Dear LA Times, imitation of my work is the sincerest form of flattery but …


There is nothing more satisfying than having your work reach the mainstream. It is truly thrilling to read people expounding on the themes that I have blogged about for over a decade and collected in my book Push Back: Guilt in the Age of Natural Parenting. But it’s a little disconcerting to see it in a major newspaper under the byline of one of my Twitter followers but missing attribution to me.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]It’s thrilling to see my ideas succeed and be embraced by others, but a brief attribution would have been appreciated.[/pullquote]

Imagine my surprise to see today’s piece in the LA Times, Is ‘natural motherhood’ more feminist? by Lizzie Garrett Mettler. It’s a question I’ve asked repeatedly on this blog and in my book.

Here’s what I read in the LA Times:

Dr. Fernand Lamaze, who popularized the technique for breathing through contractions, ranked women’s childbirth performance from “excellent” to “complete failure” on the basis of their restlessness and screams…

Grantly Dick-Read, an evangelical Christian who wrote the best-selling book “Childbirth Without Fear,” once wrote: “Woman fails when she ceases to desire the children for which she was primarily made. Her true emancipation lies in freedom to fulfill her biological purposes.”

William Sears, who coined the term “attachment parenting,” spent most of his life as a Christian fundamentalist and believed his technique to be God’s design for raising children. In his 1997 book “The Complete Book of Christian Parenting and Child Care,” Sears opposed the idea that women belong in the workplace…

Even the female icons of the movement are overtly traditional. La Leche League, the group that gave rise to modern “lactivism,” was started by seven Catholic housewives who advocated for a return to breastfeeding and were also opposed to mothers working outside the home…

Not only are these my ideas, expressed very similarly to the way I have expressed them, but Mettler describes them using words similar to those I have used.

To me, the approach feels retrograde. It further entrenches women in the home as primary caretakers, places much of their value on their bodies, and makes it even more difficult for them to work.

I’m thrilled that Mettler thinks so highly of my work and clearly agrees with much of it. I’m disappointed, however, that she didn’t attribute it to me.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not plagiarism since nothing is quoted exactly. And it’s not a copyright violation because you can’t copyright ideas. But it is my work and acknowledging that would have been appropriate.

I guess ideas can grow up and move away just like children can. After years of caring and worrying, it’s thrilling and deeply gratifying when you see your children succeed emotionally, educationally and financially, but a little thank you every now and then never hurts. It’s also thrilling and deeply gratifying to see my ideas succeed and be embraced by others, but a brief attribution would have been appreciated.