The Reading Corner is a place where books of all genres are examined and reviewed. Comments, questions and disagreement are welcomed. Grab some coffee and a comfy chair and make yourself at home.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Plessy v. Ferguson -and a book I'd throw at a wall

Anybody know that case? That was the case that was overturned by Brown v. Topeka Board of Education. Plessy was the case that established the "separate but equal" doctrine endorsed by law for years -the law that continued and enhanced segregation. When Brown v. Topeka came along, the Supreme Court ruled (thank goodness) that a "separate but equal" doctrine is inherently unequal.

So imagine my surprise when I got an e-mail today that seemed to raise this issue, albeit in another sense. Those of you who follow my blog know that I am, for all intents and purposes, an atheist; however, for whatever reason (laziness), I still haven't unsubscribed from a conservative Christian newsletter that I used to follow closely, about 6 years ago. I'll leave it unnamed for propriety's sake.

Today, I got another e-mail from this newsletter that I was going to delete without reading, since that's what I do with 95% of the e-mails I get anyway...but something in the subject line caught my eye. It was this: "Ladies, you CAN have it all. A DIFFERENT kind of all!"

.....My eyebrows about hit the ceiling. What kind of all, exactly, are we talking about here? And why is this directed at women?

So I decided to check it out.

There's a book out, called "Find Your Strongest Life" that, from the descriptions and the book trailer (something I'll discuss in a subsequent post -basically a movie trailer for a book), seems like Plessy v. Ferguson all over again.

The general idea seems to be this: Women
  • "CAN have it all" -apparently "all" is a career, education and independent lifestyle
  • BUT women are "less happy than they were 40 and 50 years ago"
  • BECAUSE what women need is not what men need (i.e. a career and equality)
  • THEREFORE women should start staying home and devoting their lives to Jesus/their husband/the kitchen.
The message of this book is that what "all" should mean for women is a return to the 1950s era housewife. Give up dreams of an education or career and just get married and spend your time, energy and intelligence working on making your husband and god happy.

I'm pretty sure I'll be picking up pieces of my own skull off the floor and ceiling of my room for weeks, because my head exploded when I read and picked up on the message of this book. Pardon my French, but what the fuck?

In what world does "different" mean "just as good as"? Look at the result of Brown v. Topeka -separate is inherently unequal, and unequally weighted in favor of one side. The exact same thing applies here: "different" in this case implies that women should just give up the fight for equality that's been going on for decades and return to the kitchen and go to church on Sundays wearing a little hat.

"Different" in this case means that women should consign themselves to goals within the walls of the home and let men go out and bring home the bacon, because jobs are making women unhappy.

I think it's fitting that this book was written by a man. I would really like to know where he came up with his numbers, too, because the whole concept of this book is screaming BULLSHIT at the top of its lungs.

For the record, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with stay at home moms (or dads). My mom stays at home (and has a very successful career as a writer online), so I know firsthand that there are a lot of benefits to having a parent at home. But (and that's a but so big it should cover the whole entry) claiming that women shouldn't enter the workforce because "it's making them unhappy" and they should instead spend all their time discussing their at-home roles, worshiping god/their husbands and submit to a male-dominated power structure that our mothers and grandmothers and great-grandmothers worked like hell to get out of is complete and total hogwash.

Men and women want different things -that's true. But not all women or all men want the same things, so claiming that women should strive for a "DIFFERENT" (religiously motivated) "ALL" than the "ALL" men strive for knocks us back into a time when "separate but equal" was an acceptable idea.

I sent an e-mail to the man who runs the newsletter that expresses my feelings pretty clearly:


I find myself offended by this e-mail telling me, as a woman, that I should strive for a "different" kind of "all" than a man. Claiming that a woman can have "separate but equal" happiness in whatever sense -religious, business or personal -harks back to the era of Plessy v. Ferguson. Separate is not equal -it is in fact inherently unequal in profound and fundamental ways.

I agree with the idea that men and women often want things out of life that may not be identical, but claiming that what women need to be fulfilled and happy is "different" from what men need automatically implies a lessening of the female role in society.

As a strong, independent and intelligent woman, the ideas presented in this book are extremely offensive to me, as was the way the e-mail came across.

Bailey Shoemaker Richards

What are your thoughts on this book? Does it have value for some? Sure, I think it could. But is its message also motivated by a deeply rooted sexist way of thinking based in outdated and intolerant religious ideals? Absolutely.


  1. Hey, why don't you quit this blogging and go make me a sammich. Oh, and bring me my bible. ;) I keed,I keed.

  2. Hahahahaha watch yourself :P That's what you're getting for your birthday now ;)

  3. A sammich? I've already got the Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, so I'm all bilbled up. ;)