PERSONAL: Born in Berkeley, CA; married; children: two (twin boys). Education: University of Virginia, B.A., M.A.
CAREER: Writer, critic, and magazine journalist. Has worked as a teacher at Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles, CA.
AWARDS, HONORS: National Magazine Award finalist (four times), for reviews in the Atlantic.
To Hell with All That: Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2006.
Contributor to books, including Best American Magazine Writing, 2002, 2003, and 2004, Best American Essays, 2003, Best American Travel Writing, 2006, and 50 Best Book Reviews from the Atlantic Monthly.
Contributor to periodicals, including the Atlantic and the New Yorker.
SIDELIGHTS: Writer, critic, and journalist Caitlin Flanagan is the author of To Hell with All That: Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife, which Booklist reviewer Barbara Jacobs called “an insightful, incisive look at the multiple demands on American women in the new millennium.” In a series of recast articles from the Atlantic and the New Yorker, Flanagan examines the sometimes paradoxical demands placed on women in modern society and ponders the ancient conflict between the rights and privileges of being a woman and the power and control of masculinity. “Flanagan is a sparkling stylist, and she is definitely on to something with her idea of an ‘inner housewife,’ that secret part of emancipated womanhood that clings to old-fashioned feminine roles even as the outer lawyer, or whatever, rejects them,” commented Meghan Cox Gurdon in the Weekly Standard. Flanagan observes that, paradoxically, women might well resent the constant struggle against entropy represented by the unceasing need for cleaning and tidying, but she also notes that in some way, a clean house or clean laundry evokes a feeling of accomplishment. For Flanagan, child-rearing duties are best left to the woman of the house, even as stay-at-home dads and hired nannies proliferate as sources of caring for children. Working mothers are trapped in a situation in which they will inevitably lose a portion of their lives with their children, no matter if working motherhood is socially approved or disapproved. The contrast between women’s stated positions on domestic issues, and the actual social reality of the home sphere, forms the core of Flanagan’s book. “What makes Flanagan’s book original and vital is that she is a realist, willing to acknowledge the essential gray areas in too often polarized positions,” commented Pamela Paul in the New York Times. In the often emotionally charged arena of domestic life, bracketed by old-fashioned housewife values on one side and modern feminism on the other, with numerous gradations of opinion and reaction in between, Flanagan’s viewpoints often provoke deep ire from readers and detractors. However, Paul observed: “Here’s what I think really bothers Flanagan’s critics: No matter how vociferously they disagree with her on some things, they find themselves agreeing with much of what she writes.”
“Flanagan writes with intelligence, wit and brio. She’s likable,” Paul remarked. Gurdon called Flanagan’s book a “witty, elegantly written, and charming mix of self-deprecation and social commentary” and observed that Flanagan herself is a “wonderfully readable observer of the peculiarities of modern domestic life.”
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES
Booklist, April 15, 2006, Barbara Jacobs, review of To Hell with All That: Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife, p. 9.
New York Times, April 16, 2006, Pamela Paul, “Mother Superior,” review of To Hell with All That.
Reason, October, 2006, Shannon Chamberlain, “The Real Mommy Wars: Both Left and Right Attack Mothers for the Choices They Make,” review of To Hell with All That, p. 56.
Weekly Standard, August 14, 2006, Meghan Cox Gurdon, “Kitchen Confidential: Inside Every Feminist, a Woman Yearns to Break Free,” review of To Hell with All That.
Atlantic Online, http://www.theatlantic.com/ (December 9, 2006), biography of Caitlin Flanagan.