.


Joan Walsh
May 3, 2006 1:36AM (UTC)

The editors of Broadsheet have offered me space to reply to Caitlin Flanagan's latest fantasy, published in Time magazine, that Barbara Ehrenreich and I are trying to drive her out of the Democratic Party because we "can't stand" her lifestyle choices.

Let's get a few things straight. First of all, Barbara and I haven't talked for almost a year, unfortunately, but when we last discussed projects we might tackle together, driving people out of the Democratic Party wasn't one of them. The Democrats do that well enough themselves, and Barbara and I focus on what isn't getting done. I've been thinking about a program to drive the children of convicted Republican officials to prison to visit their parents, as that will be a growing demographic in the coming months, but I haven't gotten around to organizing that. (Barbara, call me, OK?)

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Second, my problem isn't with Flanagan's lifestyle choices, it's with her lying about them. Having a full-time nanny until her children went to preschool makes her privileged; it doesn't make her an at-home mom who's given up her career for her family, and I did take the time away from my family to point that out in a book review recently. And now she's traveling the country flacking her book, flirting with Stephen Colbert (OK, I admit I'm jealous), creating straw women and writing about her martyrdom at the hands of feminists, all the while bragging about how she's an at-home mom: Well, I don't know how she does it. Except with a lot of self-delusion. And a lot of self-dramatization. Her reference to herself in Time as "the beaten wife of the Democratic Party" is an analogy that beaten wives everywhere are sure to appreciate.

Flanagan's shtick isn't so much about enduring domestic violence as it is about selling books and getting rich and, really, that's fine with me, I've got plenty to do myself. But the notion that feminists or Democrats or liberals are demonizing her lifestyle choices is ludicrous. I happened to be lucky enough to make choices similar to Flanagan's when my daughter was small: I worked part-time and had an at-home baby sitter (but only three days, not five) until my daughter went to preschool; I worked at home until she was 8. (Since then, we've both lived at Salon.) My problem is not Flanagan's putting her children first, if indeed she's done that; my problem is her misrepresenting her choices and then boasting about her fantasy family -- and then having the gall to condemn other women for not living that fantasy life themselves.

But let me be clear: Keep on voting for Democrats, Caitlin! Keep on bragging about writing checks to Doctors Without Borders (please keep writing the checks, too). Still, I would understand if you start to find yourself a wee bit more comfortable with Republicans. When it comes to the culture war, Flanagan reminds me of the Republican chickenhawks who never went to war themselves -- George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld chief among them -- but recommend it for other people. For someone who glorifies full-time at-home mothers, Flanagan has spent amazingly little time being one.


Joan Walsh

Joan Walsh is the author of "What's the Matter With White People: Finding Our Way in the Next America."

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