Millions of self-help articles and women”s magazines have tried to tell the modern female how to be independent. Those who have fabulous careers and live without needing a man are considered the great successes of the feminist movement. Why then do so many women today feel out of control and unfulfilled?

Paul Wong
Courtesy of Touchstone Books

In her work, “What Our Mothers Didn”t Tell Us,” Danielle Crittenden persuasively argues against these basic feminist principles and describes a new plan for feminine happiness. Perhaps what makes the book so revolutionary is that her advice is so traditional.

Crittenden has written for many publications, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and Ladies Home Journal. She has also appeared on the Today Show. As founder of “The Women”s Quarterly” (published by the Independent Women”s Forum), she offers the educated viewpoints of someone well-versed in women”s issues.

She covers all of the main issues in a modern woman”s life, from sex to aging. In all categories, she avoids reiteration of feminist clichs and instead presents a more balanced, rational attitude.

Crittenden has several very interesting insights on one of the most pressing issues for women today: Sex.

Encouraged by the sexual revolution, many women are not waiting for marriage to lose their virginity. Crittenden suggests that this contributes to women”s feeling of powerlessness. She explains that because men can find sex relatively easy and without any obligations or promises, “women lose the authority to demand a commitment from them when something becomes widely and cheaply available, its value usually goes down too.” She does not suggest a complete return to past sexual restrictions, but proposes that some restraint could help recover male commitment and reunite sex and love.

Crittenden also points out flaws in the feminist principle of career first and marriage later. Avoiding commitment because of a need for individual growth is pointed out as the immature, selfish decision that it really is. People must “understand that family has never been about the promotion of rights but about the surrender of them.” This idea is completely logical, and one wonders why so many women today still refuse to give up anything of themselves.

This refusal, as well as the decisions to wait until one is “established” to have children, can really hurt a woman, according to Crittenden. She explains with a conservative, perhaps even ancient, argument: Biology.

Although an undergraduate reader is tempted to dismiss this rationale automatically, Crittenden”s arguments are irrefutably valid, for all humans, male or female. Certain things in life really do matter more than others, and Crittenden points this out in her elegant, convincing prose.

The arguments Crittenden presents are especially convincing because she does not hide them beneath flowery words and complicated sentences. Her straight, direct style makes the book as easy to read as a novel.

The language she uses is not forceful and domineering but assertive and clear, allowing the reader to form his or her own conclusions with the information she provides.

Although Crittenden argues well, she makes a few false assumptions that weaken what she has to say. She often credits the generation of women in college now with extreme feminist views.

However, the only people she has actually interviewed attend East coast liberal schools. Without representation from other places, it is hard to accept her findings as completely true.

In spite of this, Crittenden succeeds in her endeavor to present the other side of modern day feminism. This belief that independence and a career might make women happy is at once entirely fresh and completely traditional. Crittenden”s eloquent and persuasive arguments make “What Our Mothers Didn”t Tell Us” an enlightening and interesting read.

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