She's rubbed some feminist women up the wrong way by defending stay at home motherhood (admittedly she sometimes does this provocatively, as if courting publicity).
She was interviwed in the Sunday Herald Sun last week (Mother knows best 10/12/06), and acquitted herself reasonably well. I was interested to read that:
She grew up in Berkeley ... the daughter of a professor of English and a housewife whose homely presence she idolised - so much so that she was traumatised when her mother returned to work as a nurse when Flanagan was 12. "To my thinking, my mother's change of heart constituted child abandonment, plain and simple."
It's refreshing that Caitlyn Flanagan should think back to her own childhood and the importance of her mother to it, rather than conveniently ignoring such realities as modern society generally prefers to do.
The journalist interviewing Caitlyn Flanagan, Julia Llewellyn Smith, does end her piece with an admission that Flanagan is good at raising unpalatable truths. She writes:
As much as it pains her detractors, there are many women who are taking her message to heart. After all, some of her views - that when both halves of a couple work, their home may be neglected; that the achievements of the women's movement "have been bought at the expense of poor women, often poor brown-skinned women"; that men who want to share equally in the housework are not the kind of men most women want to marry - are undeniably true, if unpalatable.
However, the sharpest observation is the one made by Caitlin Flanagan in response to the following from Julia Llewellyn Smith:
One of the most troublesome aspects of Flanagan's views is her idealisation of the nuclear family, and the assumption that husbands are not only high earners but also faithful and supportive. Fine, I argue to push this as the ideal, but so many marriages end in failure because the husband runs off with another woman.
Caitlin Flanagan replies:
"It's the great risk of marriage, the eternal risk a woman takes," she says, shaking her head dolefully. "It used to be that when a man did that, there was a very high cost. He would be shunned by polite society. But now the attitude is, 'Oh, divorce is normal, adult life is messy.' So we've made it safe for men to do that and I would posit it to you that one of the things that made it safer was feminism, which said, 'Women don't need men to raise children.'
"That whole notion that there was not an essential and irreplaceable role for the man of the household has made it easier for men to leave."
Which is surely true. If men are told endlessly that women can raise a child just as well without them, then it becomes easier for men to walk out on their families and for a society to casually accept the decision.
So modern women can't have it both ways. It's not reasonable to promote single motherhood and at the same time expect the male commitment to marriage to remain as strong as it was traditionally.
(I haven't read it, but Caitlin Flanagan has just had a book released in Australia: To Hell With All That: Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife.)